First Presbyterian Church - Table of Contents
"Old First" Presbyterian Church 1851 Tower Bell
First Presbyterian Church - Official Web Site
By Bruce A. McCausland
Note: Footnotes intentionally removed
The church belfry at [the 1827] "Old First" contained a bell that, originally weighed 2,500 pounds. It was known throughout Buffalo as the "town clock bell," reliably tolling the hours, ringing out the "7-o'clock," "12 o'clock.", and "9-o' clock bell" with stately mien of an old grandfather's clock, with a clear, sonorous tone that could be heard great distances.
The bell served not only the congregation, but the whole town as its fire alarm, which by law, was required to ring for a full 20 minutes while sounding an alarm. It was while sounding an alarm during a fire in 1833 that the bell first cracked.
Accounts from this time are not clear if the bell was repaired, or recast at this time, but there is a story that recounts an event that took place on the Fourth-of-July in the early 1840's when the Sexton at the time, John Newland, and his assistant were ringing the sweet jubilee bell when a serious fracture developed in the bell. Attempts were made to repair the bell by carefully drilling into the crack, then boring, sawing and filing.
However, this was to no avail, and after several attempts at mending, the result was only a more disagreeable, hoarser sounding tone. It was finally decided to have it recast.
The bell was removed and in 1851 it was recast by the Meneely Foundry in West Troy, New York, probably cast by Andrew Meneely and his son. Bells made in the Greater Troy area were almost always composed of 78 per cent copper and 22 per cent tin. The new bell, now 300 pounds heavier, measures 52" wide at the base and approximately 29" wide at the crown, proved to be nearly the equal in tone as the original bell; it continued to serve the church and downtown Buffalo community in the same capacity with its sweet dulcet tones until 1890.
The bell is sold
Before the building was razed, the Brick Church bell, along with a chandelier was purchased in October 1890, for $100.00, by the Evangelical Friedens Church, a newly formed congregation that was constructing a church edifice in North Tonawanda at 170 Schenck St, The bell was removed, then methodically made its way to its new home transported by wagon, pulled by a team of horses. This building, dedicated in 1890, was home to The Evangelical Friedens Church until June 2000 when it merged with another congregation and changed its name to Frieden's United Church of Christ. This congregation then divided, with some of the congregation moving into their new home in Amherst while other rejoined the congregation that they broke away from in 1889. After remaining vacant for a year, the building was acquired in 2001 by the newly formed Starry Night Theatre, Inc. which is incorporated as The Ghostlight Theatre Company. The chandelier, which was installed in their sanctuary, was removed, most likely during a 1929 remodeling and lighting renovation and its whereabouts are unknown.
Stories have been related by Frieden's Church members to the current owners that following a January 1955 upgrade that electrified the bell swinging mechanism, that sometime afterward when the bell was swung, so powerful was the momentum that the whole building moved and that from then, they only way that they rung the bell, was to just hit it with the clapper. However, that too in later years was too much for the small wooden structure, because the percussion from the sound eventually cracked a huge wall in the church behind the pulpit, and that the bell has not been rung since that time.