Mystery in Centralia

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Centralia was once a booming mining town in Columbia County, but now officials say there are fewer than ten people living in the borough after an underground fire started in 1962.

Over the weekend we learned part of Centralia's history was vandalized, and may have been stolen. In 1966, Centralia residents buried a time capsule to be opened in 2016. Over the weekend, members of the Centralia American Legion noticed the stone marker that sits on top of the time capsule was moved and vandalized.

This stone marker that sits on top of a time capsule in Centralia reads: "To Be Opened 2016." But members of the Centralia American Legion fear someone opened it early, or even stole it.

"I don't know why they would do something like that it's just unacceptable," Edward Lawler said.

According to state police, last week, heavy equipment was used to move the stone marker which covers the time capsule. It was put back in place, but vandalized and turned 180 degrees. The time capsule was buried in 1966 to celebrate Centralia's centennial. Former Centralia resident Ed Rooney remembers watching the ceremony.

"We had a lot of people here. Most of the people who were here are buried now too," Rooney said.

Centralia was once a booming mining town in Columbia County, but now officials say there are less than ten people living in the borough after an underground fire started in 1962.

Centralia American Legion members discovered the vandalism Friday. The legion owns the land that the time capsule is on. Edward Michael was born and raised in Centralia but lives in Bloomsburg. He calls the vandalism a violation of respect.

"I don't have the faintest idea of what's in it. But I imagine my father who lived in Centralia his whole life had something in it," Michael said.

"They steal stuff off the veteran's graves so I think this is in the same category. I don't know how they can sleep at night," Rooney said.

The legion members said they must decide what their next step is going to be. Their two options are to dig up the time capsule now to make sure it's still there, or wait until 2016 like originally planned and hope that it's still buried in the ground.

"All I'm afraid of is if somebody did bother the capsule and they opened it and water will get in it. Anything paper, newspaper won't be worth anything. It will all be garbage," Michael said.

Centralia American Legion officials are trying to reach out to current and former Centralia residents to get their input on whether to look for the time capsule now or wait until 2016. There will be a ceremony in 2016 to open the time capsule, which would be the 150th anniversary of Centralia.


  • PaCitizen

    I say dig it up, but do not open it. That way they can investigate it to see if it has been tampered with and maybe reinforce it and put it back in the ground so that the tradition is not ruined , and the items remain safe

  • Nancy

    I say open it. If you know what was supposed to be in it and items are missing, you can report those items as stolen and possibly get tips that will lead you to those responsible.

  • JTZ109

    I’d open it and make sure everything is sealed. If so…I would then vault it and not put it back. There must be a record of what was inside. If anything is missing…I’d be watching EBay for their activities.

  • Every1isEqual

    Just dig it up but don’t open it yet. Or if need be, open and check for water damage etc by someone who is neutral and won’t spoil the surprise in a couple years.

  • Valerie

    I’m from Ashland and now live in Hummels wharf , I’d say open it to make sure that’s way if anything is out like papers or things to that nature they can be replaced it’s not like your gonna open it and read it now. I don’t understand how someone can do that that’s just low:(

  • Cassandra Miller

    I think it might as well be opened now. Why wait 2 more years when someone else has already opened it? Open it discover what’s missing (I’m sure there was a video of the event) and we’ll know what the person or people stole. Then when the trail leads back to them, prosecute them

  • Keith Mullins

    Dig it up just to make sure it is still there and sealed, then perhaps move it to a more secure location. If someone knows what the capsule itself is made of, and even how deep it was buried, then maybe using a ground penetrating radar (aka: deep seeking metal detector) can verify if it is even still there before digging.

  • cindy mordan mosteller

    yes i think you should at least make sure that it is still there and than put it in a secure place ….. than open it in 2016but at least make sure that it is still there .. and if not than start looking for the (____) people and let justice be done…

  • James Miyer

    The jerks who dug this up are morons. Haven’t the families of Centrailia been through enough? Clearly this was planned out knowing that they would never get caught, since there have been virtually no police in that area for years. This is a disgrace! The Legion needs to organize a secured dig, hope that the fault is still in the ground and move it to A SECURED AND PRIVATE.location until 2016.

  • ramanda

    I say dig it up to make sure it is still there and no one has damaged it then put it in a secure location and wait to open it

  • Kris Milochik

    I think the best thing to do is dig it up and move it to a secure location until 2016. It’s sad that there are people who are nothing but destructive.

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