A tale of two bells

A tale of two bells

Contributed by Evelyn Edson, president, Scottsville Museum

The Scottsville Museum is the proud proprietor of two bells, one that once served the town for both warning and celebration and one mounted on a passenger train’s steam locomotive that rang to let everyone know the train was coming.  Both are cast bronze, very heavy, and very loud when rung.

The town bell, once mounted on a concrete tower at the corner of Valley and Main Streets, now hangs on a hill between the Barclay House and the Museum.  In the early years of the 20th century, it rang for fires and floods and to warn when the intermittent electricity and water supply were about to be cut off.  Although we are told that it could be heard three miles away, it was replaced around 1930 with a siren, presumably a more piercing sound.  This is the siren that was sounded every noon for years by the reliable Charlie Lenaham.

The bell was revived for some special occasions, ringing for victory after the two World Wars and in celebration for the Bicentennial in 1976.  After that event, this bell was moved to its current stand.  Perhaps we can bring it back into action for the opening of the Museum next spring (2021).

Our other bell sits on the floor of the Scottsville Museum.  It was mounted on the last C&O steam passenger train and was bought by Roland Boggs and given to the museum.  Bells like these were used on steam locomotives beginning in the 1840s.  They eventually were replaced by steam whistles.

I was surprised one Fourth of July by a visit from a loyal member of the museum, who came in with his son and demanded to know where the bell was.  Apparently, they had a family tradition of ringing this bell on the holiday.  We had pushed it out of sight to make room for our current exhibit, but fortunately I knew where to find this bell.  We lugged it out, and he and his son gave the bell a couple of good hearty rings.  I hope they return for next year’s July 4th celebration (if we have one) and ring this bell joyfully!


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