Did you hear the one about the minister who walked into a billiard room?
Until a 111-year-old time capsule was found in the Gore Methodist Church, neither had Gore Historical Museum collections manager Stephanie Herring.
The lead box was buried under the walls of the church as it was erected in 1909 and remained there until the church was demolished this month.
A letter detailing the history of the Methodists in Gore up to the building of the church was one of the items inside.
“I’m thrilled about it. It’s a lovely little piece of history.” Ms Herring said.
The letter, typed by an unknown author, stated that before the church was built, many locations had been used for stop-gap services.
This included the billiard room in the Railway Hotel, where a Mr C. Smith used to preach before the “rigorous” Southland climate drove him away.
The letter contained facts including the name of the church’s architect, E.R. Wilson, and builder, Owen Kelly.
These were the same men who worked on what is now the Eastern Southland Gallery.
A fire in the former council building in 1957 had destroyed the original paper records of such details.
The letter was in very good condition.
“That something can be [buried] for so long and come up looking like this is amazing.”
Inside the capsule was a copy of The Mataura Ensign, as it was then known, procured for one penny on Tuesday, February 16, 1909.
The foundation stone was laid on February 17 at 2.30pm, which the paper’s issue the same day described the “inauguration of a new era.”
An issue of the long-defunct “more conservative” The Gore Standard was also inside.
“Local papers are very rich in local history.”
“There was no internet, no radio or television. This was your news.”
Copies of The Otago Daily Times, The Southland Times, and national Christian paper The Outlook were also included.
The time capsule’s contents were given to the museum by First National Gore owner Graham Maxwell.
A stonemason noticed an “odd” lead object in the brickwork.
“I said, ‘We’ll keep an eye out for it as it comes down’,” Mr Maxwell said.
“We were able to retrieve it.”
He was surprised by the find and hoped it would be of value to the museum.