Historic church bell restored to former glory
19th century bell restored to former glory
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.