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Restored bell ringing again at area church

August 19, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Jonathan Akers lost track of how many times he rang the restored bell outside the Presbyterian Church of the Falling Spring Sunday afternoon.

The 17-year-old, a member of Falling Spring Boy Scout Troop No. 127, was excited about finally receiving his Eagle Scout Award and stopped counting how many times he pulled on the bell's cord.

Akers refurbished the bell, built a rack for it and created a mini-park surrounding the bell in front of the North Main Street church's Family Life Center.

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While receiving the award was a meaningful step in Jonathan's Scouting career, the rededication of the historic bell was of equal importance to the church.

The bell is believed to have been a gift from the late Pennsylvania Railroad President Moorhead Cowell Kennedy. According to oral history, the bell was mounted on Kennedy's private railcar and bequeathed to the church upon his death in 1936.

The bell, however, was not given to the church until 1951, when Fred W. Hankins, another railroad executive, presented it to the church, said P.J. Wertime, church historian.

"There is no written record of where the bell came from, and there is no reason known why it was given," Wertime said.

The bell was moved to an out-of-the-way spot near the sanctuary to make room for the Family Life Center in 1995.

"My dad told me about the bell being rusted, and it was getting old," Jonathan said of his decision to restore the bell as his Eagle Scout project.

Four wood pillars, about 10 feet tall, form the rack, and decorative ironwork keeps the structure steady. As part of the project, a curved bench and granite stones form two concentric circles around the bell to create a "mini-park."

In its new location, the bell is visible from the street.

"The bell is front and center now to signify God's love, God's glory and God's praise," said the Rev. William Harter, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Falling Spring.

Jonathan began work on the project March 20, 2001, and completed it March 29, 2002, in time to ring the bell on Easter Sunday, said Harter, who conducted the brief rededication service Sunday afternoon.

Jonathan spent nearly 23 hours planning the project and 66 hours performing the work, in addition to the 221 hours another 39 individuals put in.

Initial estimates put the project cost at $4,273. With donations of time and materials from 11 area businesses, that dropped to $2,675, Harter said.

The final cost was covered with funds raised by Harter's son, Nathanael Harter, when he walked the Appalachian Trail last year. The younger Harter was also a member of Troop No. 127.

Others who helped out include Peter Nicklas, a church member who did the metal work; Dan Akers, Jonathan's father; and Ryan Bigham, who designed the project.

The official origin of the bell remains a mystery. Paperwork burned with the Old Fulton Bell Foundry in Pittsburgh, where the bell was cast probably a century ago, according to Dan Akers.

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