Paul Revere Bells
Woodstock, Vermont, has the distinction of being the only town in the United States to have five Paul Revere bells. These bells are at the following locations: First Congregational Church, Masonic Temple (Former Christian Church), North Universalist Chapel (a/k/a “Universalist Unitarian Church”), St. James Episcopal Church, and the Woodstock Inn. (Note: The Woodstock Inn’s bell is not on display at this time.)
The bell at the First Congregational Church is the oldest of the five. It is currently on display in the outside portico of the Church, which is located on 36 Elm Street. This bell, which was cast in 1818 by Revere & Son, weighs 711 pounds. After developing a crack, it was moved down to the portico where it now is on display, and a new bell from Holland, of similar weight and tone, was put in its place in 1976. The original 1818 bell cost 45 cents a pound. The 1976 replacement cost $9.13 a pound.
Why were bells so important to our ancestors?
Before the age of watches, televisions, cell phones, and other devices, bells played an important role in communication. Each peal had a particular meaning. According to Edward and Evelyn Stickney, authors of “The Bells of Paul Revere, his sons, and his grandsons”:
The gabriel bell woke the people of the parish; the sermon bell announced it was time for the church services; the pardon bell rang before and after the sermon during prayers for the pardoning of sins; the pudding bell, which undoubtedly was the most popular, told the cook to prepare dinner while the church-goers headed for home; the passing bell tolled three times at a man’s death with a ring for each year of his age.
In those days of limited communication systems the church bells were used for other purposes also, such as for fire alarms. Sometimes the bell rope was even left hanging outside the church for easy access in case of an emergency.
Paul Revere’s bell-making career was launched to a certain extent by chance. In 1792 the bell in the Second Church in Boston was cracked. At a meeting of church members, including Revere, it was decided to have the bell recast, with each member pledging his subscription. The question was whether to send to England as was usually done since America had produced few bells. In a gesture quite typical of his personality, Paul Revere, who was always willing to undertake a new challenge, offered to cast the bell even though he knew nothing about bell-casting, an art quite different from anything he did in his foundry. He consulted Aaron Hobart, a bell-maker, and was taught how to mould and cast his first bell. Thus at 57, an age when many men are thinking of retiring, he began the first large scale bell-making establishment in America. When THE FIRST CHURCH BELL CAST IN BOSTON 1792 BY P. REVERE came from the foundry its tone was harsh, but Boston had produced its first bell and Boston was proud of it.