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As It Was: Ashland, Ore. Church Repairs 400-Pound Bell

The 400-pound, 117-year-old bell didn’t look very stable in its wood-frame belfry, so Rector Anthony Hutchinson of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Ashland, Ore., sent it by train to Indiana for repair.

Two months and $10,000 later, the bell came back cleaned of rust, brightly burnished and mounted in a strong steel frame. 

The bell was a gift in 1900 from Elizabeth A. Smith, now buried with her parents in the Ashland Cemetery.  Smith came West in a wagon train and once owned the Wolf Creek Inn on Interstate 5 midway between Ashland and Roseburg.  The bell is named “Aunt Lib” for her.

On July 12 of this year, some 50 parishioners and spectators attended a blessing ceremony for the restored bell, watching from the street as a crane lifted it to the steeple belfry.

A parishioner told a reporter, “The bell was getting creaky and it’s nice to know it won’t come crashing through the roof.”  Another observed, “It’s wonderful to have it back and working … Every time it rings, an angel gets its wings, you know.”

Source: Darling, John. "117 years old and still ringing." Daily Tidings, 12 July 2017 [Ashland, Ore.] , p. A3.

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Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.