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The large C.S. Bell Co. that has long stood in front of the Highland House Museum on East Main Street in Hillsboro has been temporarily moved for repairs after a spate of automobile collisions that saw it be struck by errant motorists twice in three months.

The most recent of the incidents occurred in early February and involved the driver of an AEP truck, westbound on East Main Strett, T-boning a Jeep and knocking it off the road and into the bell, according to reports.

Just three months before that incident, the bell was in November of the prior year by a man fleeing law enforcement.

While the iconic, 48-inch bell was not damaged in the first incident, its base was, along it its wheel. However, with the assistance of four local men — Steve Holland, Tyler Ryan, Justin Harsha and John Willis — the base was repaired and a brand new wheel constructed just in time for the bell to traditionally ring in the new year.

With the most recent incident occurring after the latest of the repairs had already taken place, The Harsha Monument Co. has again stepped in to assist in facilitating repairs.

Vicki Knauff, director of the Highland House Museum, said she wasn’t sure how much time would be involved to facilitate the final restoration. But, she said it she is confident that the historic bell can be repaired.

While the work to repair the bell has not been completed, Willis, sales production manager for The Harsha Monument Co., said, “It’s going to be repaired. It’s not going to be as simple as last time.”

Knauff indicated that she isn’t sure if the bell will be placed back at its usual location in front of the Highland House.

“We might move it somewhere else,” she said. She said a new location has not been determined, but it has been discussed.

The bell is one of the more publicly accessible examples of the bells that were produced in Hillsboro, starting in 1875, by the C.S. Bell Company. While the company eventually stopped making bells and was sold to an out of town buyer, during its heyday, the popularity of the company’s bells helped Hillsboro to become a hub of their manufacturing. To this day, Hillsboro is steeped in the symbolism of the bell factory, in particular, with the annual Festival of the Bells, which is named after the company and the eponymous Bell’s Opera House, which was founded by, and named after, the company’s founder, Charles Singleton Bell, also known as C.S. Bell.

Bell was a notable Hillsboro benefactor who also served on city council, was the vice president of a local bank, and started the first library in Hillsboro, among other endeavors.

Bell’s granddaughter, Virginia, who was responsible focountir securing a contact to provide bells made in Hillsboro to the U.S. and other countries, which then rang on the naval ships of the Allied Forces during World War II, including those which stormed the beaches of Normandy, France on D-day.

Virginia Bell reportedly donated the Highland House bell to the Highland County Historical Society upon its creation in 1965.

One of the founders of the Highland County Historical Society, Robert Hodson, was a minority partner in the C.S. Bell Company when it was purchased by local businessman Charles Limes, from Virginia Bell, in 1968.

Following several subsequent sales thereafter, the first in 1969, the company eventually produced its last bell in Hillsboro, though some of the original patterns were purchased and are still being made by traditional methods by Prindle Station Bells of Washington state. Sandra Wilson, who runs the Prindle Station Bells company, said that the bells they make are among the last vestiges of a bygone era in small town American manufacturing.

“None of the patterns are being used of those bell companies,” she said. “They’re all gone. We’re the only ones.”

One of the bells produced by Prindle Station Bells was given to the Highland County Historical Society and is currently on display in front of the historic log cabin behind the Highland House Museum.

Knauff said that the damaged bell that is being repaired was taken around town during World War II to encourage people to purchase war bonds. Beyond its use in wartime efforts, Knauff also said that she believes the bell had been standing in front of the Highland House Museum ever since about the time the building was purchased, around a year after the formation of the historical society.

Knauff said that the historical society has a C.S. Bell display for visitors to the museum.

It is one of many displays and activities, she said, which could not happen without the bevy of people who volunteer their time to the historical society.

“We have a great team of dedicated volunteers here,” she said. “We couldn’t run without them.”

Juliane Cartaino is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.

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