Kirkland Congregational Church

A Progressive Christian Voice in the Heart of Kirkland

Kirkland Congregational Church's History

The Story of Our Church Bell

(condensed from an article by Dorris Knibb who chaired the restoration of the bell & from Shirley Lindahl's "In Christian Fellowship")

The bell and yoke were cast in 1881 at The Meneey Company of West Troy, New York. It measured 30 1/2 inches wide and 2 feet from top to bottom and weighed 615 lbs. At that time it was valued at $200. In 1976 it was valued at $8000. The story related is that it came by train to California, then by boat to Pleasant Bay where it sat on a platform in front of the church for several years until the congregation could afford to build a belfry.

The bell was a gift from Sarah Jane Houghton, a friend of Reverend Greene's wife, Sarah. When no bell manufacturer could be found on the west coast she ordered the bell from New York and had it shipped. "In gratitude for this generous gift "our settlement has decided to take the name of Houghton."

In 1894 the Kirkland and Houghton churches merged together. Thus we acquired the bell when the Houghton Church deeded all their property to the Kirkland church. The First Congregational church of Kirkland was organized in July of 1890 and was located on the 400 block of 10th Ave W. and after the merger they moved to Fifth Avenue between 1st and 2nd St.

The building was moved from the back to the front of this lot in 1942 and then again when a new sanctuary was built in 1963. It was at this time that the bell was placed on a concrete pad near the east entrance of the church. To quote Dorris: "As to why a bell tower was not built at this time, only God can actually tell us."

In January of 1976 Randy Crowe and Dave Johnson tried to get the congregation interested in hanging the bell--so that it could ring--they raised $97.32. A few months earlier Dorris became interested in the project when she and her cookbook committee were deciding how to spend the $337.52 they had made. Dorris worked to get the approval of the Board of Directors, the congregation, the City of Kirkland with the national Bicentennial Committee plus several service clubs in the city.

The congregational voted to have a swinging, electrically operated bell to be located on the church roof over the south stair hail. Free crane services were offered by Rudy Bankson and Jim Brennan.

On April 10, 1976 the bell was cut from its platform by Dave Johnson and loaded onto a trailer by George Schoen, Randy and Clare Crowe, Tom Kelly and several sidewalk superintendents. The trailer had been built by George. It was taken to Knoll Lumber which was in Kenmore where steel bands were placed over it and the wooden pallet to make it ready for shipment to the Verdin Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sid Hammond arranged for S & S Auto Freight to pick up the bell in Kenmore on the 12th and they transported it to Consolidated Freightways who took the bell on its journey to Ohio. The bell arrived safely on the 21st but when dismantling of the yoke from the bell was accomplished, the company noted that some melting of the cast iron of the yoke had occurred. The technical advisory committee decided that this had occurred when the bell had been made stationary some 10 years ago.

The committee had to make one of three choices. 1. Buy a new yoke at $1210; 2. Have repair parts made for $625 or 3. Have a stationary bell. It was decided to spend $625 as the congregation had voted for a swinging bell. Special note: The bell had no cracks--just the yoke.

The budget figure of $5890 was projected as the cost to complete the project. Many funds were collected to raise this money. They included continuing paper drive, cookbook, bell choir concert profits, quilt raffle sales, gifts from the community and congregation. Also many who donated equipment and their services during the project and the placement of the bell on the roof.

The bell arrived in time for the national bicentennial ringing of the bells throughout the United States as a sign of solidarity and independence. "It also signified the uniting of our entire congregation in the purpose of rehanging this 95 year old bell and using it to proclaim to the area the joy of worshiping in the House of the Lord."

This is a time to give a much belated thank you to Dorris Knibb who was the driving force behind "The Raising of the Bell to its Ringing Position."

(Information gathered by Jerry Rutherford)