Saturday, June 27, 2015

On Your Savannah Trips, See and Hear the Savannah Bells!

SAVANNAH Georgia -- Bells have a long and honored legacy in Savannah's history and daily life -- ship bells, fire bells, wedding bells, church bells, cow bells, dinner bells, and sleigh bells.

A park bench is an ideal spot to take in the sounds ... and the messages.  

When beginning to write this piece we realize that, living in downtown Savannah, we take the rich tradition of Savannah bells for granted. Yet, we treasure and welcome now the reminder of this to turn our attention to actually listening. Perhaps there are echoes, too, as we pass the now-silent bells, set as monuments to the days and people who pioneered a rich life for us now in Savannah, Georgia USA.

The Old Exchange Bell, the
bell of the former Savannah city hall,
resides in Emmett Park on Bay Street.
"The first notice of the arrival of the welcome
vessel [during General Lafayette's Savannah
visit] was by a few strokes of the
Exchange Bell."
-- Source: "History ofSavannah"
Church bells chime gospel tunes into Wright Square and Madison Square. Instead during the holidays you'll hear Christmas hymns and Jingle Bells, a song first penned by James Lord Pierpont in Savannah, Georgia.

The official City Hall Bell chimes noon midday. 

We should not forget that the bells ring out and symbolize the spirit of America, with echoes of rich heritages from Ireland, Europe, Scotland, Bavaria, France, Portugal, and Spain. Though not sailors, the first 114 colonists would learn that nautical time was signaled by strokes of a ship's bell; eight bells signaled at 4:00, 8:00, or 12:00 o'clock, either a.m. or p.m.

Every colonist who arrived in the Georgia colony by ship would know that the ringing of bells met an important purpose. Each would bring some awareness of ancient bells from their native lands.
"During the colony's first ten years the trustees sent to Georgia at their expense 1,847 colonists, of whom 1,008 were British people and 839 were foreigners. In Georgia a visitor could hear Gaelic spoken at Darien, German at Ebenezer, French at Highgate, Spanish at Hampstead, Creek among the Indians in the forest." Source: "The People of Georgia, An Illustrated Social History" by Mills Lane. 
From colonial days when the Savannah City Market was in Wright Square and later Ellis Square, a church bell rang for 15 minutes at sunrise. It alerted the citizens that the public market was open for business. Farmers and hunters brought their goods to sell there.

"Whistles and Bells echoed from boat to boat" on February 7, 1923. Savannah was the welcoming port for the nation’s last returning troops from World War I, known as “America’s Last Thousand.”  Actually numbering about 1,200 men of the 8th Infantry, they were transported from the Rhine in Germany on the St. Mihiel, many bringing home new families.... The steamer Hildegarde carried children and a tug was full of newspapermen and photographers.  An estimated 75,000 spectators lined the river and streets of Savannah to welcome home the soldiers.... As the transport neared the City Hall the Washington guns, presented to the Chatham Artillery by George Washington, lifted up their aged voices in salutation.  With the third shot a mammoth smoke ring rose into the air, floating like a halo for a few seconds in space before it dissolved.  Whistles and bells echoed from boat to boat and cheers reverberated from shore to shore."

The bell from the U.S.S. SAVANNAH, a Liberty Ship struck by a German radio-controlled glide bomb off the coast of Salerno in September 1943, now resides in the Ships of the Sea Museum.

"Big Duke Alarm Bell, located on Oglethorpe Avenue
near Abercorn Street in downtown Savannah, GA.
THE FIRE BELL. The "Big Duke" Alarm Bell, originally constructed in 1872 and re-cast in 1901, served as a fire alarm bell for the city but was dedicated to firefighters in 1985 and sits in the Oglethorpe Avenue median near the #1 Fire Station in downtown Savannah.

SAVANNAH CITY HALL BELL.  September 11, 2002, the City of Savannah held two services in memory of the 9/11 tragedy of 2001.  One was held in the first floor rotunda of City Hall with employees gathering around the fountain for a moment of silence and prayer, before pinning white ribbons on a wreath of remembrance.  The following year, in 2003, a similar service was held during which the City Hall bells were rung at 9:59, the time of the collapse of the south World Trade Center tower, followed by a moment of silence.

