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Church members become caretakers of the past

Church members become caretakers of the past
by Matt Patterson Modified: April 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm •  Published: April 20, 2013

- A 1913 Pioneer Telephone: At the time, residential phone service was sparse but growing rapidly. A century later, people can call virtually anywhere in the world on their cellphones while watching video or taking pictures simultaneously.

- Kodak camera: Although no specific model is listed, it is described as the “latest and smallest model” at the time. Many cameras of the time still used plates rather than film. Today, film is used mostly by photography enthusiasts, while most people use postage stamp sized memory cards that can hold thousands of high-resolution images.

Unlikely partners in the project

Included in the Century Chest are numerous American Indian artifacts, including a plate with the seal of the Chickasaw Nation, a message from Victor Locke, chief of the Choctaw tribe, pictures of Quanah Parker and a beaded garter.

While the military conflicts between the U.S. Army and tribes had been over for decades, there was still tension.

“It's amazing the tribes wanted to be involved at all, given what had occurred prior to this period in history,” Williams said. “There were still many who had been alive during the peak of the conflict with the United States government.”

Also included in the chest are numerous documents relating to tribal government. But Williams said Indians at the time likely saw it as a means to ensure those in the future would have a better understanding of their culture.

“They weren't even sure their culture would exist 100 years later,” he said. “They saw it as an opportunity to plant elements of it in the ground and preserve it.”

Caretakers of history

The chest is 8 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet in depth. Engraved on the outside is the date it is to be opened. Church members took oaths to pass the knowledge of the chest to their descendants who would open it on the appointed day.

Williams said there are no members of the church from that day who are known to be alive, but current members still consider keeping the chest intact as part of their duty to their community.

“The way in which our members have viewed it is we have been basically caretakers of the items buried smack dab in the middle of the basement,” Peterson said. “It makes a big impression. It's a case where they made history then, and we are part of the state history now.”

All of the items in the chest will eventually be displayed at the Oklahoma History Center. They are expected to be well-preserved, but will likely need some tender loving care.

“There is still some conservation that will need to be done,” Williams said. “Some of the documents will likely have been rolled up, and some work will be needed to get those to a point where they can be displayed. But when it's finished it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see some pretty amazing things.”

by Matt Patterson
Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun....
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