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From "GOV. SAMUEL HUNTINGTON"

"After the war, he built a new house and lived in quiet dignity. A lively and happy circle of young people used frequently to assemble in this house, as visitors to the Governor's adopted children, or attracted by the beautiful Betsey Devotion, Mrs. Huntington's niece, and the belle of Windham, who spent much of her time here. After the social chat and merry game of the parlor had taken their turn, they would frequently repair to the kitchen, and dance away till the oak floor shone under their feet, and the pewter quivered upon the dressers. These pastimes, however, had little in them of the nature of a ball; there were no expensive dresses, no collations, no late hours. They seldom lasted beyond nine o'clock. According to the good old custom of Norwich, the ring of the bell at that hour broke up all meetings, dispersed all parties, put an end to all discussions, and sent all visitors quietly to their homes and their beds."


A BELL WITH A HISTORY
From The Norwich Bulletin, Thursday, October 3, 1901.

A legend of remarkable interest in connection with a local church bell has been brought to light through an article which recently appeared in a New York paper. That the bell in the belfry of the Universalist church was an old one was known to the members of that church but its origin has remained a mystery up to the present time. In the New York Times of August 26 appeared an article of some length entitled “Interesting Story of a Bell” which told the history of a bell hanging in an Episcopal church in Ellicottville, N.Y. It appeared that in the year 1837 a certain Nicholas Devereux of that town while in New York city on a business trip read in a newspaper the advertisement of “a cargo of Spanish bells for sale.” He found upon investigation that the cargo of bells belonged to a sea captain who said he had brought it across the sea merely as ballast for his vessel. It appears that during an insurrection in Malage, Spain, in 1832, the monasteries and convents in that province were sacked and the bells taken out and left in byways about the harbor of Malage. In the year 1837 this shrewd sea captain, visiting the place with a cargo, secured several of them for ballast for his vessel, probably seeing a chance for a speculation. Mr. Devereaux bought one of the bells, hoping some time to see it hung in a Catholic church in this town, that being his faith. As no church was built the Episcopalians bought the bell of its owner for $125 and it has since served to call worshippers to the church of that faith. The article gave the Spanish mottoes on the bell and described it very minutely. This article was seen by a Mrs. Sarah E. Webb, who wrote the Times a letter from Zurich, Switzerland, in which she said: “I was greatly interested in the account of the Spanish bell in Ellicottville, N.Y., as it probably answer a question I have asked many times in relation to a bell in Norwich, Conn., which for many years I heard ring with great pleasure, as its tones were different and more melodious than any in town- and, indeed, from any that I had then heard. All I ever learned was that it was a confiscated bell from a Spanish convent, was bought in New York for the new Universalist (I think) church. “I will send the article to the minister of that church, and he may be a person who will be interested to hunt up its history, and at least tell if there is any inscription or relief, as on the one mentioned.” This letter caught the eye of one of the parishioners of the Universalist church and about the same the Rev. J. F. Cobb, pastor of the church received a letter from Mrs. Webb. An examination of the bell confirmed the theory of the former Norwich lady, and the bell proved beyond question to be of Spanish origin. It is of pure bronze, about four feet in diameter at the base, and one-half feet at the top. On one side is an ornamental Roman cross set on a triangular base, which corresponds exactly to the description of the Ellicottville bell. On the opposite side is a circular design, somewhat indistinct, surrounded by rays of heraldic form. These rays are in groups of six, distinctly separated. Below is the inscription in raised letters:

RAMON ROSES
Y
LUIS MANES
MEICIERON.

Near the top of the bell, within two raised lines running around the entire circumference, is the inscription:

A HONOR DE Ma SS Ma DEL CARMEN ANO * 1825.

The translation of these mottoes is difficult, as, like those on the bell above mentioned, they are probably worded in corrupt Spanish. The first motto is undoubtedly the name plate of the founders, “Ramon Roses and Luis Manes. Makers” (although “Meicieron” is a verb, but probably a corruption of that meaning “to make”). The second motto evidently means “In honor (or memory) of Marie S. S. (probably an abbreviation for a proper name) and Marie del Carmon- in the year- 1825.” This bell is without question one of the lot brought to New York city as ballast, and at one time no doubt called monks and nuns to their daily devotions. The discovery has excited considerable interest among the members of the Universalist church, who were in no way aware of the treasure stored away in their church belfry. The bell is of a splendid tone and is in perfect condition. It has not been rung for several years, owing to the belfry having been condemned as unsafe. The present church was built in 1841, and it is thought that the bell was hung soon after its completion. William Tubbs, one of the oldest members of the church was asked if he knew anything the bell and he stated that, as he remembered it, the bell was purchased in New York city in 1841 by a committee from the church consisting of Theodore F. Albertson and Jedidiah Spalding. It was brought here and place in position, Mr. Tubbs making the hangers. /// Note- Our research finds that the Ellicottville, NY church still exists and it's bell still rings every Sunday morning to this day. Further, we have located another bell from the same shipment, still in use, at St. Steven's Episcopal Church in East Haddam, CT. ... Kevin Harkins; May 19, 2010.


