A time capsule found embedded in the cornerstone of the Confederate monument removed from Travis Park last year will have its contents examined and preserved.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge David Ezra ordered the City of San Antonio and the United Daughters of the Confederacy to agree on a “neutral” expert who will do the preservation. San Antonio’s branch of the Daughters, the Albert Sidney Johnston chapter, originally requested that the time capsule be given to them, citing concern over possible damage to documents and textiles contained in the 1899 capsule.
Ezra said his decision stemmed from his concern for the “historical safety” of the time capsule’s contents. He studied the Civil War avidly since before he attended college, he said.
“I respect the value of our legacy on both sides,” Ezra said. “This has nothing to do with Confederate or Union. This is America and we have a legacy, and documents are a part of our legacy.”
As soon as the parties are able to determine what is inside the capsule and preserve them as well as possible, then the fight over who owns the contents can begin, Ezra said.
After the City removed the Confederate statue from Travis Park last September, the Daughters sued the mayor and the council members who voted to remove it. Because the monument was removed immediately following the Council’s vote, the Daughters claim their right to due process was violated. They also filed a request to obtain the time capsule.
The City attests that it should have claim to the Confederate time capsule and monument. Attorney Thomas Crane, who is representing the Daughters, said the Daughters assembled the capsule in 1899 and therefore own it.
In the suit, the Daughters contend they never ceded ownership of the Confederate statue and the time capsule inside the cornerstone to the City. The complaint filed by the Daughters claims that a San Antonio ordinance from March 27, 1899, granted the organization the right to use the land in Travis Park to display the monument.
In 2015, the Bexar County Commissioners removed two Confederate markers from county-owned grounds. They were replaced by other markers, one that commemorated the nine governments of Bexar County and one that honored Ricardo Rodriguez, a Mexican immigrant granted Texas citizenship.
Shawn Fitzpatrick, an attorney representing the City, said the cornerstone holding the time capsule now resides in the City’s climate-controlled archival room. He added that the City would help find an expert archivist.
“The City has substantial experience preserving and archiving, so we would be able to provide a list of what we think are suitable folks,” Fitzpatrick said.
Robin Terrazas, president of the local chapter of the Daughters, said her organization had no formal plans to open the time capsule yet.
“It certainly was upsetting that the City just kind of grabbed it and hid it, or kept it from us anyway, possibly damaged it, whereas where we would have liked to have a ceremonious opening,” she said. “We didn’t have a plan to open it anytime soon.”
Crane said he went with some members of the Confederate organization to see both the monument and the time capsule. He only managed to look through an “itty bitty hole” in the monument’s cornerstone at the capsule, but he said its contents were potentially valuable, both monetarily and historically.
“There was U.S. money, Confederate money, and a paper by Harry Hertzberg,” Crane said. “He was a local hero. He gathered the circus memorabilia [that later was donated to the Witte Museum]. There was a paper he wrote about Jefferson Davis. They put it in that time capsule.”
Jean Lane, vice president of the local chapter of the Daughters, said she felt good about the judge’s decision.
“We don’t want anything there to be destroyed,” she said. “[We want it] to be protected professionally,” she said.
Deputy City Attorney Debbie Klein said Friday’s decision had nothing to do with the merits of the lawsuit over that statue’s removal, as it does not address who owns the time capsule or the monument.
“We will comply with the Judge’s request to have an expert determine the contents of the time capsule,” she said in a prepared statement.