Jonesville bell returns home

With four peals echoing in the drizzle of a chilly October afternoon, the old Grace Episcopal Church bell was officially returned to Jonesville after a long absence.

Its new home is in the Jonesville Cemetery on Ushers Road, where it is housed in a 10-foot tall tower donated by the Hinman Construction Co. The Clifton Park Town Board voted to put the bell there in May.

The bell is back in Jonsesville, said Town of Clifton Park Supervisor Philip Barrett during a ceremony on the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 22. "I think that in this wonderful setting, it has found its rightful home."

Made in Troy by the Clinton H. Meneely Bell Co. in 1883, the bell has traversed a long road to its new home. It was donated to the town in 2007 by the Charlton Historical Society, which acquired it in 1982. It is best known for the years it rang in Grace Episcopal Church, up until the church was sold in 1968. During the intermitting years, it was housed in the Mission House in Charlton by the Rev. Leon Cartmell, pastor of the Burnt Hills Episcopal Church.

The connection with Grace Church was rekindled during Wednesday's ceremony as Milton Hatlee, 85, a former communicant of the church, rang the bell at its new resting place.

Hatlee rang the bell four times, representing not only the hour (4 p.m.), but also acknowledging the four founding members of Grace Episcopal Church.

"The moment he strikes the bell, we will become one with all those who heard it," said Ed Hughes, vice president of the Jonesville Cemetery Association. Barrett presented Hughes with a key to the gate of the fence surrounding the bell.

The fence was constructed by volunteers from the town, and includes pieces of the cemetery's original 1910 fence.

Though the bell was rung by rope on Wednesday, it will eventually be struck by a computerized mechanism once electricity is hooked up to the structure.

A dedication plaque rests at the feet of the structure, and reads "May this historic bell unite all who hear it in joy and peace.""

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