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The Norwich Bells
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:
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....
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.
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