As anyone who watches “The Curse of Oak Island” on TV can tell you, digging for lost treasure is a slow and tedious process. There’s a lot more digging involved than there is finding the searched-for prize. And that’s precisely what several members of the Payne Sesquicentennial committee and other curious residents of the village found out last week.

This weekend, Sept. 10-11, Payne will celebrate its 150th anniversary celebration. But there’s a partially unsolved mystery in the village, one that is drawing interest from current and former residents across the United States, a mystery that could potentially draw dozens of curious onlookers to the village.

In 1872, the village of Malottville was plotted on the present site of Payne. Ten years later, dignitaries and concerned citizens who lived in the area filed a petition to have the name changed from Malottville to Payne. The village was incorporated on Aug. 29, 1883.

In 1972, a three-day event was held, sponsored by the Payne Chamber of Commerce, to commemorate the village’s one-hundredth anniversary and to help fund the creation of the Payne Community Park. A year earlier, Roger Gerber, a local farmer who was president of the Chamber at that time, thought it would be a good idea for the village to have a park. Chamber members agreed and started a fund-raising campaign, receiving $120,000 in funds from a government grant. “But we had to match the grant money,” said Jim Hooker, former Payne resident and a member of the sesquicentennial committee. “And so, in the late ‘70s, the park was deeded to the village. We used that as our matching money.”

“Building the park was a labor of love for the Chamber,” said Chad Benschneider, another member of the sesquicentennial committee. “The pond at the back of the park was dug by C.C. Benschneider, my XXX. (Adam – I think it was his grandfather but am still waiting to hear back from him.) It’s in the shape of the state of Ohio. The park was definitely a community effort so they named it Payne Community Park.”

As part of the celebration in 1972, townsfolk dressed in period-correct clothing – the women and girls wore long calico dresses and bonnets, the men dressed in black pants, white shirts, suspenders and top hats. Most of them had been growing beards for several weeks prior to the celebration. The highlight of the event was the burying of a time capsule and straight-razor somewhere near the base of the flagpole in the park and designated with a limestone marker. “The razor was the emblem of the “Brothers of the Brush” the group of men who didn’t shave during the celebration,” said Jim. “They decided to bury a symbolic razor during the ceremonies. It was transported from uptown to the park in a hand-made miniature wooden coffin and carried on a mule-drawn wagon driven by Jim Overmyer. The razor was buried here at the park and a marker was placed that read, “Here lies Brother of the Brush, “Razor,” Payne Centennial, 1872-1972. We believe the time capsule was buried at the same time.”

The plan for this year was to dig up the coffin and the time capsule during the two-day celebration. “But we’d heard rumors that somebody had already dug them up,” Chad said. “A couple of the former mayors told me they thought vandals had come and removed them shortly after they were buried. So, we decided to dig around before the festivities and see if we could find them. We didn’t want to look foolish this year not being able to find the items. We rolled the concrete marker over out of the way and used a tile probe but didn’t find anything. We dug down about four feet under the marker but finally decided it wasn’t there. That’s where the mystery came in. Where were the razor and the capsule and its contents now? And if they weren’t buried here, then where?”

The committee researched the local newspaper archives for clues but all that was found relating to the capsule was an article that stated, “Bob Bachellor has taken over 300 colored slides. They will be shown at the next Chamber meeting and then added to the time capsule.” Committee members also contacted the John Paulding Historical Society to ask if the contents of the capsule may have been donated for display purposes there. No records were found there nor in the Chamber records from 1972 through 2002, which were researched by Chad.

Merl Yenser, 81-year-old Payne resident who was president of the Brothers of the Brush in 1972, has his own theory as to the whereabouts of the razor and the capsule. “I heard that Dorothea Schaefer came to the park and dug up the razor shortly after it was buried,” he said. “It had belonged to her father and she wanted to keep it. But we can’t verify that. Her parents were John and Vivian Bonner. We thought maybe somebody remembered hearing something and could give us a clue.”

But last Friday, at 7:30 in the evening, a small crowd of curious onlookers gathered at the park to watch volunteer backhoe operator Jarrod Childs dig into the ground, just west of the flagpole. Not much was found at first except tree roots, mud and water. But just as the sun set, the bucket of the backhoe began bringing up shards of wood along with the mud. Two or three small boards, approximately two feet long, were also retrieved, as well as tiny pieces of what is believed to be the lining of the casket. “I think we’ve found the coffin,” Chad said with a smile. “We figured it would be in pretty bad shape after being in the ground for fifty years. But at least we’ve found it.” However, the razor was not found.

Most of the crowd headed home, disappointed that nothing had been found except some rotted wood. But several of the committee members and other volunteers stayed to wash off the items which had been found in the watery grave. The committee planned to display them at this year’s celebration. About a half hour later, Chad texted, “They found the handle of the straight razor. Mayor Austin Scheiner identified it. The blade is missing but at least it wasn’t a complete shut-out. The marker did say the razor was buried there. So maybe the time capsule was buried separately.”

At this year’s celebration, the Payne Event Committee is planning to bury a new time capsule in a watertight container, with instructions for it to be opened at the Bicentennial festivities in 2072. If you have any knowledge as to what happened to the time capsule of 1972 or where it might be buried, please reach out to the committee by phone, text or on their Facebook page, “Early Memories of Payne.”

If you have any ideas, suggestions or comments that may help solve this mystery, you may contact Chad at 419-769-4708 or any committee member at the celebration.