“Largest school bell” rediscovered

Posted

At one time in southern Symmes Township, South Union School had a bell tower and a special bell.

A Sept. 13, 1908, headline in the Paris Beacon declared “Largest School Bell in Edgar County,” and the accompanying story read, “Hodge Bros, sold a large bell to the directors of Union school district, about seven miles southwest of Paris, the bell weighing 570 pounds. It arrived from the east this morning and it will be used for a school bell to call the pupils to their lessons. It is undoubtedly the largest country school bell in the county, and is loud enough to keep the snakes awake all winter.”

The South Union School began in the 1800s and after the demise of a previous building, a new one was built on ground that was originally owned by the See family. The school directors saw fit to make the new school memorable by using a large bell from the C. S. Bell Company of Hillsboro, Ohio.

Edgar County resident Vern See researched the company that is named on the 30-inch bell and found how Charles Singleton Bell got into the bell making business. This particular bell was cast after 1894 and that fits into the time period when the new school needed the bell.

It is unusual that a person named Bell went into the bell making business and also unusual the way this came about. Bell was working in a foundry and one day he dropped a piece of metal and from resonant sound it made he thought maybe that kind of metal was good for bell making. He experimented with different alloys of metal until finding one he believed satisfactory for casting bells.

The large brick house on the turn to the west on the Public Well and New Hope Roads was built in 1861, and Dr. Benjamin J. See eventually lived there and raised a family by 1896. Before moving to Edgar County, See lived on the Kentucky and Tennessee line in during the Civil War.

One night in 1862 a Confederate troop of soldiers came to his house, placed a blindfold on him and carried him away with his medical bag to treat Confederates wounded in battle. After his services, they blindfolded him again and took him back home.

See moved to Indiana after that experience. He started a family and in his business of doctoring, he was frequently paid with livestock and he bought farms in Edgar County. As his business continued to grow he moved to the Dennison area and bought a store in Oliver.

That store was still in business in 1906 and was an outlet for selling the produce that patients used to pay him. The doctor’s son, Harlan See also lived in the old brick house near South Union and cared for the elder See until he died. Loren See, the son of Harlan and Gracie Frazier See, also lived in that house for many years.

In the 1940s when schools were starting the consolidation process Vern See’s father, Loren, bought the school building and grounds and used it for agricultural purposes. The bell was lowered to the ground and put in the yard of the large See home and used for announcing dinnertime for the workers and kids. Vern See recalled the kids always knew when the bell was about to ring because the carriage mount and yoke of the large bell always made quite a bit of noise before the bell was swung hard enough to gain the momentum needed for the clapper to strike the bell.

Eventually, the old See house was abandoned, but the bell is still in the hands of Vern See who lives a few miles north of the old See farm. He is in the process of restoring the metal alloy bell complete with yoke, wheel and support stands.

In conjunction with his grandson, he is bringing the bell to Edgar County Fair to show as a historical exhibit. See aims to build a new home near the old See brick house and plans to put the bell in service there.

So maybe it can again be the bell that calls the children.

was lowered to the ground and put in the yard of the large See home and used for announcing dinnertime for the workers and kids. Vern See recalled the kids always knew when the bell was about to ring because the carriage mount and yoke of the large bell always made quite a bit of noise before the bell was swung hard enough to gain the momentum needed for the clapper to strike the bell.

Eventually, the old See house was abandoned, but the bell is still in the hands of Vern See who lives a few miles north of the old See farm. He is in the process of restoring the metal alloy bell complete with yoke, wheel and support stands.

In conjunction with his grandson, he is bringing the bell to the Edgar County Fair to show as a historical exhibit. See aims to build a new home near the old See brick house and plans to put the bell in service there.

So maybe it can again be the bell that calls the children.