A historic Gallia County bell will ring forth from a new location in the near future. The bell, which has hung in the Clay Chapel Methodist Church has been transferred to the Ohio Chapel Methodist church at Clipper Mills. This sweet-toned bell has been a part of the Raccoon island community since 1896.
The transfer of the bell was brought about by the trustees of the Ohio Conference of the church with Dr. Paul Chiles, district superintendent, acting in the matter. The Clay Chapel Church has been abandoned as a place of worship and the property in that case reverted to the conference. There are a lot of regrets in the home community of the bell but Ernest Riggs whose father was responsible for the bell at Clay, made a statement in which he said “that he was glad that the bell would still remain in the close vicinity which it has served for many years.”
As soon as a bell tower can be erected at the Ohio Chapel the bell will be hung and no doubt a dedicatory service will be in order.
Rev. H. E. Brill, who wrote a history of Clay Chapel church in 1899 is responsible for preserving the story behind this historic bell and the church in which it hung for 58 years. There have been three church buildings at Clay Chapel. First was a brick one built in 1832 and James Riggs, grandfather of Ernest Riggs, was one of the prime movers. Later a church was built in the 1850’s and the present church was erected in 1864. Several years after that a belfry was built and Jacob Riggs, father of Ernest, offered to supply the bell. When the belfry was built, a collection failed to raise the necessary funds and J. L. McDaniel, father of Mrs. James Clark Gallipolis, wrote out a check for $77.72 to finish the tower.
The bell originally was cast in Pittsburgh by the A. Filton and Sons Co. for the Pioneer Steamboat Co. and was first priced on their steamer “Express”. That was over 80 years ago. In 1873 Bruce Talbott, mate on the “Express” pulled the bell rope so hard that the bell was cracked and it was recast. At the original casting $100 silver dollars were placed in the metal and at the second casting Capt. Booth and crew took up another collection and added 100 more silver dollars. Later the bell was placed on the steamer St. Lawrence after the Express was sunk. There it served until 1890 when that steamer burned at the Cincinnati wharf without any harm to the bell. Jacob Riggs purchased the bell from the White Collar Line and it was brought to the Riggs landing on the Steamer. Bonanza of that line and transported to the church where it was rung for the first time in Oct. 1890.
Transcribed by Marian Schoonover