Time Capsule from 1925 Reveals Pieces of History

by Kate Allt

OTTUMWA, IOWA — For the city of Ottumwa, the old St. Joseph’s Hospital holds a lot of memories and a lot of history.

The hospital was a staple in the community for decades, and it will be torn down in the fall. While removing equipment and beginning to strip the building, a time capsule was discovered inside the cornerstone of the old hospital. The capsule has been guarded an unopened for the last month, until it was cracked open at a special ceremony at Ottumwa Regional Health Center Monday.

Hospital staff, sisters from the Sisters of Humility and Ottumwans who appreciate the history and legacy of St. Joseph’s gathered to glimpse a piece of history.

“This just gives us a lot of history, it gives us a lot of peace, bittersweet though, of the closing of that hospital, one that meant so much to this community, but we certainly want to carry on that heritage and that pride moving forward,” said Suzie Wood, Executive Director of Development at Ottumwa Regional Health Center.

For the Sisters of Humility, many have connections with the hospital, having worked or been treated there.

“I think it’s important to us to know that the work is continuing and I think it’s always great to remember the wonderful cooperation and accompaniment of the people of Ottumwa,” said Sister Johanna Rickl. “There are all kinds of people here who have all kinds of wonderful stories about their memories of St. Joseph’s hospital and I think that’s what makes our ministries worthwhile is knowing that we are walking with the people of God on their journey, times of trouble, times of joy, but it’s something that you just don’t forget.”

Inside the time capsule were two newspapers, an Ottumwa Courier dated May 25, 1925 and a Catholic Messenger from December 11, 1924. Religious relics were inside, including a saint medal that each sister present at the capsule when it was sealed placed inside. There were also several prayer cards, a rosary, stamps and several coins, including an Indian Head Nickel dated 1885.

Before the capsule was opened, the hospital had a contest for people to guess what was inside. Wood said several guessed newspapers or rosary beads, but nobody predicted the other items.

The cornerstone will be turned into a display that will hold the capsule’s items to display to the public.