A Historic Church Bell in Park Hill

(The following excerpt is from the interview number 6516 by Field Worker Elizabeth Ross, Tahlequah - Indian Pioneer Papers)

The large bell which was cast in 1847 for the Park Hill Presbyterian Mission Church at Park Hill, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, is one of the oldest in Oklahoma. The Reverent Samuel A. Worcester was in charge of the Park Hill Mission from 1836 until his death in 1859. The church, which stood at some distance from the mission home and school buildings, was built of brick, the first brick church in the Cherokee Nation, of not in Indian Territory. A bell was greatly desired and contributions were sought. It has been said that Principal Chief John Ross and George M. Murrell were principal contributors. The first fifty dollars collected for the bell fund was delivered to Rev. Worcester by two of the young ladies of the locality. When a sum of money sufficient with which to pay for the bell was realized the order for its casting was made and in due course of time the bell was completed, shipped and received at Park Hill, after having been hauled overland and in all probability from Fort Gibson to which point steamboats carried freight up the Arkansas and Grand rivers to the landing in vicinity of the Iron Mountain Railway bridge.

The bell was hung in the belfry of the brick church at Park Hill there to remain until the breaking out of the Civil War. At that period the Rev. Stephen Foreman, Presbyterian minister, had the bell carried to a place of safety so the inference is, for when the conflict closed and the Rev. Foreman returned to his home, he brought forth the bell and placed it in the belfry of a plank building which he had fitted up for church purposes. This church in the woods is often referred to as the Foreman Church.

Upon the surface of the bell was the inscription: "Rev. S.A. Worcester, D.D., Park Hill Mission, 1847" and lower down the scriptural quotation: "Holiness to the Lord."

On a cold morning in January, 1886, a school boy filled a stove in a new schoolroom recently built at the south end of the original building, the stove pipe became red hot and the building caught fire and quickly became a mass of flames. The bell fell into the burning timbers and planks and was melted into a shapeless mass. This metal was sent to the Andrew McNeeley Bell Company, West Troy, New York, original casters of the bell, and it was recast with the same inscriptions and now hangs at Park Hill Presbyterian Church.

Excerpts taken from the Indian Pioneer Papers. The Indian Pioneer Papers are the product of a project developed in 1936. The Oklahoma Historical Society teamed with the history department at the University of Oklahoma to get a Works Progress Administration (WPA) writers' project grant for an interview program. The program was headquartered in Muskogee and was led by Grant Foreman. The writers conducted more than 11,000 interviews and after editing and typing the work, the results were over 45,000 pages long.]