From The Norwich Bulletin, October 15, 1901.

THE UNIVERSALIST BELL

Free translation of the Inscription Submitted by Mrs. Annie Tarrant Kelly, of San Francisco.

Writing from San Francisco under date of October 8, Mrs. Annie Tarrant Kelly send the Bulletin the following interesting letter: May a faraway child of Norwich, to whom The Bulletin is a welcome daily visitor, say a word or two regarding the inscription on the bell in the Universalist church which I enclose as a reference: RAMON ROSES Y LUIS MANES MEICIERON Near the top of the bell, within two raised lines running around the entire circumference, is the inscription: A HONOR DE Ma SS Ma DEL CARMEN ano * 1825. Meicieron is a verb, as is correctly stated, but does not mean “to make.” It means rung, coming from the verb Meicieo, to ring. The letters SS in all Roman Catholic inscriptions mean Sancta Sanctissima, Saint Most Holy, but they may also stand for Sancta Senora, Holy Lady, or Mother; Ma is an abbreviation for Marie and Madre, the latter meaning Mother, and so I submit, as a free translation of the inscription on that bell, the following: “Rung by Ramon Roses and Luis Manes in honor of Most Holy Mary Mother of Carmen, in the year 1825.” The inscription would never have been put where it is for any private person, but was placed there in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as all Catholics will at once admit.


From History of Norwich, Connecticut, by Frances Manwaring Caulkins, page 282:

In 1708, the town was presented with a bell by Capt. Rene Grignon, a French Protestant who had recently established himself in the place. This is supposed to have been a Huguenot bell, brought from France by a band of French exiles, who purchased lands at Oxford Mass., and began a settlement, which the hostile visits of the Indians obliged them soon to abandon. Capt. Grignon was one of this dispersed company, and the bell had doubtless resounded on the shores of France and amid the woods of Oxford, before it came to Norwich.

A vote of thanks was tendered to the generous captain, and the bell was ordered "to be hung in the hill between the ends of the town," and to be rung on the Sabbath and "on all public days and at nine o'clock in the evening, as in customary in other places where there are bells."

The phrase, "in the hill," is a doubtful one, but according to tradition the Grignon bell was suspended from a scaffolding erected upon the ridge of the hill west of the meeting-house, near the path by which foot-people from the upper part of the town came across lots to meeting. Here it remained for many years unconnected with the church, and mid-way between the east and west ends of the town-plot. The position was grand and imposing. The bell dominated from its lofty site over the wide landscape from Yantic and Plain Hill to Waweekus Hill at the Landing.

[page 283] new [church] building was completed for service in December, 1713. ... it is doubtful whether the Grignon bell was ever removed to it.

page 680 Herbert E. Beckwith, clerk, 18 years of age, son of Elisha V. Beckwith, of Norwich; served 18 months in 10th C.V., and subsequently as corporal in 2d Mass. Heavy Artillery. He was taken prisoner at Plymouth, N. C., confined 8 months at Anersonville, Ga., and Florence, Ala., where he suffered severely from the want of food and clothing- was paroled in an exhausted, dying conidition, and landed at Annapolis, where he rallied a little at sight of the Union flag, but died six days afterward, Dec. 30, 1864, aged 21. At Andersonville, in that loathsome abode of lingering torture, this young man wrote in his diary, "At times, I fancy I hear the church bells in Norwich."


From The French Canadians in New England, 1871-1930: Taftville (The Early Years) by Rene L. Dugas, Sr.: pages 48, 51 Everyday activities of the Taftville residents centered around the sound of the Mill Bell. I believe it is now sealed in the Ponemah (#1 Mill) tower. Besides waking us every morning and calling us to work at the appropriate times, it also rang at every hour of every evening notifying us of the passage of time, and therefore became an important part of our lives. It was the sweetest sounding bell I ever heard, and its sound still remains in our memory. I'd love to hear it again.

Ponemah Mills was the center of the lives of every one of its fifteen hundred operatives and their thirty-five hundred dependents who lived in Taftville. It was the place where our youthful days were spent. In the early days the working hours were ten and sometimes twelve hours per day for five days per week plus four hours on Saturday. At 5:00 AM the workday started when everyone was awakened by the mill bell and again at intervals until the final bell that tolled at 6 AM signaling the start of the machinery.



