the trees of the field

Historic Finds

Grace Episcopal Church

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stain glass

One in a million...

Through the years, we have discovered many interesting finds as we dismantled our buildings. This story tells of the one that rates high as one of the most unusual. We were on an old building in East Tennessee that originally housed a Saw Mill / Grist Mill combination. The original part consisted of a 40' x 60' four-story structure built a short time after the (Un) Civil War. A later addition was added in 1905 and faced with a single tier of sand mix bricks on the front and west end of the building. To me the bricks were not a desired part of our salvage operation due to their light color and soft texture. Also given the fact it was only one tier thick. Not even enough to brick one large house. We just let ’em fall and kept them raked out of our way.

One day on the job one of the men ask me if he could have a pick-up load of the bricks to build a bar-b-q pit. Of course, I agreed and had him back his truck up where we dumped in a couple buckets full with our loader. He carried them home that afternoon after work and that was the last I heard of those bricks... except for one.



A few days later at the job-site the man I gave the bricks to approached me and shyly ask, if he found anything of value among them, wood it be his or mine? Only a person of rare character wood even bring it up. "Well... I wood say... it was yours, but you've made me curious" I said and asked "What did you find"?

Our workman related how he and his son were chipping off the mortar from his bricks when one of them revealed a hole carved into the top. In the hole a snuff can had been placed. Retracting the snuff can, and not so carefully opening it, they discovered inside five coins and a letter dated October 17, 1905. It was written by Louis Seahorn Allen, born July 2, 1876. In the letter, he listed the coins with their dates and gave the names of the managers of the mill, and the Mill owner, who was his father. The story made front-page news in the Newspapers of the area.


Of course, I wanted to keep the brick and its contents with the history associated with our building. I made a handsome deal with the fellow who found them and was honest in letting me have the opportunity to get them back.

Many times, I have pondered this find. What was the chance of it ever being discovered? What was Louis Allen thinking when he prepared the brick with his letter and coins and had the mason place it in the wall? One rainy day when we could not work, I decided do some research at the local courthouse. I discovered that Louis Allen had purchased a plot of ground in a cemetery not far from downtown. I had to check it out. I searched for almost an hour in the rain, looking for the Allen plot, without success. As I climbed back in my truck I gazed out across the cemetery, and there it was. A tall stone monument with the Allen family name inscribed. It was so large I wondered how I had overlooked it. Rushing over I found there several graves with markers revealing Louis S. Allen, his wife, children and grandchildren.


I reached over and temporally placed on Louis’s stone, the coins he had put in the snuff can and brick. I ask the question again to myself… why? Standing there beside his grave for about 20 minutes as the rain continued to drizzle down, the answer came to me clearly in one simple word…Faith. Faith against the greatest odds. Louis Allen believed someone would find the time capsule he left behind. I climbed back in my truck feeling I had experienced a personal account of a man’s simple faith, that over 100 years later, someone wood come along and be blessed by his deed, and certainly I had been. Driving out of the cemetery I prayed out loud… "Father, I want that kind of faith in you."