In 2021, a loving Southwest Harbor community donated their services and support to conserve and display a bell that had hung in the Manset Meetinghouse bellfry for 155 years.

The Meetinghouse, home of Southwest Harbor Historical Society since 2018, was one of the first houses of worship on Mt. Desert Island. Construction began on the site around 1828, and the building was used for worship during the summer months until it was completed around 1830.

Then, in January 1831, Nicholas Tucker deeded the land over to the congregation for $52.00. Tucker, David King, William Ward, Albert Bartlett, Dudley Dolliver, Samuel Newman, John Stanley, Andrew Whitney, Eaton Moore, H. H. Clark, and others, funded the purchase. These names persist among prominent families of the island.

The Mutual Benevolent Society of Southwest Harbor purchased the bell from Naylor Company of Boston on November 7, 1866, for $193.42. That same year the bell was mounted in the belfry and remained there until 2021. Major repairs were done to the steeple and belfry over the life of the church building, including during the 1880’s, 1919, and 1922.

During the April 2021 renovation, Belden Morse–owner of The Steeple People of Machias, Maine–was commissioned to repair the steeple framework and secure the belfry. Sadly, the 1200-pound bell could not be safely returned to its high perch due to its weight. So, Chet Lewis and Sharon Lawson laid a granite stone in front of the Meetinghouse on which to mount and display the bell. John Goodwin, Jr. Company lifted the bell, cradle, and wheel assembly and transported it to and from Clayton Strout’s home in Manset, where Strout glass-blasted the rust and applied a conservation treatment.

The bell now sits on her new granite base. Thanks to community caring and cooperation our bell will continue ringing her tune for generations!

~ Photos by Julie Fernald.

Julie retired after 39 years of service as a nurse at the Southwest Harbor Medical Center, part of Maine Coast Memorial Hospital. Some of her roots go back to the Kelley’s from Tremont and Norwood’s of Southwest Harbor. Julie is a board member of the Southwest Harbor Historical Society.