Washington Evening Journal
https://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1683233

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 25, 2017

St. James bell mounted Monday

By David Hotle | Aug 29, 2017
Volunteers at St. James Church move the church’s 1892 bell into place Monday morning as the monument that will house the bell from now on is completed. The bell had hung in the church tower until the building was damaged in 1911.

 

Everything old was new again Monday morning as a bell that had first been cast in 1892 and hung in the St. James Church tower until the building was damaged by fire in 1911 was moved into its new solid concrete monument just east of the church chapel.

Parishioners showed up in force to help move the 800-pound brass bell into place. One brought a crane truck to assist moving the I-beam that the bell would hang from onto the solid cast display and then move the heavy bell itself — which had been given a ride to its new location on a pallet in the back of a sturdy truck.

“The whole thing is made of concrete blocks,” said Dick Wehr, who had constructed the monument. “A hurricane would probably have a hard time blowing it over.”

When the foundation was put in, there was concern about weight. There was also 7 inches of stone put in place across the top with a concrete cap on top of that.

The bell was cast when the church was built in 1889.

After the fire, the bell had been mounted in a monument between St. James Church and St. James School before Tobin Hall was built. When the hall was added, the bell had to be put into storage. Since it was determined to hang the bell in a place of honor on the church grounds, parishioners had shined the bell to its original luster.

The bell is not able to be rung, as the church did not install a clapper inside the bell. It will be a permanent display at the church, but the monument the bell hangs from cannot be moved to ring the bell.

In the June 26, 1911, edition of The Washington Evening Journal, the fire was covered. According to the story, Oly Brown, who lived nearby, reported about 9:30 p.m. seeing three lightning bolts strike the church. Apparently the church smoldered until 10:45 p.m., at which time flames were seen coming from the church and the alarm was turned in. The “fire boys” did their best to extinguish the blaze.

“Nothing was saved except the walls and perhaps $100 worth of vestments and a few of the church furnishings,” the story read. “Today the interior of the church is a charred mass of timbers. The walls, however, are standing and in good form and it looks as if it may be possible to use them again.”

The insurance only paid $2,500.

As it turned out, the walls of the church were used again and did remain standing until the new church was built in 1960.

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