There are some stories that must be told, that surface as legends with all of the storytelling being basically unreliable because the person telling the story cannot put his hands on the right book for verification. I find myself in this storytelling bind tonight. I know this story is true but the details are in a book that I cannot find. The book is Mary Stetson Clark’s “The Middlesex Canal.” It is a marvelous book, very well written with a wealth of information on Middlesex Village and the Middlesex Canal. In the book she writes about the Baptist Church the was the only church in the Village. For those of you who have not heard of either of these things, Middlesex Village was a vibrant community, a part of West Chelmsford, now in the Upper Highlands of Lowell but in Chelmsford in 1848, the year of the great fire.
Middlesex Village was an affluent community in those days. It had a blacksmith shop, a tavern, an hotel (now referred to as Bachand Hall), and one of the Baldwin houses. There was also a field where the militia practiced for the Revolutionary War because, as you know, Chelmsford Miniutemen traveled miles to Concord to fight the British in the battle for Concord that the British were ill-prepared for and under-emphasized. All that remains of the Baldwin house is the front steps which are still in place in Hadley Field. Those steps go up to the basketball courts and the skating area.
A wealthy town, unable to see that by supplying the raw tools for the nascent railway, they were causing the demise of their beloved canal, they were able, around 1800 to purchase a bell from Paul Revere. Yes, the Paul Revere of the Revolution. They wanted it to place it in the steeple of the First Baptist Church in the village. The church’s location was approximately where Eastern Photo is now.
This is where I get a little hazy on the date. Sometime in 1886, the church was afire, and of course, they did not have the marvelous fire department they have in Lowell today, so the church burned to the ground. One of the last items to hit the ground was the marvelous bell, made, again, by Paul Revere. The church members wanted a good home for the bell and, pardon me for saying it, their prayers were answered.
Almost directly across the river and within hearing range of the people of the village, a new church was being constructed. A delegation was sent over to negotiate the placement of the bell. It was easier to do because it was a Revere bell. It was accepted by, and placed in the steeple of, the new Congregational Church on the corner of Mammoth and what is now the VFW Highway. That large red church has, for one hundred plus years, used Paul Revere’s bell to call its faithful to church on Sunday. In it is the largely unknown Revere Bell.
Now, any mistakes I have made were made because I chose to talk about the legend and not the history of the bell. But my father researched the entire bell story as part of his book, “This Enchanted Land: Middlesex Village.” The bell that rings for the past two hundred years in the Baptist Church and the Congregational Church are the same bell that Paul Revere made in his foundry. Get a good picture of that church. It is famous.
And listen for the bell. It is famous also.