His­toric church bell re­stored to for­mer glory

19th cen­tury bell re­stored to for­mer glory

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

Mem­bers of La Plata United Methodist Church re­cently saw a long awaited pro­ject come to fruition when their for­mer church bell was prop­erly re­placed in a bell tower last Tues­day to ring through­out the town once more.

“It’s amaz­ingly sat­is­fy­ing,” Rev Bruce A. Jones, se­nior pas­tor, said of see­ing the bell re­stored and re­turned to the tower.

The bell was orig­i­nally cre­ated in 1896 as part of one of three pre­de­ces­sor churches, Bethel Methodist Epis­co­pal Church, South. Af­ter the 2002 tor­nado de­stroyed the church’s roof, the bell was left ex­posed to the el­e­ments and was re­moved for safe keep­ing. It lived in a barn, a car­port and was dis­played in the church lobby for years be­fore ef­forts be­gan to erect a tower to re­turn the bell to.

In honor of his grand­mother Lona Bogg’s 100th birth­day, Rick Boggs and his fam­ily de­cided to pull re­sources to­gether to have the bell re­stored in 2014.

“It re­ally did mean a lot to us to not only see it get re­stored but to see it hung prop­erly in a bell tower and be seen and heard by the com­mu­nity,” Boggs, a de­tec­tive with the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, said. “It looked re­ally nice the day we had her birth­day. She looked at it and put her hand on it that day. She couldn’t be­lieve we did that for her.”

Lona Boggs turned 100 in Jan­uary 2014 and was a found­ing mem­ber of the church when it moved to its La Plata lo­ca­tion. She died four months later that year, but her grand­son said she was pleased to see the bell re­fur­bished in her honor.

“It wasn’t some­thing she had asked about but I told her I was go­ing to do it one day,” Rick Boggs said. “I said, ‘I’m gonna have that bell shined up for you,’ and she gave me one of those, ‘What are you do­ing that for?’ looks. I think she was pretty happy about it. She would laugh about it and would say, ‘Are you go­ing to ring my bell?’”

Rick Boggs man­aged to find the orig­i­nal foundry that cre­ated the bell back in 1896, the McShane Bell Foundry of Bal­ti­more, still in op­er­a­tion in Glen Burnie.

When con­tacted, the com­pany still had the orig­i­nal bill of sale, and were more than pleased to re­trieve the bell and pol­ish it for the 100th birth­day oc­ca­sion, Jones said.

“Not only were they able to erect it the first time but they erected it the sec­ond time,” Jones said.

Cur­rent own­ers of the McShane Bell Foundry, Wil­liam R. Parker, Jr. and his son, Wil­liam R. Parker, III, were on hand to over­see its place­ment. They had fab­ri­cated a 3-foot stand on which the bell would sit, so that it could be seen eas­ily from the ground be­low.

“We love the his­tory be­hind the bell and where it came from,” the el­der Parker said in a re­lease. “We are hon­ored to be in­cluded in its restora­tion and in its place­ment to­day. We ap­pre­ci­ate the op­por­tu­nity to be a part of this bell’s new his­tory.”

The build­ing pro­ject which be­gan with the de­sign­ing of the bell tower, evolved into the 11,000-square-foot ed­u­ca­tional ad­di­tion. The $2.3 mil­lion pro­ject took about 8 years to com­plete with phases of prepa­ra­tion, meet­ings, draw­ings and de­sign­ing, a cap­i­tal cam­paign in 2013, and ef­forts to go through for per­mits. Af­ter an­other six weeks of in­te­rior construction, Jones said he hopes the pro­ject will be com­plete by June 1.

The in­scrip­tion on the bell, “Mrs. D. A. Bar­ber” is ded­i­cated to a woman who was a mem­ber of the Bethel church.

“As I un­der­stand the story,” Jones re­called, “Mrs. Bar­ber was a mem­ber of that church when her hus­band died. They did not have any chil­dren and so she be­queathed her in­her­i­tance to the church say­ing that she wanted a bell for the tower for the steeple of that church and that would be her legacy, with in­struc­tion not to erect the bell un­til she died.”

Jones said the bell was rung a few times be­fore it was hoisted into its new lo­ca­tion and is now cov­ered with a pro­tec­tive tarp while the last piece of construction is com­pleted. The church is con­clud­ing an ex­pan­sion pro­ject that will pro­vide it nine new class­rooms, a ded­i­cated Youth Room, new re­strooms, stor­age space, and a new fel­low­ship hall that is 70 per­cent larger than the one that cur­rently stands.

Even­tu­ally the bell will be re­vealed so it can be rung on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Jones said he hopes to find some­one who was a kid in the old Bethel church around the mid-1900s who can ring the bell on the day of con­se­cra­tion and bring the process “full cir­cle.”


A his­toric bell was re­cently re­turned to a new bell tower at the La Plata United Methodist Church in La Plata. The bell’s restora­tion is part of a new ex­pan­sion the church is cur­rently un­der­go­ing.

Pro­ject Man­ager Tom Duswalt of Rain­bow Construction over­sees the his­toric bell’s in­stal­la­tion last Tues­day at La Plata United Methodist Church.

The orig­i­nal foundry that cre­ated the bell back in 1896, the McShane Bell Foundry of Bal­ti­more, re­mains in op­er­a­tion in Glen Burnie. Own­ers Wil­liam R. Parker Jr. and Wil­liam R. Parker III over­saw the bell’s restora­tion and place­ment.

Left, Wil­liam R. Parker III of McShane Bell Foundry and Tom Duswalt, right, of Rain­bow Construction over­see the his­toric bell’s erec­tion at La Plata United Methodist Church last week.

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