This bell obviously has a rich Savannah story.
"In Loving Memory of Alfred E. Mills" is
inscribed on this bell in the gardens of
Independence Presbyterian Church.
The ALFRED E. MILLS BELL sits nobly behind the prominent gates of Independent Presbyterian Church on Oglethorpe Avenue. We are eager to learn the back story of this tribute bell, likely to be dedicated to a relative of Capt. J. G. Mills and George G. Mills, prominent in the Savannah port's cotton business and maritime affairs. We read on in history the account of one of the church's bells that fell out of the bell tower on Saturday, 6th of April, 1889, as the tower burned quickly to the ground. Historians record, "[The] old bell in its descent rang out its last plaintiff note, which was human-like in its pitiful tones." On another occasion, history records another of the Presbyterian bell stories: "The steeple of the Presbyterian Church, on the southwest corner of Whitaker and President streets, fell in a southwesterly direction, crushing in a house and cutting off a portion of a bed on which lay a sick man, but fortunately he was not injured. Strange to say the bell in the steeple was found unbroken and afterwards hung in the steeple of the Independent Presbyterian Church, where it remained until 1824."

The bells of St. John's Espiscopal Church, located on Madison Square, pealed out America when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his mother passed in their motorcade during their Savannah visit (November 18, 1933).

During the Civil War, the bells of St. John's church were silenced in December 1864, following the orders of Union General William T. Sherman, who had taken up headquarters in the mansion next door, now Green-Meldrim House on Madison Square. He wanted to sleep! Source: Historic and picturesque Savannah by Adelaide Wilson

Rev'd A. Dale Umbreit Memorial Bell tower resides on Houston Street (516 E Saint Julian Street).
It was given by the Propeller Club and dedicated to the memory of the Port Chaplain 1975-1988.

There is an antique bell in the First African Baptist bell tower that overlooks Franklin Square in City Market. Don't you ever wonder how those heavy bells were raised to third floor heights?!  A photograph by Tim Nealon is at this link.  

There are two steeple towers in the majestic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, located on Lafayette Square. The steeple bell was cast in 1900 in Baltimore, MD and weights 4,730 lbs. The diameter is 59.5 inches. It's 49.75 feet tall. It's hung 96 feet above the ground.

About a 30 minute drive north, just off Highway 21 is the oldest bell in the Georgia colony, the bell of Ebenezer, Jerusalem Lutheran Church. "Two bells in the bellfry are used to toll the call to worship. An interesting story is behind the two bells. In 1738, before the church was built, the Rev. George Whitfield, English revivalist, visited Ebenezer and was so impressed by the community and its religious endeavors that upon returning to England, he sent them a gift. It was a bell, which was placed in the old wooden church that served them at that time. In 1750, the Salzburgers felt the need for a larger bell, since many of the congregation had moved further away and could not hear the original bell. So they wrote to Rev. Whitfield [founder of Bethesda Orphanage in Savannah] to send them another and larger bell, for which they paid. But on the arrival of the new bell, the congregation could not bear to give up their little bell. Both bells were then placed in Jerusalem Lutheran Church when it was completed. Since shortly after 1750, these two bells - the oldest bells in Georgia - have called the people to worship in Ebenezer. -- Source: Effingham County History
On Labor Day each year, the descendants of the Salzburger settlers of New Ebenezer gather for a reunion.  The builder of Zeigler House Inn, lumber merchant and prominent Savannah citizen, Solomon Zeigler is a direct descendant.
 A model of the S. S. Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean, is on display in the Savannah History Museum. The model is considered very detailed and accurate with lifeboats, gangway, brass ship bells, two water tanks, two anchors, two brass cannons, and a carved wooden head of Captain Moses Rogers standing on the poop deck. The model was on formerly on display in City Hall’s Council Chamber.

We hope you'll pause for a moment when you hear the bells chime in downtown Savannah's National Landmark Historic District. The sound is understood in every language on Earth: an important message is being communicated.

Not so unlike the poem I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day -- now a Christmas carol based on the 1863 poem Christmas Bells by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow -- the words tell of the narrator's despair, upon hearing Christmas bells, that "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men". The carol concludes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among men.
On June 21, 2015, the sobering bells of Charleston, South Carolina churches rang out at 10:00 a.m. to bring unity to the town and honor those murdered in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of Charleston's historic churches. Source: AP / WTOC

 "...Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.'"

-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Aren't you ready to be fascinated by the bells of Savannah while you stroll from art galleries, museums, and chic cafes or new restaurants this summer, fall or winter holiday in Savannah, GA USA? We hope you will plan your next Savannah travel stay with us at Zeigler House Inn on the most beautiful residential street in the south, Jones Street.

Contact us for your Savannah visit / Savannah bed and breakfast getaway: Phone 912-233-5307 | USA Toll-free 866-233-5307 | Fax 912-233-0220 | 121 WEST Jones Street @ Barnard Street, Savannah, Georgia USA 31401;; EMAIL 

Copyright © 2015 Zeigler House Inn. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. They have a list of approved caterers and valet parkers which you are required to choose from. The event coordinator from wedding venues NYC was very professional and cool enough to let us come in and tour on a Saturday while another wedding was setting up.