88 years later, letter is found

(Photo Courtesy of Kansas State Historic Preservation Office)

A mason found an 88-year-old letter behind a limestone brick at K-State’s Memorial Stadium. The letter dated back to 1928 and said the construction workers’ lives were hard, and they hoped it would be better by the time the letter was found.

The letter was signed C.K. Bell, Geo. H. Bell, W. Sowell, Jim Kelley and Ray (Disney?).

Cody Simon, superintendent of Hutton Construction, said it is common to find objects such as tobacco tins left behind by builders at demolition sites, but it is unusual to find a letter in good condition. A Hutton worker found the letter in a tobacco tin during renovations to the stadium.

Simon said the current project at the stadium is designed to improve the stone veneer with little modification to the original building materials. Out of thousands of stones that make up the east-side wall, only a handful needed replacing.

“It was pretty crazy that just this one stone was hiding this note out of all the improvement that needed to be done,” Simon said. “There was only a handful of stones that needed to be replaced, and this happened to be one of them. From a builder’s standpoint, that was pretty unique.”

Ethan Fickbohm, 2014 K-State alum, said the letter confirmed for him the unending struggle for the working-class man.

“I thought about how the man that wrote it was a laborer that did tough work and still was having problems supporting himself,” Fickbohm said. “Also, that it’s easy to forget all the people that made it possible to go to K-State.”

Cliff Hight, K-State archivist, said the letter is now in the process of being cleaned and encapsulated in mylar to prevent further deterioration. The tobacco tin will be kept in Hale Library’s archives room for guests to see on demand, Hight said.

“There is some talk about the Welcome Center possibly displaying copies of the letter with the can,” Hight said. “It’s an important enough item to find that I think it would be used in many different ways.”

Members of Hale Library’s archive department found two authors of the letter, brothers C.K. and Geo H. Bell, through Heritage Quest, an online database with U.S. census records dating as far back as 1790.

Kate Taylor, from Chico, California, confirmed the Bell brothers were direct relatives of her grandmother. Taylor said she is an avid genealogy tracker and was excited to get the news.

“I have shared it with family and friends and they are all getting a big kick out of it,” Taylor said.