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Unveiling a Time Capsule at Lincoln County’s Historic Courthouse
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John Bergman of Bergman Companies presents Lincoln County Commission JoAnn Rutler with a shadow box showing off the trowels used to repair the historic Lincoln County Courthouse.
   
Saturday, April 27, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTOs BY KARMA M. FITZGERALD

While John Bergman and his team were renovating Lincoln County’s historic county courthouse last year, he came across a small brown bag in the walls of the basement. He set it aside, as he had the other items crews found during the work.

But, as sometimes happens on jobsites, it got moved. And then it got tucked in a jobsite trailer and then in the back of Bergman’s pickup. Since it belonged to the county, Bergman of the Salt Lake-based Bergman Companies and JB Masonry has planned to give it to Lincoln County commissioners, along with other things discovered during renovation.

But then it went sight unseen--tucked deep into the covered bed of Bergman’s pickup.  When he rediscovered the object earlier this winter, he realized what he’d been packing around for several months and immediately called Rebecca Wood, chairwoman of Lincoln County’s Board of Commissioners.

 
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Contractors working on remodeling the Lincoln County Courthouse found this masonry bag filled with tools. They are presumed to have been used to build the courthouse, which opened in 1904.
 

“He didn’t tell me what it was, he just said it had historical significance,” Wood said.  “I am kind of a history geek, and I was excited.”

Bergman suggested Wood organize some kind of event to reveal the found object. She did, and this past week Bergman formally presented a turn-of-the-century masonry bag to county officials.  

While a crowd of community members and leaders looked on, Wood gently pulled a series of 120-year-old masonry tools out of the canvas bag, showed them to the crowd and passed them to county commissioners Joann Rutler and Nathan Schutte and Magistrate Judge Cheri Hicks.

Bergman said he believes the tools were used to build the courthouse, which underwent construction in 1903 and was completed in 1904. He also presented the commissioners with a shadow box containing the trowel that was used to repair the building this year. The box is made of lumber from the building, as well as an old light switch.

 
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The tool and its accompanying bag are a century old.
 

“I love that he brought it full circle,” Wood said.

The mason’s bag was not the only significant discovery, Bergman said.

He said contractors working with Big D Construction found thousands of bricks in the ceiling of the building’s basement. That discovery came at the perfect time.

“We have no idea why they were there, but it’s original brick,” Bergman said. “It took about 150 hours to carefully move each brick out of the basement.”

 
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Those attending the time capsule ceremony check out the tools.
 

Bergman’s crews then used the new-found original bricks to restore the exterior of the courthouse. A local farmer donated a load of lava rock to replace the rock in the building’s foundation, so the building could be restored with original materials which, according to Bergman, makes the project quite unique.

‘For me finding those bricks was a very iconic moment for the building,” Bergman said. “I’ve been doing this for 32 years, and there is not another building that has ever been restored with all the original bricks still intact. I hope the people of Shoshone appreciate this building because there’s not another one like it.”

“This is cool,” said Shoshone Mayor Dan Pierson, with a grin. “But I bet that stone mason back then was sick when he got home and realized he’d left his tool bag in that basement.”

Wood said the building was completed in July 1904 at a cost of $17,000, according to a report from the Lincoln County Historical Society. The remodel will be completed in June of this year at a cost of $3.5 million.  She said the county will host an open house and grand reopening this summer.

The original dedication for the courthouse on July 4, 1904, featured speakers, a band and a chorus.

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