Nanticoke Historical Society

Nanticoke Historical Society

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What's Buried in Patriot Square?

(Reprint from our Summer Newsletter)

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Samantha Mill House • 495 East Main Street • Nanticoke, PA 18634• 570.258.1367

 What's Buried in Patriot Square?

The Susquehanna Coal Company laid out Nanticoke’s “Central Park”, now Patriot Square, in 1874 providing a place for residents to gather, discuss the events of the day and enjoy warm sunny afternoons. Locals did just that attending park concerts, shopping at the surrounding stores and enjoying the beautiful trees and flowers. In 1904, Commander George W. Simpson, Spanish-American War Vets made arrangements for securing a cannon for the public park, The gun was to be shipped from Ft. Wadsworth, NY, with 20 8-inch shells that would be placed in a pyramid at the base of the weapon. The cannon was placed on its concrete base and unveiled on July 4, 1904.
By 1909, city fathers were concerned with Central Park’s deteriorating walkways, unkempt trees and bushes, litter and vandalism. In July of 1912, Council members made a decision to spruce up the park and create a circular walkway in the center. Work was scheduled for bordering walkways along Broad, Market, Green and Prospect Streets as well.

While doing the excavation for the project, a young city worker, John Werth, uncovered a box described in the July 29, 1912 Wilkes-Barre Record as, “one foot in length, five inches in width and two and one-half inches in depth.” One can imagine Werth’s piqued curiosity as he lifted the box from its dirt-filled nest, handling it with care and pondering its contents. He immediately took it to his father, Street Commissioner Anthony Werth, who upon opening the lid, discovered the value of its contents worth more than he may have expected. The metal box contained a paper dated April 26, 1876, upon which, the following was written:
“Burgess of Nanticoke, Milton Stiles. John Werth, Jr, president of town council. Council members: Dr. William Barnes, George D. Morgan, S.S. Driesbach and Isaac D. Williams.”
One can only wonder what connection Anthony Werth had to the 1876 town council president, John Werth, Jr. No mention of a relationship could be found by this writer in Historical Society records. We do know, however, Commissioner Werth, named his son, the fellow who discovered the box, John. As Werth continued reading he must have recognized other names of prominent Nanticoke families.
“School directors, George Arrs, president; Jerry O’Brien, John Dunn, George Blakely, Samuel Keithline, Thomas R. Williams and Treasurer John Fairchild. Borough attorney, Dr. Harry Hakes. Street Commissioner, John Dunn. Constable, James Ryan. High Constable, John Dunn.
Principal business houses, Hildreth & Co., S.P. George, Silas Alexander, W.P. Jones, Evan Morris, George Hill, I.P. Vandermark, Charles Lewis, general merchandise. Druggists: Dr. A.A. Lape, and D.K. Spry; Clothiers: A. Hursh, George H. Aurback and C.H. Rich. Bankers: Washington Lee Co., with John Werth, Jr. cashier. Doctors: Dr. A.A. Lape, Dr. W. Robbins, Dr. R.A. Hylton and Dr. William Barnes. Ministers: Rev. Johnson, Rev. Hill, Rev. Harris and Father Mattingly.
Also enclosed, was a document noting the borough had been organized in Feb. 1874.
Obviously what young John Werth had discovered was a time capsule, that had been buried 36 years earlier on the 100th anniversary of the birth of the nation.
Also found in the box, were two coins, a check and a number of newspapers. The check read as follows: “Nanticoke Bank, Nanticoke, April 26, 1876, Washington Lee and Co. Pay to the coming generations or bearer, $9 trillion, signed by Centennial Committee. Written on the back a notation which read, We surmise that future ages will consider this event perhaps in the light of ridicule, but we give it as the best light we have in this (so-called) barbarous age.
The coins were an 1863 penny and a three cent piece made in 1868. Newspapers enclosed were the Daily Record of the Times, Wilkes-Barre dated April 25, 1876; The Luzerne Union, Wilkes-Barre, dated April 12, addressed to Charles Lecher; The New York Tribune, dated Oct 2, 1872; the Weekly Herald, New York, dated April 28, 1876; The Weekly Star, Plymouth, dated March 1, 1876 addressed to A.A. Lape; The Plymouth Index, dated April 2, 1876, addressed to Jacob Krause; The People, Wilkes-Barre, dated April 19, 1876 and The Pittston Comet, dated April 19, 1876.

According to the Wilkes-Barre Record
Commissioner Werth took the box to a Councilman Craig, chairman of the park committee who was unsure of what to do with the box.
In an article published in the Wilkes-Barre Record on August 14, 1912, Council President Smith suggested that “the box found in the park be placed in the window of Scureman's,” (a drug and photo store located on Main Street) for one week, then in a vault in the city building until the completion of park renovations.” It was then decided by council that the box would be reburied with “other similar data and articles.”

Without a Trace…
No one can be absolutely sure, but legend has it that Street Commissioner Werth personally oversaw the reburying of the box in Central Park. It is said that he made known the site’s location only to his daughter. Over time, and with the death of Werth, his daughter, and anyone who may have known of its whereabouts, the location of the box and its contents are forever a mystery.
In 1976, in honor of the countries bi-centennial celebration, a new time capsule was buried in the park. The park was renamed Patriot Square and a monument to local WWII Veterans was placed at the center of the circular walkway that Anthony Werth's son, John, excavated for so many years ago.

At the time, no mention was made of the discovery of the 1876 time capsule. One can only assume that the box with all of its contents, remains in the same location Anthony Werth had placed it 102 years ago.

By Judy Minsavage for NHS