“How soft the music of those village bells, Falling at interval upon the ear in cadence sweet.”
– William Cowper
(1731-1800)

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve rung in another New Year, and on that note, let’s continue for a moment with our look back at the C.S. Bell Co., which was part of the Hillsboro landscape for multiple generations.

Since last week’s offering, our good friend John Levo sent me a message about how whenever he and his wife, Kathy, see a bell in a public place, they usually take a look to see if it is from Hillsboro. He said they have found C.S. Bells at the Eisenhower Farm in Pennsylvania, the Johnson Ranch in Texas, a lighthouse/coast guard rescue station in Florida, in a museum in Eagle, Alaska and at an Idaho park, to mention but a few. The number of bells they have found in front of churches throughout the nation is amazing, he told me.

The C.S. Bell Co. still exists to this day but was moved from Hillsboro to Tiffin in northwest Ohio. It retains the logo of its predecessor, a drawing of a cast steel post mount farm bell. However, all rights to the manufacture of bells were sold many years ago, and the company no longer is in that business. Today, the C.S. Bell Co. focuses on milling and grinding, conveyors, crushers and recycling.

For a company to be in business since 1858, it has to produce a quality product, but it needs to do a good job of marketing its goods and services.

Since Mr. Levo mentioned all the C.S. Bell church bells he’s seen over the years, let’s take another look back at an old C.S. Bell Co. catalog from 1894 – nearly 125 years ago.

The catalog proclaims, “Church is incomplete without a bell. Beauty and harmony combined demand that a church edifice should have a bell to complete its architectural character.

“A church without a bell indicates that the public are not wanted; that exclusiveness controls its management; while with a bell and its cheerful ringing the invitation is universal – whosoever will may come. The special purpose for which the house is used demands some means of calling attention to the time and place, that all may have due notice and be impressed with the call of duty.

“The law of association makes the church bell a necessity. It marks the hour set apart for prayer; it invites the stranger to the house of God; it reminds the careless that it is God’s holy day; and the tardy to a sense of duty; while many a sojourner in a strange place is carried in memory back to home and home associations by its tones.

“There is no other material influence so potent to bring the people together for worship. Feeble churches grow strong and the strong bring in the masses. The people are more prompt in attendance, and the habit of straggling in late, interrupting the service, is avoided.

“All the people in a town or neighborhood are interested in having a bell. It is needed at the time of funerals, weddings, celebrations and holidays. In case of fire it may strike an alarm and prevent a conflagration. The greatest mistake made by poor churches is the assumption they cannot afford a bell, when in reality they cannot afford to be without one.”

Not a bad pitch, no pun intended. It makes me want a C.S. Bell of my own.

In 1894, C.S. Bell Co. church bells ranged from $65 to $375 in price, but before you think that’s a real bargain, according to the CPI Inflation Calculator, that’s now a range from $1,898 to $10,948.

The 1894 C.S. Bell catalog is about 40 pages long, and perhaps we might delve more into the old bells of yore, but let’s pause for now and we’ll continue next week.

Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company, is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees and is a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at roush_steve@msn.com.