ST. PETER, Minn. — The mystery of a large bell in southern Minnesota apparently has been solved.
A rural St. Peter man who anonymously donated a large school bell to a history center stepped forward Thursday. Steve Scholl said he dropped the bell off near a back door four years ago.
Scholl came forward after reading a story about the bell in The Free Press . He informed Traverse des Sioux Treaty Site staff the 200-pound bell once hung atop an elementary school on the north side of St. Peter. The school was torn down in the early 1960s.
The 132-year-old brass object was left at the Traverse des Sioux Treaty Site. Some had believed the bell hung at the St. Peter’s Arts and Heritage Center until a tornado destroyed the building in 1998. The building had previously been a high school and a bell was used to call students to class.
Treaty Site volunteer Bob Sandeen searched until he came across old St. Peter school records from 1886 including an order for a bell for a new elementary school.
“I find it’s logical that it belonged to Lincoln (Elementary School),” he said.
A crack across the bell’s surface has been repaired with welding. The damage may have occupied during a fire about 100 years that destroyed the elementary school’s original building. When a new brick structure was built at the same site, the bell likely was reinstalled, Sandeen believes.
When the second Lincoln building was razed in the early 1960s, school officials gave the bell to Scholl’s grandfather.
“For years, it hung in his backyard. Then my dad had it in his backyard. Then I had it in my backyard,” Scholl said.
In 2014, he needed room to build a new garage, so he dropped the bell off near a rear door at the center.
Nicollet County Historical Society staff and volunteers were organizing a storage room of historical items last month when they rediscovered the bell.
Eileen Holz, vice president of the Nicollet County Historical Society, said it’s impressive the bell is still mostly intact.
“What does amaze me is that the bell was not melted down for the brass metal,” she said.
Holz used information stamped on the bell to locate where it was created, discovering that Philip Dick of St. Peter may have purchased the bell in 1886. But it was not enough information to confirm that it’s the old high school’s bell.
“I do have to ask, were there any other bells coming to St. Peter in 1886?” she said.
Information from: The Free Press, http://www.mankatofreepress.com