Buried Secrets Discovered in Dexter


Little did the Vencil family realize a 1974 photo of the newly moved St. Andrew’s UCC would also solve a mystery almost 50 years later. The time capsule is about to be ceremoniously buried off to the left. Courtesy Daniel Vencil.

Author’s Note: A special thank you to Nancy Van Blaricum of the Dexter Area Museum for collecting the photos and providing the information for this article.

In an entertaining twist that sounds more like fiction than reality, the Dexter Area Historical Society (DAHS) has been gripped by a unique treasure hunt. The keepers of the flame have been on an adventurous quest to rediscover a time capsule, bizarrely missing, buried almost 50 years ago in June 1974 during the town's Sesquicentennial celebration with the intent of opening it at the town’s Bicentennial in 2024.

Rewind to 1974: Dexter residents, buzzing with excitement, gather their cherished mementos to seal in a time capsule. But this isn't any ordinary time capsule. It's a casket enshrined in a concrete burial vault (provided by Hosmer Funeral Home), complete with a headstone marking its resting place. Fast forward to the present: DAHS President Bev Hill, keen to ensure the capsule's contents were intact for the upcoming Bicentennial festivities in June 2024, finds the capsule eerily absent from its supposed location.

Armed with a metal ground probing rod, the search team scoured the ground in front of the Dexter Area Museum, where the capsule was believed to be. "We probed all out front," recounts Bev, but their efforts turned up everything but the capsule. Kelsey Tingley, Director for Hosmer Muehlig Funeral Hom, lending her expertise in burial vaults, describes finding coal, chicken wire, and garbage but no sign of the casket.

This missing capsule isn't just any box of old items; it's a vault of personal memories, encapsulating an era of football schedules and peace bracelets from the Vietnam era. Bev shares, "People could put what they wanted to be remembered 50 years in the future."

Now for the exciting update! After reading the Sun Times News article on the lost time capsule, Daniel Vencil provided DAHS with family photos showing the vault burial in 1974. On December 22, 2023, Bev met with Larry Stalker, a former employee of the Hosmer Funeral Home, and Andy Soens, a ground penetrating radar technician with Great Lakes GPR in Detroit. It turns out to be buried much deeper than expected – around four feet deep instead of the assumed two –  next to the museum’s front steps.

Andy Soens working the ground penetrating radar. Courtesy Bev Hill.

These developments have also shed light on the transformations of the Dexter Area Museum. From its relocation and renovation in the early 1970s to recent updates, the museum's history is as rich as the town's. The team is now gearing up to unearth the capsule about a month before the Bicentennial celebrations in June 2024, sparking curiosity about what treasures from the past they will unveil.

In an engaging twist, the society invites Dexter's residents to contribute to a new time capsule set to be opened in 2074. It's a chance for today's generation to leave their mark for the future, continuing the legacy of this charming small-town tradition. As Dexter buzzes with anticipation for its Bicentennial, one can't help but marvel at how a buried casket from the past has united a community in a story of mystery, history, and shared memories.

Vencil’s photo also helps show the ongoing renovation efforts from the museum’s initial move in 1974 to its opening in 1976 (above left) to as it is today. Courtesy Nancy Van Blaricum of the Dexter Area Museum.
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