July 10, 2016

The Mysterious Courthouse Cornerstone

Cornerstone of the Yavapai County Courthouse laid October 19th, 1916
After the contract to build the new courthouse was signed, (story here,preparatory work began immediately.

Of special interest and care was the building's cornerstone. A date of October 19th, 1916 was set for the laying of the cornerstone to coincide with the opening of the Fourth Annual Northern Arizona Fair. (*1) The mayor declared a holiday and all businesses closed for the festivities. (*2) Yet there are mysteries behind it.

Special care was taken in picking out the cornerstone. "The piece [was] 4.6 x 3 x 3 feet and is said to to the finest product in that family, exceeding in quality the famed Gunnison granite of Colorado." (*3)

"It is native granite, or strictly speaking, the 'Prescott Granodiorite' that was intruded some 1.7 billion years ago." (*4)

Masonic Ties:
Like many civic buildings across the country, the cornerstone was placed in a Masonic ceremony. "All of the grand lodge members of the Free and Accepted Masons of Arizona [convened] in the Masonic Temple at 9:30 am" for the 10 am service. (*5) Nearly every Mason in the area came to see the rare and momentous ceremony.

Rare, grainy photo of the Cornerstone Laying Ceremony, 10/19/1916

A large crowd turned out to witness the impressive festivity. "Following a prayer by the grand chaplain, [the] chairman of the board of supervisors welcomed the Masonic order and bade them begin the ceremonies." (*5) These mysterious rituals were performed by the Grand Master of the state. After signal was given and the cornerstone was lowered into place, the Masons "christened it with corn, oil and wine." (*5)

The Hidden Time Capsule:
Before the cornerstone was sealed, a time capsule was placed inside. "All institutions, public officials and, in fact, every organization interested in Yavapai county have filed...records to be sealed and buried in the cornerstone. This packet will not be opened for at least a century, or until such time as Yavapai county will again need a courthouse." (*2) A century later would be October 19th, 2016.

A Yavapai Magazine article goes into further detail about what's inside:
"In a copper box," (most appropriate,) "which was embedded in a hollow of the cornerstone, were records of the various local institutions that will be very interesting to those who may look over the same when Yavapai county needs a new courthouse in 50 or 100 years from now. Among the records were the last three issues of Yavapai Magazine. These issues will be of special interest since they tell of the organization of the Northern Arizona Fair and give pictures of the men active in its management. There are also pictures of the high school boys and girls of Prescott and the beginning of Prescott's Granite Quarry. The full page article that tells why Yavapai county wants Tom Campbell for governor and the picture of the big candidate will also unquestionably prove of great interest." (*6)
It seems that some things might be of greater interest than others.

The story of Morris Goldwater and his oversight of the early development of Prescott, Arizona.

Why the Copper Box Was NOT Opened in 2016:
Inquiry to the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors revealed that they are aware of the time capsule's existence, its contents and have looked into removing it from both the exterior and the interior. It seems that costs to do so would be high and there is worry about damage to the integrity of the building itself. As a result, it has been decided that given the choice between opening it now (a century later,) and opening it when the county has the need for a new one; the Board of Supervisors has chosen the latter.

This author completely supports this decision. The generation that buried the time capsule desired that it would be very interesting to the generation that opens it. It simply isn't (yet).

The Yavapai Magazines could probably be had at one of the area's many antique stores for $10-$15. The periodical can be read on microfiche at he Sharlot Hall Museum Archives. Tom Campbell did indeed become the 2nd governor of the State of Arizona. His picture is easily obtained. Spoiler alert: the reason for his Yavapai county support was that he was a local boy. Back then, cash registers were analogue and did not plug into the wall.

In fact, the items within our time capsule are hardly "museum quality." They are merely antique store quality. However, the longer these items remain in the cornerstone, the less mundane and the more valuable they become.

Imagine if the courthouse lasted 500 years to the year 2416. The items inside the copper box would be priceless! It would be like us, today, opening a time capsule from the Pilgrims--an embroidered hankie that's been slightly used would become a major display at the Smithsonian Institute!

It is noble, well and good for us today to "reinvest" this time capsule to a future generation who would undoubtedly appreciate it far more than we!

UPDATE: Mr. Ken Davis uploaded a YouTube video of the rededication of the cornerstone on October 15, 2016. It depicts what happened 100 years earlier.

Here is the link:  Rededication of the Yavapai County Courthouse Cornerstone VIDEO (10/2016)


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(*1) Prescott Journal-Miner 8/25/1916 Pg. 3 col. 5
(*2) IBID. 10/19/1916 Pg. 3 col. 5
(*3) IBID. 10/30/1916 Pg. 3 col. 3
(*4) Sharlot Hall Museum Archives; Vertical File: Yavapai County Courthouse. A walking tour guide of the geology in downtown buildings.
(*5) Prescott Journal-Miner 10/20/1916 Pg. 3 col. 7
(*6) Yavapai Magazine. November, 1916; Pg. 5, col. 2



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