This is the bell in the First Congregationaal Church of Norwich, on the Norwichtown green. The inscription reads "CAST BY GEORGE HOLBROOK MEDWAY, MASS 1826"

From An Historical Address Given on the occasion of the Centennial Anniversary of the present Meeting House of the First Congregational Chaurch, Norwich, Conn., at Norwich Town Green, Sunday, June 16th, 1901, by Rev. Charles Addison Northrop page 15 [1713 church] The bell was hung in 1743, and Joshua Avery was bell ringer. ... in 1753, another meeting house was begun, located not without opposition, under the hill, ...the immediate predecessor of this present building... It had a bell, a clock, galleries and stone steps....


pages 19-20: The sextons and bell-ringers have always been more than a picturesque feature of meeting house life..... Diah [Manning] and his father Samuel had served this church for many years in the former house. When that burned down [Feb. 7, 1801], the bell probably went with it. That it had a bell we have already declared, and in proof thereof cite the following two votes passed in society meeting in 1797 and 1799:

"Voted that the bell shall not be tolled more than ten minutes for the death of any person nor more than once for assembling people to a funeral."

"Voted that the bell be tolled twice for funerals, the first to precede the second tolling one hour."

I think that this present building was without a bell till the one now in the belfry was obtained. This one was cast in 1826. We have seen that the fathers of 1801 made provision for a bell "when it was obtained." It is more than probable that Diah Manning had no bell to ring under the new regime, for he died in 1815. The bell which echoed his might, was the one put in in 1743, and for "wringing" which, in 1750-51,Joshua Avery put in a bill for 40 pounds Old Tenor, and the bill was allowed."

The first and greatest of the sextons of this century house, was Orimel mabrey, who for forty years, beginning about the time the new bell was hung, performed various services as bell ringer, sweeper, undertaker, and tything man. He rang the bell daily, at sunrise, noon, and 9 p.m., except that the last bell on Saturday was at 8 o'clock and the first on Sunday at 9 o'clock.


Memorial of the services held in connection with the dedication and opening for public worship of the Park Congrgational Church, Norwich, Conn. New York: E. H. Jones, 1874, page 7:

The fine peal of three bells, on keys of F, A and C, are the gift of Mrs. General Williams and are from the foundry of Meneely & Co., Troy, New York.

Dusty Dave (Historian) First Congregational Church of Norwich

The Song from Our Old Steeple Bell

As the “Wednesday Walking Group” made their way up Mediterranean Lane last week, a peel from our steeple bell marked the hour. These days, with cell phones and computers, we can instantly communicate with anyone any where on the globe. Although we may not think about it in the same way, our old steeple bell provides a service of communication as it rings out the hours and, occasionally, a special event…but, how its service has changed over the years. Imagine living without phones or TVs, at a time when almost no one owned watch. The steeple bell on the Norwichtown green was an instrument of mass communication. In the early 1800’s, Diah Manning rang the bell each day at 9AM, noon and again in the evening to announce curfew. The steeple bell called folks to Sabbath day service, morning and afternoon. The ringing of the bell spread the alarm in times of war and called volunteers to fight fires. And, when a community member died, the bell rang out the news. Farm families in distant fields would stop their work and, by counting the number of peels (twice for a child, four times for a woman and six times for a man), determine the gender and age of the deceased. Folks in this close community could also make a pretty good guess as to who had died.

Our “church bell” history goes back many years. An early church record dated 1708 indicates a French Huguenot by the name of Captain René Grignon settled in Norwich and donated a bell to the town. The bell was hung by scaffolding on Meetinghouse Rocks, since the meetinghouse (our second) had no means for supporting it. In 1743, a new bell was purchased at a cost of £ 11-07-0. The third meetinghouse stood on the hill at that time. Our present steeple bell, according to its markings, was cast by George Handel Holbrook in 1826 at his foundry in East Medway, Massachusetts. Major Holbrook was one of the earliest bell makers in New England having learned this craft while apprenticing for Paul Revere in Boston. Each bell was cast from a copper, tin and iron alloy and would have cost around $350 - $450 in 1826. When our bell was cast, George was in partnership with his son Colonel George H. Holbrook, Jr. who shared his father’s art for casting a bell which, when struck, played a true musical chord. Bells do not sound a single note, but each bell sounds a chord of notes, with each separate tone emanating from a different part of the bell. Tuning a bell so these tones sound a perfect chord is one of the most exacting tasks of bell making. The Holbrooks excelled at this art and were considered the foremost bell makers in America.

