Ready to ring in new year

It helped raise funds for the World War II effort, celebrated the war’s end, marked the location of Hillsboro’s most well-known former business and for the past 10 years has helped local residents ring in the new year. But whether the largest C.S. Bell Company bell ever cast would ring on New Year’s Eve this year was in question until Thursday.

For years the bell has been an iconic symbol resting in front of the Highland County Historical Society’s Highland House Museum in Hillsboro. But on Nov. 10 this year a Hillsboro man fleeing the from police caused a three-car accident on East Main Street that broke the anchor bolts holding the bell to its concrete base and the wooden wheel used to turn the bell so it can ring.

The 48-inch bell itself was not damaged.

Four local men — Steve Holland, Tyler Ryan, Justin Harsha and John Willis — worked to repair the damaged base and make a new wheel and on Thursday the bell, which had been housed by Harsha, the city’s mayor, was put back in place at its longtime home in front of the museum.

According to longtime local historian Jean Wallis, the bell resided for many years in front of the C.S. Bell Foundry on Railroad Street in Hillsboro. She could not recall exactly what year, but said it was donated to the Highland County Historical Society by Virginia Bell, who at one time rescued and operated the foundry, when Joe Rockhold was president of the historical society.

Wallis said that during World War II the bell would be placed in the back of a truck and drove around Hillsboro trying to raise money for war bonds. She said that on Victory in Europe Day it was placed in a truck again and drove around while ringing to celebrate the end of the war.

The tradition of ringing the bell on New Year’s Eve started in 2013 after a suggestion by the late Pamela Nickell, according to Vicki Knauff, the current director of the museum.

Knauff said a group of people usually gather at the Highland House around 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, then have a countdown and ring the bell at midnight. She said the public is encouraged to attend.

“We try to make that a tradition so people can have a way to ring in the new year,” Knauff said.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.