DERRY — While celebrating the 300th anniversary of the original Nutfield settlement, organizers discovered a time capsule kept in Derry Public Library's New Hampshire Room was empty.
It was a big surprise to those hoping it would be opened to honor Nutfield's big birthday in 2019.
The capsule dates back to the 250th anniversary of the original Nutfield settlement in 1969 and was scheduled to be opened during Londonderry's Old Home Day celebration earlier this month.
During the 250th celebration, the Derry News reported that a time capsule was to be buried in MacGregor Park next to Derry Public Library in July of that year during a big weekend schedule of events.
Locals at that time may have filled the capsule with various things to highlight the area and the news cycle, including the first moon landing that year, local happenings, or town souvenirs.
The newspaper published photos of the celebration, including one of 250th committee member Ben Newell, burying the capsule in the park.
Now 50 years later, Londonderry resident Reed Clark was scheduled to open the capsule this year at Old Home Day.
He recalled the original capsule being an oblong shape, like a paper towel roll, and filled with film from that era, and speeches made at the Nutfield celebration, including one from Clark himself.
The 90-year-old added two of his sons at that time — 7 and 8 years old — recalled seeing the capsule buried in the park.
"I've been looking forward to opening that and seeing how I sounded," Clark said. "That's been my goal for 50 years."
Clark said "disappointed is not the word" to describe how he felt upon knowing the capsule was found found empty.
The New Hampshire Room, a specialized area that is locked to the general public, was built at the library in Derry in 1989, part of a major expansion project and home to numerous historical documents, town records, and information for those doing ancestral research.
In an email, historian Richard Holmes said the capsule was indeed first placed in the park, but dug up when the library work began.
Holmes said he believed the capsule eventually found its way to the New Hampshire Room. Holmes said he also was given the combination to the locked box that held the capsule's contents.
The combination was also written on a piece of paper that was taped to the back of the safe.
"Anyone left alone in the New Hampshire Room had the means of access," Holmes said.
Time capsules are filled and often placed at various locations around communities during historical events and celebrations.
In April of this year, a time capsule was filled and secured in the base of a historic water fountain, now standing in MacGregor Park in Derry. Items of the current day, including newspapers, trinkets, or coins, often fill a time capsule.
Other capsules believed to be buried under town buildings, are often not there.
In 2005, Derry town officials and history supporters watched as demolition crews took down a former town offices building at the corner of Crystal Avenue and East Broadway, where the current CVS store now stands. It was believed a time capsule had been buried there within the building's granite capstone.
But after the building was demolished, no capsule was found.
The case of the missing Nutfield capsule contents took off on news outlets all over the nation, even reaching an online news source as far away as Australia.
Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith said the news "continues to pick up steam."
Town officials like Smith, along with Nutfield organizers, continue to get calls about the capsule caper.
"Who knows, it's a mystery that may never be solved," Smith said.
Nutfield organizers are planning to fill a new time capsule with pertinent items to be then sealed at the upcoming 30th annual Derryfest celebration in Derry's MacGregor Park on Saturday, Sept. 21. That capsule will then be opened at the 350th Nutfield anniversary in 2069.
Nutfield 300th organizer Paul Lindemann said details on what may be included in that new capsule are still being finalized. He wants people to remember all the great things going on this year to honor the 300th anniversary. The mystery time capsule, he said, may always remain an unknown.