New life for old bell


Highland County Recorder Chad McConnaughey has restored a school bell that is nearly 150 years old, comes from the former C.S. Bell Company in Hillsboro and is displayed it in his office.

The bell was part of the old Maple Grove school house in Clay Township that was deeded to the local school district in 1877.

“In 1927, as those one-room school houses were being consolidated into a bigger school district and the former school was no longer in use, my great-great-grandmother purchased the property that it sits on, and the schoolhouse has been in my family for 96 years now,” said McConnaughey.

After the roof of the schoolhouse was redone and the bell was removed, it sat in McConnaughey’s parents’ yard for many years until his mother passed away last year and he purchased the bell from his siblings.

“I’ve restored it, and I decided putting it here in the recorder’s office would be a nice place to showcase it,” said McConnaughey. “It’s a C.S. Bell, so obviously that’s great history here in Highland County, so I thought it would be a great place to put it.”

McConnaughey said his mother had restored and painted the bell over the years, but and his siblings would ring it all the time as they were growing up. “Even though we were told not to, you just couldn’t help it,” he said. “It’s just one of the things you had to do as a little boy — go over and ring that bell.”

He said he has an appreciation for the history of Highland County. “Being the Highland County recorder, obviously, I preserve history and documents, but I also love any Highland County history, so I just decided it would be a good way to showcase some of that history,” he said. “It’s a number 24 bell, so it weighs about 200 pounds the best I can tell, and it wasn’t an easy feat getting it in here and getting it up on the stand I have it on, but I just decided I wanted to restore it and hang onto some Highland County history and also, personally, some family history.”

McConnaughey took advice of former C.S. Bell employee and local resident Tim Koehl about how to restore the bell. “He was pretty instrumental in his advice about how to clean it up,” said McConnaughey. “A lot of people sandblast them and do other things, but I didn’t really want to hurt the bell at all, so I cleaned it with, of all things, Dawn dish soap and scrubbed it for as long as I could and got as much of the dirt and grime off of it as I could, and then I repainted it black because that’s the color it was.”

McConnaughey’s family uses the old school building for storage now. “It’s starting to show a lot of wear and tear, but you’ve got to figure that building is over 100 years old,” he said. “We have an original teacher’s desk out of it that my brother has that he got when my mom passed, and it’s got a lot of signatures from the teachers who taught there.”

Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.

No posts to display