Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Time in a Bottle Carpenter's Message Travels 110 Years

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Time in a Bottle Carpenter's Message Travels 110 Years

Article excerpt

A 110-year-old message in a bottle discovered underneath the

floor of St. Andrews Church is keeping Jas S. Alexander's name


The corked pill bottle recently fell and bounced off the hard

hat of a carpenter who is restoring the gothic revival church at

the intersection of Duval Street and A. Philip Randolph.

"It was hidden pretty good," said Bill Ashley, the restoration

project supervisor who was removing insulation under the

Jacksonville church when the bottle hit his apprentice. "We were

like a bunch of kids two weeks before Christmas."

They wanted to bust it open and read the note right away, Ashley

said. But they waited until the president of the Jacksonville

Historical Society returned to town.

The brittle message states Alexander was a carpenter born in

1846 and that he wanted the message returned to its secret place

so he would be remembered long after his death.

It's not uncommon for carpenters to find messages or initials

carved inside old buildings, Ashley said.

"Whenever you build something you leave your name," he said.

"You're leaving a legacy that you were there."

Larry LaFollette, preservation officer with the state archives

in Tallahassee, examined the note and bottle but said he lacked

the scientific expertise to authenticate it. That would require

a licensed document appraiser, he said.

However, there was nothing about the letter to make it suspect.

The paper, which was of fairly good quality, disintegrated and

lost its sizing from condensation in the bottle and the ink

faded underneath the spreading mold.

LaFollette restored the note and placed it inside a clear,

protective cover that will prevent further deterioration.

Little is known about Alexander, who was about 42 years old

when he wrote the note in 1888. …

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