50 Years Later, Cousins Follow Cryptic Note to Unearth Family Letters in Time Capsule
Though many of the capsule's contents had water damage, a letter from the granddaughter who helped track it down miraculously survived
In 1970, Charlotte Havens slipped her granddaughter Olympia Bynum a note with very specific instructions: be in Loudon, Tennessee, on June 20, 2020.
More than 50 years have passed since Bynum, then 6 years old, received the message, but she and her four cousins followed instructions, and earlier this month, were thrilled to discover that their grandparents had stashed away special notes for them to find in a time capsule, according to NBC affiliate WBIR.
“I promised her we’d all be there,” Bynum told the outlet of the note she’s held onto for five decades. “It’s been something we talked about all our lives.”
As 2020 approached, Bynum started making efforts toward tracking down the time capsule, which was buried as part of Loudon County’s centennial celebration in 1970.
Bynum, who lives in Georgia, told the Loudon County News-Herald that she’d spent the last two years furiously making calls to banks, the chamber of commerce and more, looking for someone who might have an inkling as to where the time capsule had been buried.
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“No one I got in touch with had a clue what I was talking about,” she told WBIR.
Eventually, a call to the courthouse led her to Rachel Harrell, who not only knew where the capsule was buried but was willing to dig it up early.
“We just didn’t know what it would look like after being in the ground for 50 years,” Harrell told the outlet. “So when we dug it up we found that it had had water damage over the years, so the contents were almost completely ruined.”
Despite the disappointing turn of events, Harrell eventually found that, against all odds, some letters had actually survived the water damage — including one a young Bynum wrote herself.
The letter, which she wrote at age 6, was addressed to her cousin David Havens, and spoke of getting her hair cut and going to ballet class, according to the News-Herald.
“That was just the icing on the cake at that point,” Bynum told WBIR of finding the letters. “It was exciting.”
Together with four of the five cousins that received letters from their grandparents — Karlen Boring, David Havens, Reagan Havens and Juli Whitehead — the family made the trip to Loudon on June 20 anyway, and visited the house Charlotte once lived in with her husband Floyd.
“We literally had the conversation of, the most important thing to [our grandparents] would be all of us getting together,” said Bynum. “That’s what’s important. The rest of it, we’re going to work around this.”
With that in mind, Bynum told the outlet the group plans to return to Loudon in November to contribute letters to their own grandchildren to the county’s next time capsule.