To the editor:
Just for the record, here is some information on the 1890 bell recently installed on the 1924 courthouse lawn across from the Richmond County Judicial Center in Rockingham. We will install a granite marker soon.
We have very little information that the 1842 courthouse ever had a clock. It burned in 1888. That courthouse was replaced in 1889, and the bell tower with a clock was constructed on the same at Courthouse Square, which is now Harrington Square.
The bell was purchased after 1890, the year which it was poured at the foundry. So the tower did not receive the bell, and I don’t know when the tower was added, until after or during 1890. We discovered the bell in the furnace room of the basement of the courthouse across from the judicial center.
The night of July 19, 1888, the 1842 wooden courthouse on the Courthouse Square burned. By April 25, 1889, a low bid of $9,900 from W.A. McKinnon of Montgomery County was accepted for a new brick courthouse.
A bell from McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore was purchased with an 1890 date.
When the 1924 courthouse was constructed on Franklin Street, the 1889 courthouse was sold for $1 to be removed. The 1890 bell was taken to the new courthouse. It may have once been used from that location, perhaps on top of it, for a short period as there is at least one person’s recollections of hearing it ring.
However, in most recent years it was stored in the boiler room of the 1924 courthouse where it was located in January 2014 by the Richmond County Historical Society.
Richmond County officials gave the Richmond County Historical Society permission to restore the bell and mount it on a stand on the front lawn between the 1924 courthouse and the new Judicial Center.
A monument about the bell will be placed at the sidewalk level below the bell.
The Richmond County Historical Society will hold a dedication ceremony later this year as a symbol of the service rendered by the many public servants who have toiled for us in courthouses in Richmond County.
A bell can be a symbol. Just as the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is one of the symbols of our nation’s freedom, so do we hope this bell stand for freedom and justice and public service in Richmond County.
John S. Stevenson, M.D.