Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, November 20, 2020

Communication With The Church Bell


Union Church Bell currently housed at the 
Sherburne History Center
As we explore communication devices in Sherburne County, attention to the telephone and the telegraph remain important considerations.  Yet, before the telephone and telegraph, the county needed some technology to sound fire alarms and arouse the citizenry in the middle of the night.  Every small community wrestled with the question of how to sound an alarm.  Some communities used steam whistles from factories.  Others used the ever-present church bell.

The leaders of Big Lake chose to utilize local church bells.  An example of the church bell warning system remains in the collections of the Sherburne History Center.  The church bell from the Union Church served for many years as part of the warning system for Big lake.  Some residents remember, “you could hear that bell for miles.”  With every fire, or other catastrophe, the Union Church bell rang out.

Installed at the church in 1891, Clinton H. Meneely Bell Company from Troy, New York manufactured the bell.  The Meneely company crafted bells first in 1826 and remained in business until 1952.  In the 126 years of business, the company produced over 65,000 bells.  Meneely reportedly used melted down, surplus cannons from the Civil War to create the Union Church bell.  The Union Church building originally resided near the southeast corner of Highways 10 and 25, the center of Big Lake. 

Before the days of telephones and mass communications, the ringing bell from a local church, like the Union Church bell, served to warn and bring out community members.  The clear sound of a bell, from a church located in the central part of town served as the early warning system for more communities like Big Lake


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