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The beginning of the C.S. Bell Co. in Hillsboro

Lead Summary
By
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, since we’ve embarked on this series of offerings, I’ve been amazed how many folks have reached out to me about the old C.S. Bell Co. of Hillsboro.

Our good friend and Highland County Historical Society founding member Bob Hodson just this week provided me with some more fascinating information about the manufacturing company. Mr. Hodson at one time was a minority partner of the C.S. Bell Co. and shared some background on the company and C.S. Bell himself that I would like to share with you.

Mr. Hodson sent me the following: “Bells were invented in 400 A.D. by Bishop Paulinus of Compagnia. They were not used in churches until some 200 years later. A bell is described in the dictionary as ‘a hollow cup-shaped instrument that gives forth a clear, resonant note when struck with a clapper.’ The world has been greatly benefited by the melodious tones of the bells manufactured locally by the C.S. Bell Company of Hillsboro, in our own Highland County.

“Charles S. Bell, native of Cumberland, Md., was apprenticed to the founder’s trade in Pittsburgh, Pa. at the age of 15. After mastering the details of the trade, he eventually arrived in Hillsboro, a stranger with very little capital. He commenced the foundry business on a small scale, principally in the manufacture of cooking stoves of superior quality. By making a good reputation, he soon found his business growing. The need for larger quarters became imperative.

“In January of 1858, Bell purchased the Speedwell Foundry on West Beech, being operated by Bitler and Clayton. He started work with one boy and a weekly expense of $7. In addition to stoves, they began to making plow points and other castings.

“In a few years, a second foundry and showroom was built on the northwest corner of Main and West streets. James K. Marlay became a partner and was placed in the showroom, while Bell operated the foundry. The following advertisement appeared in the newspaper when the new store opened:

“BELL AND MARLAY IRON FOUNDERS AND MACHINISTS: Cane Mill, evaporators, sugar mill, C.S. Bell patent, steam generators, plows and other agricultural machinery.

“When making of sorghum syrup sprang up in the North, Bell designed a cane mill to meet the demand. The mill was very efficient, simple to operate, strong, cheap and very durable. It was equally adapted to the southern sugar cane, being grown on the small plantations.

“Bell advertised for sale: ‘A cast center lever plow, 100 bells, made from the best materials at the foundry.’ They also had on hand a number of improved beehives and were prepared to pay cash for any amount of scrap iron. In 1869, Bell purchased Marlay’s interest and continued to add various
items to those he already sold and manufactured. The pioneer Bell had a natural aptitude for metallurgy and continued to experiment with different formulas of iron, steel and other metals in his search to find an allow cheaper and more durable than iron. Bell continued his experiments and his business continued to expand. One day he was busily engaged in the foundry working with a metal formula he had developed when he accidentally dropped a piece.

“To his great surprise, he heard a ringing tone that ‘sounded like a bell.’ He experimented, mixed ingredients, poured them carefully, cooled them just so, until he had a metal with bell tones. The alloy or ‘peculiar amalgam’ developed by Bell could be produced cheaper than brass, copper or
tin, which were being used in the manufacture of bells. Bell also discovered that the alloy from which he made the bells could be pitched, with very mellow tone.”

“He began to manufacture other machinery in his shop, which included ‘Mogul’ stoves, coffee pulpers, grinders, burr and hammer type food and feed grinding mills, cane and maple syrup evaporators and plows. He also made a ‘tortilla’ used in Mexico to grind hominy from which ‘to make a popular hominy cake.’ This particular grinder was painted a brick red and was in great demand until the color of paint was changed to green. Sales on the grinder fell to such a low point that a representative was sent to Mexico to find out the reason. The Mexicans vowed that the ‘green tortillas’ were inferior and would not wear well. Needless to say, Bell changed the color back to red and regained the business. The first year after the discovery of the bell formula, 1,000 bells were sold.”

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.

Comment

Vivian Engle (not verified)

6 May 2024

I need a yoke for the bell I have, how do I orders thepart

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