New Boston Historical Society
New Boston, New Hampshire

Revere bell
Revere bell in the Community Church — photo by James Murray III

The Bells of New Boston

In the days before telephones, television, and Twitter, the best way to let everyone know that something was happening was to ring a big, loud bell. In every town, bells were mounted high up in the steeples of town halls, churches, or schoolhouses. New Boston had bells in all three of these places, and two are still ringing today.

ChurchOnTheHill-French The Revere Bell

Today our town's biggest bell hangs above the Community Church. It weighs three-quarters of a ton, and was cast by Paul Revere & Sons in Boston, MA. (Paul Revere was a silversmith who also worked with copper and bronze, when he wasn't warning people that the British were coming.)

The big bell was first installed in the Church on the Hill, which once stood in the now-empty field at the corner of Bedford Road and Molly Stark Lane. This imposing meetinghouse was built in 1823, and there was just enough money left over to buy a bell, which cost $500, minus a 5% discount for cash payment.

The clock in Frank French's painting of the Church on the Hill (to the left) does not appear in any photos of the church; we attribute the clock to artistic license. The bell from the Church on the Hill now rings above the Community Church.

There may not have been a clock in the Church on the Hill, but its bell was rung by hand three times a day, at sunrise, noon, and 9:00PM. It was also rung for public meetings and funerals, and in event of fire, and for the Fourth of July. The bell ringer was elected at Town meeting — the low bidder usually got the job, receiving twenty or thirty dollars a year for his labor.

In 1887 a fire burned most of New Boston’s lower village, where the town center is today. To sound the alarm, Lottie Adams and Marcy Dale ran up to the Church on the Hill and rang its big bell, using their combined weight to pull the rope. Unfortunately the fire department could not extinguish the blaze, and the Town Hall, school, and Presbyterian chapel all burned.

village
The three steeples in this early-1900s photo all had bells: Town Hall, school, and the church next to the school.

Town Hall After the fire, the Town Hall, school, and church were rebuilt; the new buildings appear in the "Three steeples" photograph above. In 1892 the Revere bell was moved to the new church — that's the Community Church you see above the man standing in the snow. The relocation of the bell was fortunate, as the old Church on the Hill burned to the ground in 1900, after it was struck by lightning.

The bell tower of the Community Church is difficult to access, so I've never had a close look at the Revere bell. I once climbed up on the roof of the Historical Society museum with binoculars, but it was to no avail. Therefore I was delighted when James Murray III shared with me the photo at the top of this page, as well as a video fly-around of the steeple, made with his Mavic 2 Pro drone in late 2019.

The Town Hall Bell

New Boston's Town Hall was rebuilt after the Fire of 1887, but it did not get its clock and bell until 1913, which was our town's 150th anniversary year. The "E. Howard & Co." clock mechanism is wound once a week by Jim Federer, the official clockwinder, or his son Jay. Jim told me the following story, so it must be true:
Some years ago, an out-of-town clock repairman worked on the Town Hall clock, and this gentleman used a little too much lubricating oil. That night, the clock rang twelve o'clock, and then thirteen o'clock, and then fourteen o'clock. Around thirty-seven o'clock the neighbors called police dispatch in Goffstown, who called the New Boston town clerk, who called Jim and woke him up. Jim said the bell would stop ringing when its lead weight hit the floor, but the town clerk prevailed upon his good nature to take more immediate action, which he did.
Now that Jim Federer is in charge of clock lubrication again, it is nice to hear the Town Hall bell ring the hour, to tell us the correct time.

The School Bell

The third of New Boston's great bells has an interesting history, too. There was a three-story Village School across the street from the Town Hall, for Grades 1 through 12, and its bell rang to let you know you were late for class. Hundreds of children were educated in this school, and New Boston High School alumni still meet every other year to reminisce.

school
The school bell and weathervane were saved when the school was demolished in 1971.
Note the Community Church and its Revere bell in the background.

When the school was demolished in 1971, its bell was saved and reinstalled atop the new fire station built on the same site. Eventually the fire station needed a new roof, so the old school bell was set aside.

sandblasting schoolbell 2020
Dick Moody restored the old school bell

In 2020, the cast iron bell was sand-blasted and repainted by Dick Moody. Tony Hall built a sturdy wooden mount for the bell. (Both men are past presidents of the Historical Society.) The refurbished bell will be displayed in a location To Be Determined.

BaptistChurchBell A Fourth Bell?

There was in fact a fourth bell in New Boston's Lower Village for many years. This bell hung in the Baptist Church which once stood on the Town Green, where the gazebo is today. After the church was torn down in 1944, the bell was sold to a Baptist Church in Sebring, Florida — it's no longer in New Boston.

The bell bore the inscription "Presented to the New Boston Baptist Society by C.W.P. Read, June 1912." In the 1978 photograph to the right, Mr. Read's grand-nephew Frank Wilson poses by the bell in Florida.

The Importance of Bells

Once the new Presbyterian Church was built in the lower village after the Fire of 1887, the Church on the Hill was no longer needed. The building was sold at auction in April of 1892, including the land on which it stood, but the auction notice stated that "the bell in the tower will be reserved," as the big Revere bell was to be moved down the hill to the new church.

July 4th came and went, and the New Boston Argus observed with dismay, "For the first time in seventy years the old bell was silent on the anniversary morn of our national independence. Why was it not left in its honored place until some other was ready to receive it?"

Two weeks later the Argus reported, with some relief, "The old bell has been placed in its new position and rung out its first tones from there at noon... The love for the old bell lies deep in the hearts of the older people here, and will never cease until it tolls their departure from their homes in these valleys and on these hill tops." — Dan R. 2020