Discovery Park Opens Cornerstone Box Discovered During Demolition of Historic Dresden First United Methodist Church

February 3, 2022 – On February 2, 2022, our artifact experts opened the cornerstone box discovered during the demolition of the historic Dresden First United Methodist Church. The building was damaged beyond repair in December 2021, during one of the worst outbreaks of tornadoes ever recorded in the United States. The cornerstone box was found bricked inside a part of the church that was dedicated in 1923 and was previously unknown to many of today’s church members. Once discovered, demolition halted as those on hand began work to carefully extract the box from the cornerstone of the building. The box has been stored properly at Discovery Park over the past few weeks as the Discovery Park team has developed a plan to conserve the remains in the box after opening. Jennifer Wildes, the museum’s senior director of collections and exhibits, managed the opening of the box and was assisted by Jade Walsh and Jamie Thomson.

“Of all the artifacts we discovered, the most meaningful for me was a typed letter from the church’s pastor at the time, S. L. Jewell,” said Wildes. It included a short history of the church, and he noted that the letter had been ‘hastily written for information of someone who may in coming years look in the box.’”

The majority of the items were well preserved with the most unexpected item being an ear of corn. A letter wrapped around the ear noted it was of the Little Willice variety and was placed in the box by E. E. Ellis, the Weakley County agriculture agent. Ellis wrote, “May God’s richest blessings be with each farmer and those that depend on farmers as long as good old Weakley County continues to be populated with people.”

Other items pulled from the box included:

  • Methodist hymnals and songbooks
  • Copies of the Dresden Enterprise newspaper from 1924
  • Copies of Methodist newspapers
  • Tube containing a document from the Boy Scouts of America
  • Correspondence relating to the building of the church
  • A 1920 photograph of a young church member, Norma Leone Lewis, discovered inside a hymnal
  • Official church rolls for 1923-1924

Church leaders are in the process of planning where and when their new church building will be built. Contributions to the Dresden First United Methodist Church rebuilding effort may be made online at by searching “Dresden FUMC Rebuilding Effort,” or checks may be mailed to:

Bldg & Renovation Fund
Dresden First United Methodist Church
411 Morrow St.
Dresden, TN 38225