Discovery Park to Open Hidden Cornerstone Box from Historic Dresden Church

Dresden First United Methodist Church in Dresden, Tenn. discovered a copper cornerstone box during the recent demolition of their church building. Church leaders have asked the Discovery Park team to help open and conserve the contents of the historic box.

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.

Wayne McCreight, a church trustee, contacted Discovery Park to ask for help safely extracting the contents of this gripping find.

Jennifer Wildes, the museum’s senior director of collections and exhibits, will manage opening the box in the next few weeks and will be prepared to conserve what, if anything, remains inside after being hidden away nearly 100 years. Photos of any items found will be posted on Discovery Park’s Facebook page and loaned by the church for display at Discovery Park for a short time.

A clipping from the Dresden Enterprise, the town’s newspaper, noted that when the church was originally dedicated, a crowd gathered on a Saturday afternoon to watch the laying of the cornerstone. According to the clipping, the box that was placed there at the time contained a complete roll of the church membership, a full history of the church, copies of the church newspaper, copies of the Dresden Enterprise and copies of hymnals.

“If we find artifacts that are damp and fragile, it will require delicate care to preserve them intact before they can be thoroughly examined and cataloged,” said Wildes. “Whatever we find, we’ll make certain these items left by church members from the past are preserved as a reminder of the church’s important history.”

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 GoFundMe.com, or checks may be mailed to:

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