Jefferson County Courthouse Bell

There is a 2,400 lb. bronze bell in the tower of the Jefferson County courthouse that has been announcing the hour of the day since the beginning of the 20th century. In 1899, a clock mechanism was installed and, since then, a hammer linked to the mechanism strikes the stationary bell every hour. The 1869 bell is still mounted on a yoke and originally swung when pulled by a rope. The old clapper was removed when the bell was modified.

Climbing into the bell tower is an adventure but, once there, one is rewarded with a beautiful picture of historic Main St. Brookville as well as a close-up view of the impressive bell—along with its hidden secret.

In large letters on the bronze casting is the name of the maker. “J. Fulton Son & Co. Pittsburgh, PA,” and the date, “1868.” What is unusual, however, are the names of the “5th Ward School Board members in Allegheny, PA” [present Pittsburgh Northside].

The new school in Allegheny, PA was dedicated on September 2, 1869. Newspaper articles mentioned the 2,400 lb. bell and the maker, J. Fulton Son & Co., and the inscription that included the School Board members. How did that bell end up in Brookville? Sadly, the school was almost destroyed by a fire only a couple months after the dedication, in December, 1869. News articles described the bell falling from the tower and crashing on the ground.

Courthouse bell
Cast-bronze bell displaying names of the 5th Ward School Board members in Allegheny, PA


Perhaps Brookville bought that bell.

Unfortunately, the dates don’t line up. We dedicated our courthouse on September 13, 1869 and our bell was in place. It was described as weighing 2,400 lbs. and costing $688.00. The only assumption I could make is that our bell was made for the school and, for some reason—maybe a name missing or incorrect—the bell was rejected. Brookville was looking for a bell at the same time and, perhaps, Fulton offered a deal. Why not? Who would climb up and question the incribed names? Obviously no one, since it’s never been mentioned.

Another interesting mention is that the original bell that hung in the old (1832) courthouse was sold when that structure was razed and replaced by the present building. It was purchased by the Lutheran Church on Franklin St. and still rings every Sunday, after 190 years. One can still hear the exact sound that announced the election of President Andrew Jackson, the great fires on Main St., and the death of President Lincoln.