First Church’s 1811 Paul Revere Bell

RECOGNITION OF FIRST CHURCH’S 1811 PAUL REVERE AND SON BELL ON ITS 200th ANNIVERSARY

 

A little more than 200 years ago, a plain, two-story meetinghouse of the old New England style stood on this site, the longer side of the building facing toward Main Street. The building was the property of the Town of Hopkinton, and the Church of Christ, as our congregation was then known, worshiped in it.

At Town Meeting in 1807 the voters approved a warrant article giving permission to “certain persons” to put a belfry on the meetinghouse and install a bell in it.

 Revere Bell

Proceeds from a sale of pews in the meetinghouse had grossed more than $550 and after the expense of painting the building, about $300 remained for the use of the Belfry/Bell Committee.

99 private persons pledged $680 toward the project toward a total cost of almost $1000, no paltry sum in those days: a day labourer working every day Monday through Saturday all year long – had he been able to find the work – might have earned about $175 for the year.

That’s $1000 to reframe the attic area of the building so that it could support the weight of a tower above it, construct the tower at the center of the roof, cap it with a copper dome and weathervane, build the frame and yoke in which to mount the bell, install a bell wheel and rope, and purchase a bell, and raise it into the belfry.

With local merchant Joseph Towne in charge – he operated a busy store in what is now the Cracker Barrel building – the bell committee went off to Boston in July 1811, arriving in Charter Street where 76-year-old Paul Revere – immortalized by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1860: “Listen my children and you shall hear/ Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere” – where this same old patriot was in business with his son as Revere and Son.

There the Committee purchased a 1,185 pound bell, at 42 cents per pound, for $486.30. It was sold under this warranty: “This bell is warranted for twelve months accident and improper usage excepted; and unless it shall be rung or struck before it is placed in the belfry or tolled by pulling or forcing the tongue against the bell, by a string or otherwise”. Regardless of that condition in the warranty, (as the story is reported by Historian Charles C. Lord) en route to the village the carters drew up into the dooryard of the Jonathan Chase house on top of Dimond Hill, where Dijit and Jeff Taylor now live, somehow managed to suspend the half-ton bell between two elms and ring it to honor Mr. Chase who had subscribed a sizable gift toward its purchase.

If that happened, it seems to have caused no damage, however, and eventually the bell was mounted in the tower above the meetinghouse.