Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stuart's Musings-Bells Around The Village

Two Bells and a Couple of Towers
By Stuart Bolger 
Bell: A hollow metal device used for making a more or less loud noise.
 The earliest bells were probably not cast but fashioned of metal plates riveted together. By the Middle Ages, bell makers had gradually worked out the principles of bell construction, mixtures of metals, lines and proportion. 

Bell-metal bronze is a mixture of copper and tin in the proportion of 4-1. The thickness of the bell’s edge is 1/10 of its diameter and the height is three times its thickness.

Our cherished Liberty Bell was first hung in Philadelphia in 1753 and bears the inscription “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (Leviticus 25.10) Thus it was fitting in July 1776 to proclaim the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Taken to Allentown, Pa., it was hidden during British occupation of Philadelphia (1777-78) For a time after the bell was returned to Philadelphia, it was housed in a brick tower. It cracked in 1853, and now rests, as you know, as an exhibit in Independence Hall. More about another once-hidden bell in a moment. 

Brooks Grove Church with Bell Tower
The influence of bells in the evolution of church architecture is evident in church tower construction and can be seen in the village. At first scarcely rising above the roof and intended for lanterns to light the sanctuary, they were heightened to accommodate the church bell, so that its sound could be heard at greater distance. From the three-stage classical tower of The Brooks Grove Church, its bell once sounded across the near Livingston County countryside on religious and social occasions.

In 1972, when the Brooks Grove congregation disbanded, the bell was bought by the Zen Buddhists and removed to their retreat above Honeoye Lake. When the Buddhists learned about the relocation and restoration of the Brooks Grove Church in the village they gallantly sold the seriously sounding bronze bell to the Museum, where the bell sounds forth on special occasions. The curators have warned it should be used sparingly. Thus the bell rope is out of reach of fourth-graders. 

There is no rope to pull the bell in the Town Hall. It is mechanically activated by a clockworks recycled from the Buffalo Roman Catholic church. The bell itself was recycled from one fraternity house to another on the U of R campus.

During one dark night in November 1941, the iconic bell that the brothers of Delta Upsilon had liberated from an old one-room schoolhouse was surreptitiously relocated from the second floor of the Federal Revival Delta Upsilon fraternity house and buried beneath the basement floor of the nearby Greek Revival—and rival—fraternity house, Psi Upsilon.

Town Hall
Forty years later, on a fine fall afternoon in 1981, the director of the Genesee Country Museum (who had been one of the two alleged 1941 thieves) directed the bell’s unearthing. He saw to it that the bell was moved from the campus and securely hung 20 miles away in the Town Hall tower at Genesee Country Museum—well out of reach of fourth-graders as well as aged, but loyal and vengeful Delta Upsilon alumni.

Romulus Female Seminary
Museum Notes: Stuart Bolger was the director of the Genesee Country Village & Museum in 1981!
This year, the bell in the bell tower of the Romulus Female Seminary is also in working order.


  1. We were married in the Brooks Grove church! Let me tell you it was a lot harder pulling that rope than we thought it would be!! Great post!

  2. What a wonderful story! I hope to read more of "Stuart's Musings" on here in the future!