THREE OLD BELLS


From the Wilkes-Barre Record, abt. 1936

As published:

 

"The interesting reminiscences of Mrs. Anna Margaret Shiber Rozelle, as told this newspaper, carried back to important local (Wilkes-Barre) history. Her father, Charles Shiber, had a part in many enterprises of a former day, as a building contractor. That first church of St. Nicholas,earliest landmark here of the Roman Catholic church,at the corner of Washington and South, was built by Mr. Shiber. This of course was years before the late Monsignor Nagel had raised the funds and built the present Gothic ediflce on South Washington. To many of the older residents the first church is merely a legend. But that one living here was once a pupil in the old school on the Square carries back to important local history. The court house that proceeded the one now in use took the land formerly occupied by the old academy and Ship Zion. These old frame structures were razed a decade before the Civil War. Mr. Shiber bought the lumber and used part of it to build his own house on 188 North Washington. With the sale went the old bell, that Old Michael has rung at curfew time for so many years, and which also he rung for the funerals of the village of Wilkes-Barre, and to call the people to worship in the first church that rose to house the earliest congregations.

 

Mr. Shiber did not take the bell, though he might have. Bells were in high favor then, before watches were on all wrists and before house clocks were common. The bell was heard in the old town hall all the way from 1814 to 1855. It was then housed in Butler Alley in fire headquarters, an from there its tolling was heard, until it was destroyed in the fire which consumed the building. Mrs. Rozelle remember the tale of the firemen making rings from the metal, which was the mixture of tin and copper out of which all bells at made.

 

 All this differs greatly from the story of the old bell in the Presbyterian church on South Franklin Street which went to Pittston and then came back, and is now in the custody of the Historical Society. It is a valued and revered relic.

 

But that very big bell that stayed in the tower of the court house on the Square from 1856 for a half century or more is silent now, except on occasions of great parades, when its solemn voice may be heard as it rolls through the streets on a truck. For a time this ejected bell stood on the platform of the Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton Road on North Canal Street and thence was given into the custody of the fire department, where it has since remained. It is regrettable that use has not been made of it income manner. It weighs more than two tons and is a fine sample of its kind -- rich, vibrant and deep-toned. As Mrs. Rozell relates her story she makes our people regretful that the original ship Zion bell could not, with the other two, have been preserved among our historical treasures.

 As to the big bell, it was heard incident to our Sesquipagent and its tones heard by the throngs on the stands sent a thrill into the massing people. When it was first hoisted in place; having been bought by the late Dan Fell on his wedding trip, its size and weight was commented on by the crowds that watched the hoisting operation. It was the biggest thing in bells ever seen here. Whispers went around that it couldn't be placed, weighing twice as much as any other such signal the town had had. The circumambient air of this valley would pulse more richly if somehow the fine tone of that bell that warned the people over 50 years of fire and of the flight of time, might be heard regularly."

Submitted: Eugene J. Shiber, Easton, PA., 3-28-00

Mary Ann Lubinsky for the PAGenWeb Project, and by Individual Contributors