Saratoga County

Old bronze bell going back to Jonesville

A 375-pound, cast bronze bell will find its final resting place in the Jonesville Cemetery.

A 375-pound, cast bronze bell will find its final resting place in the Jonesville Cemetery.

Clifton Park Town Board members Tuesday night voted to grant the wishes of the Jonesville Cemetery Association and place the historic bell there after considering several sites, including Grooms Tavern, Clifton Common, Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library, Town Hall and Spirit Park.

It was hauled around to Burnt Hills and Charlton locations before landing in a barn, where it became the property of the town of Clifton Park. Cemetery Association members have been asking the Town Board to return the bell to its place of origin since last October.

Ed Hughes, vice president of the cemetery association, has made presentations to the Town Board outlining plans to display the bell by building a 10-foot high tower at the Ushers Road entrance.

“The cemetery is the most visible, most accessible, historically appropriate location in Jonesville,” Hughes said. “It is time to place the bell high in the sky and to proclaim it is alive and well by ringing it each day.”

John Davey, president of the association, said the association wants to preserve the historic significance of the bell.

“This bell was well known by residents of Jonesville who heard it ring for services, weddings and funerals,” Davey said. “My father-in-law, Milton Hatlee, who still lives in Jonesville, used to care for the former church and has been enthusiastic about bringing the bell back to life by returning it to its home.”

Molded in 1883 by the former Clinton H. Meneely Bell Co. in Troy, the bell rang for 80 years in the small belfry of Grace Church on Main Street in Jonesville, remaining there until the church was sold in 1968.

When Grace Church was sold to the Episcopal Diocese in 1968, the Rev. Leon Cartmell, then rector of Burnt Hills Episcopal Church, acquired the bell and had it installed at Mission House in Charlton.

The Charlton Historical Society bought the Mission House from Cartmell in 1982 for $800. The bell lay on the ground, surrounded by support pieces, until it was salvaged by Torben Aabo, the historical society’s former president. Aabo stored the bell in his barn until just recently, when Clifton Park Historian John Scherer learned of its existence.

The association’s plan calls for $18,000 to be raised for the bell project from community donations. The association has received a pledge from the Hinman Construction Company to fund and construct the 10-foot display tower. The remaining costs include a mechanism to ring the bell twice daily and during funerals, the restoration of sections to the cemetery’s 1910 fence, which will surround the base of the tower for additional security, night lighting of the bell, and markers and plaques to provide historical information.

“The goal is to have the tower completed this summer and the ringing mechanism in place by summer or next spring so we can hold dedication ceremonies,” Hughes said.

Hughes thanked Town Board members for unanimously supporting the move for the bell to the cemetery, and received a promise for help from the town.

“We will work very closely with you and if there’s any assistance you may need during the process, please let us know,” Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said.

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