XENIA — In the year 2117, Canadian residents in Kingston, Ontario will open a time capsule and, among the items, they will find Greene County artifacts — including this issue of the Xenia Daily Gazette.
People of the future will also find a Greene County flag and map, a bikeways guide, a visitors’ brochure and a proclamation from the Greene County Board of Commissioners.
The purpose of these items is not really to entice Canadian tourists to Greene County, but instead to remember one special connection between the country and the county.
His name is Tecumseh.
According to Shawnee Tribal history, Tecumseh was born in 1768 in the neighborhood of Old Chillicothe — known today as Oldtown. Tecumseh went on to become a great warrior, orator, hero and military commander, dying at the Battle of Thames in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, Canada.
The connection between Tecumseh’s birthplace and Canada reemerged when Arthur Milnes, Kingston writer and political historian, wrote a letter to the Greene County Commissioners, asking that they send back a message to be placed in the time capsule.
The overlapping of histories was so significant, Milnes said in a phone interview, that he wanted to include Greene County.
“I decided my wife and I would start sending letters around the world … and just bury it (the time capsule) in our backyard July 1 in front of our close family and friends as a toast to Canada,” Milnes said, referencing the day that will mark the 150th anniversary of the Canadian confederation.
The project has since exploded.
Milnes and his wife Alison Bogle wrote 3,999 other letters — to scientists, politicians, musicians and actors — and sent them all over the world. Among the 900 letters that found their way to Milnes’ mailbox in Kingston included responses from John Travolta, former president George H. W. Bush, and Hage Geingob, the president of Namibia.
Greene County responded, too, and in June the commissioners proclaimed Saturday, July 1, 2017 as Tecumseh-Canada Day.
The resolution contains history about Tecumseh.
“(He) played a major role in events leading to Canada’s confederacy; and, whereas, two hundred and twenty years ago, Tecumseh made a pact of peace and friendship with our Canadian neighbors to the North … ” a portion of the document reads.
Milnes said the response from a small town in Ohio was more than just “friendly.”
“It is amazing what your town, the commissioners, did because they totally saw the purpose of my campaign before I even knew it,” Milnes said. “They immediately took my project seriously. It is an incredibly friendly — and important — gesture.”
Today, July 1, Milnes and the rest of Canada are celebrating.
The highly anticipated sesquicentennial celebration — or “Canada 150” — has sparked celebrations throughout the United States, too. And on Saturday, July 8, Greene County will continue the celebration when Chief Black Hoof discusses the role of Shawnee Nation and Tecumseh in shaping the history of Greene County and Canada. The event will be held 1-2 p.m. at Old Town Reserve County Park, Old Springfield Pike, Xenia.
Robin Heise, archivist for Greene County Records and Archives, collected the artifacts, maps and photos from the county and will send a package to Milnes after the event.
“It’s fun to think about what life will be like in 2117 when information about Greene County, Ohio will resurface from the time capsule buried in Canada,” Heise said.
Milnes is obviously a man that thinks about the future, but he insisted that the time capsule is just as much about Canada’s past, the good parts and the bad.
“We think it (Canada) is a pretty wonderful place despite its very real problems, particularly with the way we treated Native Americans,” Milnes said. “That’s why the Greene County gesture is so special. Canada has embarked on this journey and Greene County tells me that you’re already doing it. We are on this oath toward reconciliation. It is going to be a brutal path. It is going to be an awful conversation — but whether it takes 2, 10 or 100 years — I know the end result is going to be a good thing.”
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.