In the front veranda of a rural Kings County home rests a large and very ancient bell. Every year for several decades it has been a family tradition to ring the bell once on New Year’s Eve to mark the passing of the old year. The bell has a loud, clear sound and people who live several miles away in the next community claim they have heard it peal on New Year’s Eve.
If folklore can be accepted as gospel, this bell is rather unique. According to the folklore, this may be the bell that once called the Acadians to worship at the church of St. Charles, the bell that Longfellow said, “softly the Angelus sounded” at Grand Pre.
Folklore has it that the bell came from a French ship and was used in the Grand Pre church. The folklore is hazy on some points but the story goes that bell survived the burning of the church during the expulsion of the Acadians. It isn’t clear whether the bell was found in the church ruins after the Planters arrived or if it was hidden by the Acadians and later discovered. However, according to the folklore the bell survived and eventually wound up being used in a Planter church; the church named in the folklore is said to have been in the Greenwich area.
Eventually the bell was discarded after the church in which it resided was remodelled; apparently, the bell must have been used in the church for well over a century, but again, folklore isn’t clear on this.
How it made its way to an antique dealer in Berwick is a mystery since I assume that a bell with this lineage would have been treasured and preserved by the parishioners of the Planter church. However, I’m only relating the folklore as it was given to me by the family who now own the bell, Readers can decide for themselves if the story is plausible and if any of it could be true. Like a lot of folklore, there often is a kernel of truth in every old tale that has been handed down from generation to generation.
At their request, I’ve deliberately not mentioned the name of the family on whose veranda the bell now sits. Some 30 years ago, one of the members of the family purchased the bell from the Berwick antique dealer whose name was given to me as Elwood Morse. Mr. Morse, who passed along the folklore about the bell to the current owners, unfortunately, is deceased.
While they wish to remain anonymous to the general public, the family has asked me to pass their name along to Les Amis de Grand-Pre so they can examine the bell, and perhaps have someone with the right kind of expertise appraise it. Hopefully, this is the bell from the church of the Grand Pre Acadians. I’ll have a report in an upcoming column.