The Bell Rings On By Bill Ellis
With the church fire in March 1886, the life of that historic old building was over, buy not so for the bell.
After the ashes had cooled, Henry Roxbury began looking for the bell. It was gone. The fire was so hot the bell had melted. Henry searched and sifted his way through the ashes and rubble, salvaging the hardened pieces and chunks of bell metal. Those pieces were then shipped back east to the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland.
Within seven months after the fire, a new church had been built on the approximate site of the old one. In November of 1886, in a two day celebration, the newly built church was dedicated and a new bell in the steeple rang out sweet and clear. The Henry McShane Foundry in Baltimore had melted down the scraps and pieces of our old bell and added only enough new bell metal to duplicate the old one. The cost of the new bell was donated by Mr. Ewin J. Howlett, a former resident who had moved to Philadelphia. For over 60 years the new bell rang on.
Sixty-four years later, in the spring of 1950, the community was again stunned, this time by the announcement that inspectors had examined the church and determined it as being unsafe. Services were never again held in that old building. A new church was then constructed on church property at 4340 Streetsboro Road. From Floyd Swan’s diary we read, “March 28, 1953. Helped set old bell in new church.” That was the old bell from the condemned church.
But moving that bell from the old church was only part of the story. It was a critical time that year of 1952, when it seemed the grand old bell from the condemned church would not ring for the dedication ceremony of the new church. Although a loan for building the new church had been arranged, other costs and unforeseen expenses had all but depleted the fund. As Ted Monegan Jr. said, “The building contract of the new church did not include removing the old bell and installing it in the new steeple. A few people were sure that getting the bell installed in time for the church’s dedication was impossible.” Ted continues, “One morning I was talking with A.O.Wood about this matter, and the more we discussed it the more agitated we became. Mr. Wood felt that if the towns-people really knew what the situation was, they would contribute to a special Raising Fund. I told A.O.Wood that I felt the same way. In my wallet I had a ten dollar bill tucked away for emergency use. I pulled it out and told A.O.Wood, if people realized how desperate was the situation and how close we are to hearing that old bell ring from the new church, I believe they would gladly contribute to a bell raising fund, and I also believe you are fired up with enough zeal, and know so many towns-people , that you and probably only you, can accomplish this. Here, take this ten bucks as seed money, go out and tell our people the situation, and let’s see what happens.”
Ted continued, “A.O.Wood’s zeal was such that when evening arrived he returned with enough money for removing that historic bell from the old church, and later installing it in the new church steeple.” The story continues. From Floyd Swan’s diary dated July 10, 1952 we read, “Watched a crane take bell out of old church.” The bell was moved to the site of the new church. On March 1, 1953 Floyd Swan’s diary reads, “First service in new church.” Dated March 28, 1953 Mr. Swan’s diary reads “Helped set the old bell in the new church.”
On May 24, 1953, during the dedication ceremonies for the new church the old bell rang out sweet and clear from it’s new home in the new church. The inscription on one side of the bell reads, “McShane Bell Foundry, Henry McShane & Company, Baltimore, Maryland 1886.” The other side reads, “Presented by Edwin J. Howlet-My tongue shall ring aloud of thy righteousness. Church erected 1832; destroyed by fire and rebuilt 1886.” So that new bell of 1886 has roots that reach deeply back into the lore of Richfield.
The harmonics, sub-harmonics, and other tonal qualities that ring forth sweet and clear for the historic bell, are hallowed by the considerable amount of old bell metal of that 1832 church, the third in the Western Reserve. And so it is today in 1993, “The Bell Rings On.”