Over the years our steeple bell has been rung on many occasions. It announced the surrender of Lee to end the great Civil War. It marked the death of Abraham Lincoln. It was rung joyously to celebrate the end of World Wars I and II. Recently, our bell joined with other bells to greet the new Millennium and on a special occasion to mourn the Twin Towers tragedy. This year our steeple bell will be 181 years old. It has rung for countless weddings, funerals and Sunday services. And, this Sunday, as in the past, the old steeple bell will once again greet and ring us in from the parking lot for Sunday service

Dave Oat March 7, 2007



Greenville Fire House Mystery Solved

What happened to that Mcshane fire bell between 1886 and 1896 when the Greenville fire station was finally built. Why was the bell required in the first place, and what method of sounding fire alarms did Norwich employ prior to the bell. The records below should offer some answers. / Dale Plummer


Journal of the Proceedings of the Court of Common Council of Norwich, Conn., June, 1884 to June, 1885. Norwich: Press of the Bulletin Co., 1885, pages 32-33:

Report of the Chief Engineer, July 1, 1884

Fire Alarm Telegraph "The Fire Alarm Telegraph has proved itself a very valuable addition to our Department. Since I have had charge of it I am pleased to say that it has never failed to give us timely notice of fires and their location, thus enabling the Department to respond promptly.; and I can say, with truth, that it has been the means of saving a large amount of property that would have been destroyed but for the timely warning it has given. This branch of the Department consists of a battery of seventy-five cells, of the Dr. Hill patent, twenty-two signal boxes, located in different parts of the City; about sixteen miles of wire; one automatic bell striker, located in the tower of the Second Congregational Church; three large automatic gongs, located as follows: one in Police Headquarters in City Hall, one on pole at the Falls, and one on the outside of engine house at Greeneville. There are also twelve small gongs, located as follows: one in each engine house, one in Chief Engineer's residence, two in residences of Assistant Engineers, and one in Police Station at Greeneville. The cost of running this department is about one hundred and eighty dollars per year. I would recommend to your Honorable Body the importance of placing bell strikers in Greeneville, Falls and West Side districts, as soon as convenient." (Bold italics added for emphasis).


Journal of the Proceedings of the Court of Common Council of Norwich, Conn., June, 1886 to June, 1887. Norwich: Press of the Bulletin Co., 1887, page 21:

" The following report of the Committee on Fire Department was presented and the resolution adopted: Norwich, Conn., June 21, 1886

To the Court of Common Council of the City of Norwich: This Honorable board, and the citizens at a City meeting, having approved the estimates presented by the Finance Committee for the building of a tower, with bell and alarm striker, in the Greeneville District, recommend the same to be erected near the northeast corner of Prospect and Seventh Street, in front of land owned by John Enright, in the public street. To give the Committee power to proceed and complete said tower, we recommend the adoption of the following resolution:

Resolved, That the Fire Commitee be, and are hereby empowered to erect a suitable tower with bell and alarm striker, on the above named location at an expense not to exceed $1,000.

Fred R. Wasley John M. Brewer Fire Committee R. S. Bartlett


Page 62-63 of 1886-1187 Common Council Proceedings:

Report of Chief Engineer, July 1, 1886

Fire Alarm Telegraph

"The Fire Alarm Telegraph has worked for the past year to our entire satisfaction, except perhaps the Greeneville District, giving us timely notice of the fires which have occured. In my last report to your honorable body I took the liberty to ask you to put into that year's estimates a striker to be placed in the Greeneville district, and my request was granted. but on looking over the steeples in the above named district it was found that the room was not sufficient to place the striker, and we concluded to wait until this year, and then ask for an appropriation large enough to build a suitable tower, also to purchase a bell and striker, so that, when complete, we should have an independent alarm, all of which, I am much pleased to say, has been granted; and tyhe Committee on Fire Department are at this time getting estimates for the same, and will lose no time in seeing that it is complete an an early day; and when complete it will, in my judgment, much improve our system of alarm in that location.”






A shot of the outside of the Grace Episcopal Church in Yantic




Here's one of the four bells in Grace Episcopal Church in Yantic.



From the archives of Grace Episcopal Church, Yantic

The Westminster peal of bells in Grace Church, Yantic , were dedicated in the afternoon of March 30, 1924 by Bishop E. Campion Acheson of the Dioceses of Connecticut. The four bells consisting of B flat, E flat, F and G can be either operated as a chime by one operator or they can be swung by four ringers who can ring 24 changes on the bells, E flat being the key bell, that is, this is the bell which has to be swung last, the other three playing the changes. The peal was cast by the Meneely Bell Co. of Troy N.Y. and was installed by the Connecticut Engineering Co. (L. A. Manning Notebook)

Note- Friends of the Norwich Bells has received an email from the distinguished Carl Scott Zimmerman, who writes in part, regarding the Grace Church bells, “…The three smaller bells were shipped from the foundry in Feb.1924; the largest must be older, but there's no record of it in the foundry logbook transcription."








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