Hundreds of thousands of people have walked the hallways of the Johnston County Courthouse since it opened in 1921, but very few people know what lies hidden just a few inches below the floor in the original section of the courthouse.
On May 10th, 1921 – 96 years ago today – Johnston County Masons from all 12 Masonic lodges were invited to the Johnston County Courthouse to lay a ceremonial stone in the center of the building.
According to the May 13, 1921 Smithfield Herald, Rev. C.K. Proctor led the prayer and the stone was lowered into place in what is the center of the hallway in the old courthouse.
According to the article: “A copper box containing various articles indicative of the present times was placed in the center of the state. This articles were as follows: Tuesday’s issue of The Smithfield Herald, a copy of the Smithfield Observer, list of the names of all members of Fellowship Lodge No. 84, a list of all the Grand officers and those who took part as Grand officers, a list of the names of all lodges represented, names of the County officers, names of the architect, name of contractor, a Liberty coin made of a piece of German cannon given to a soldier for bravery, 1917 Lincoln penny, a Belgian coin and other things.”
1921 county commissioners were all present and were recognized by Mr. W.H. Upchurch and J. Willis Creech. At the conclusion of the “formalities” Rev. C.K. Proctor gave a speech in absence of Henry A. Grady of Clinton who was scheduled to attend but could not for unknown reasons.
Afterwards, a brief Memorial Day ceremony was held. A dinner was held at the Farmers Warehouse where a special table was reserved for “the old soldiers.”
After the meal a game of baseball was held at the “school house.”
Daniel Clifton, Director of Johnston County Building Maintenance, said he was aware of the hidden copper box. Clifton and other county officials are planning a special celebration for the 100th anniversary of the courthouse in May 2021. But will the hidden copper box and articles be removed on the 100th anniversary? The answer is “probably not.”
Clifton said it would be impossible to remove the intricate floor design without damaging it. Clifton said he has looked in the basement of the courthouse and possibly going thru the basement ceiling to remove it but said it would cause too much damage.
Like many people, County Commissioner Cookie Pope said she wasn’t aware of the box but called it a wonder piece of Johnston County courthouse history.