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Elbow grease and a Buick got Freedom Bell to Mt. Morris in 1966

By Chris Johnson


There was no magic in how Mt. Morris Freedom Bell arrived in Mt. Morris in 1966 — just some elbow grease and a Buick.

The story of how the bell was brought to Mt. Morris was shared by Gary Nesemeier during the July 4 Patriotic Program..

"I guarantee it was not UPS or Peter Pan dropped it here," said Nesemeier. "We were talking in 1966 about expanding the bell ringing."

The festival committee canvassed the village and knocked on doors.

"We raised $500 for the bell," he said. "The bell owner wanted $650."

The bell was purchased from a farmer in Johnsburg and was recovered from the bottom of Lake Geneva.

This bell was more than 100 years old.

"We put a hitch on the back of a Buick Roadmaster and had a 2-wheel trailer," said Nesemeier. "This did not sound like a good idea."

Since the bell is currently in Mt. Morris it shows that the Buick and trailer were able to handle the bell.

"We had a half-inch clearance on the trailer," said Nesemeier. "We tied it down and the front of the Buick was up in the air. If we did this today we would have been stopped by the police."

When the bell arrived in Mt. Morris it needed to be cleaned before it could be used.

"The bell was a mess," he said. "It was sandblasted at E. D. Etnyre."

Three coats of gold paint finished the cleaning.

The final step was building a tower to hold the bell.

Volunteers built the tower and on July 4, 1966, the bell was dedicated.

The original bell was a small 16-inch bell that was located by the Veterans Memorial Fountain.

Doug Wean said the original bell was dedicated, and one of the first to ring the Freedom Bell was a man who would later become president.

"Ronald Reagan rang the bell," said Wean.

At this time, Reagan was a famous actor.

Since that ringing, a bell has been rung in Mt. Morris every July 4 for 50 years.

The tradition continued last week on July 4 at 1 p.m when the community gathered at the Freedom Bell for the annual ringing.

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