Celebrating 150 years: Sumner County community digs up the past

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SUMNER COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – The Sumner County community celebrated 150 years on Sunday. Fifty years ago, Clark Manufacturing employees in the county planned a small way to recognize the significant milestone.  

In 1971, the employees buried cherished items in front of the Sumner County Courthouse to celebrate 100 years of existence. The time capsule was dug up during a celebratory event on Sunday, and residents showed up for a big surprise. 

Norma and Larry Dowd drove all the way from Lenexa to see if the letter Larry wrote to their children survived all those years. 

“He said, ‘Norma, I can’t promise the letters are still going to be there,’” Norma said. “We waited and waited and waited, and when they read the names of our children, we were delighted. It was worth the trip down.” 

Lena Sistrunk also wrote her children a letter 50 years ago and said it was important to leave something for when her girls grew up. She saw that letter detailing her dreams of being a strong mother for the first time since the 1970s. 

“She talks about trying to ‘guide and teach our girls to think for themselves and to be kind, loving, and growing human beings,’” said Deana Bushell, Sistrunk’s daughter. 

It was one of many items that stood the test of time and weather. Other letters written in pen ink weren’t so lucky. 

Robert Hamilton’s grandfather left him a letter, but the pictures he left behind suffered water damage. The items that did survive are a reminder of life in Wellington all those years ago. 

“We only lived here about four years, and it was a great community to grow up in,” Bushell said. 

Hamilton’s grandfather passed when he was just three years old, but he will forever hold on to the words written in that letter. “It’s like he’s still alive,” Hamilton said. “He’s speaking through us through time.” 

The capsule is a reminder that time may pass, but the community is forever. 

“Whether it be a small-town community or whether it be a big city, it’s where we come from and what brings us where we are today,” Bushell said. 

Sumner County will have another capsule burial on Oct. 9 during Wellington’s Fall Fest to preserve more of Sumner County’s history that will be dug up in 2071.

For now, the city plans to archive the items dug up Sunday to put them in a museum.

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