ROCKINGHAM —A piece of history came to light Friday when a restored brass bell from the courthouse that burned in 1888 resurfaced.
Tom MacCallum, board member of the Richmond County Historical Society, said a construction crew from Southern Builders of Rockingham installed the 1890 bell from the 1889 courthouse on the lawn between the old courthouse and the new Richmond County Judicial Center facing Lee Street in downtown Rockingham.
“The bell was once in the tower of the 1889 courthouse which stood on Harrington Square. That courthouse was sold for $1 when the 1924 courthouse was ready to be occupied,” he said in a statement.
“A monument will be installed between the bell and the sidewalk explaining its historical significance. A dedication will be held later.
“The installation is a project of the Richmond County Historical Society made possible with a grant from the Cole Foundation.”
Neal Cadieu, corresponding secretary to the historical society, said that in 1842 the county put up its largest courthouse on the town square. In that courthouse was a clock and a bell.
“That courthouse stayed until 1888 when most of downtown Rockingham burned, including the courthouse,” Cadieu said. “The historical society became interested in whether the bell had somehow survived. One of our members, Tom MacCallum, went to the sheriff (James Clemmons) and told him we believed that somewhere in the (old) courthouse was this bell. So the sheriff started asking around and one of the deputies says, ‘Yeah, I believe it’s down there in the basement by the furnace.’ And so they went down into the bowels of the courthouse and there was the bell.”
Cadieu said that the historical society talked to the county commissioners and told them they would like, at no expense to the county, to restore the bell and put it on the grounds outside of the courthouse as a historical artifact.
“The bell was then taken to the work shop of Edward Snyder,” Cadieu said. “He spent considerable time cleaning the bell and bringing back the original finish. It’s a brass bell, but it’s white brass, not yellow brass as you’ll see when you go see the bell.”
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673.