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11/23/2017 6:11:00 PM
For whom the bell tolls: Morgan County Courthouse bell tower ready to ring again
The Morgan County Courthouse clock tower is located on the south side of the building. Staff photo by Lance Gideon
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The Morgan County Courthouse clock tower is located on the south side of the building. Staff photo by Lance Gideon

Lance Gideon, Reporter-Times

For decades, the clock tower at the Morgan County Courthouse has been keeping time in downtown Martinsville, but in recent history, the bells in the tower have remained silent.

That is about to change after the Morgan County Board of Commissioners voted Nov. 6 to have Smith’s Bell and Clock Service install an electronic bell striker.

Smith’s Vice President Jesse Smith said the work on the Morgan County Courthouse clock tower is special because the Camby-based company calls the county home.

“As long as we are in business, we are going to try to take care of Morgan County because we are here,” Smith said.

About seven years ago, Smith’s brother John installed a clock controller to help keep the time at the courthouse clock and keep the hands of the timepiece synchronized.

The controller also had a daylight savings time adjustment so the clock could automatically change two times a year.

It also allowed for the clock to automatically adjust for time in the event of a power outage.

“It takes a lot of maintenance out of the clock,” Smith said.

On Wednesday, the company replaced the controller with a new one, which will also control the bells.

Smith said the bell looks like it used to be able to swing in the tower.

Now though, there is just a striker on the outside of the bell to control the tolls.

He said there are probably just a handful of people in the county who have actually seen what the bell looks like.

The company services several bells and clocks throughout the state of Indiana and beyond.

Smith said his company works on about 40 out of 92 county courthouse clocks in the state.

“Some counties have gone away with their old courthouses altogether and so some of them have removed their clock towers,” Smith said.

The company is hoping to get to as many courthouse clock towers in the state as possible.

Smith’s Bell and Clock Service has also performed work on the L.S. Ayers clock, Union Station and the City Market clocks in downtown Indianapolis and restored bells at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.

The Notre Dame bell tower houses North America’s oldest carillon — the instrument inside the tower that consists of multiple bells that produce various musical notes.

“We do a lot of stuff around the Midwest,” Smith said. “But my brother has actually done some projects in Kenya.”

The work in Kenya was for a Christian school and John Smith has also done work in the Philippines.

The company is also looking at doing more work in the Philippines as well as a project in Vietnam.

For large projects, crews from the company could spend several days at a tower, depending on what the client wants.

He anticipated the work on the Morgan County bell would only take a day.

“It is a pretty basic project,” Smith said. “We had one bell to get to ring again.”

He said hopefully the bell will ring from then on, with the occasional maintenance on the bell and clock.

Smith said before the company works on a historic preservation project, he will try to uncover historic records on a clock or bell in the communities they serve and present those records to the public.

In Smith’s opinion, the historic records help the public better understand the significance of the clocks and bells throughout history.

2017 HoosierTimes Inc.

Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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