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Dayton’s bell calls people to worship and pray

 Van Whysong and Levi Laib helped the church restore its Eells bell

Marj Johnston, pastor at Dayton First Congregational UCC feels blessed that her church has a gift from a pioneer church planter, the Rev. Cushing Eells. It is one of nine bells he donated to area churches.


 Dayton First Congregational UCC’s bell was refurbished last spring before Easter.
 Photo courtesy of Van Whysong

“It continues to give us opportunity to call people together to worship and pray,” she said of the gift. 

 Eells had visited in 1875 and 1877, when the church was founded.  In 1883, he gave the church its bell and parsonage, and helped secure the building for $1,058.10, she reported.

 Eells, who founded several Eastern Washington churches and schools, and Whitman College in Walla Walla, donated bells to nine churches: Colfax, Cheney, Chewelah, Spokane First (now Westminster), Medical Lake, Sprague, North and East Tacoma.   

Of bells at seven churches—Westminster, Colfax, Cheney, Chewelah, Fox Island, Blaine and Dayton—it is believed that six are Eells bells.

 Van Whysong, who attends Dayton First Congregational UCC and Metaline Falls First Congregational UCC with his wife Lois, climbed into the bell tower two weeks before Easter this year when the church was doing spring cleaning.

 He noticed that the bell had not been greased for a long time, it was strung incorrectly, a spoke was broken and the tolling hammer was not connected.

 Van also noted that the bell was cast in 1883, so it likely survived a fire in the 1880s.     

 Pins or wooden pegs in the hardwood wheel hold the joints together in the wheel the rope goes around.   

 He said the cast iron brake on the wheel and one of the spokes it was mounted on were broken, allowing the bell to turn completely over if rung too hard.  

 Levi Laib, a young adult and third generation member, made welding repairs on the brake before Van remounted on the newly glued spoke.   

 “While the bell had been operational, the work made it easier to ring,” Van said.

 Van also saw a huge cast iron hammer with a big metal handle laying beside the bell on the belfry floor.  Its broken mounting bracket was in place on the hardwood base frame.   

 Van attached it to the rope, and Levi repaired the cast iron bracket so the tolling hammer could be reattached to its rope to restore the tolling function.

 The church rang it for Easter Sunday.    

 It was among the church bells “rung” via video, calling people to worship during the 2015 PNC Annual Meeting.

In response to a PNC invitation to ring bells as a call to pray for thousands fighting the region’s wildfires, hundreds dislocated by them and in memorial of three firefighters who died fighting the Twisp River fire, on Sunday, Aug. 23, Dayton’s bell rang and tolled with bells at 15 PNC churches, along with the bell at the Tewkesbury (England) Abbey.

 This summer, the bell was also used to ring for 30 seconds followed by nine tolls, one for each of the victims who were shot at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.   

 In 2012, it also rang after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

 At Annual Meeting 2015, a video played at the start of each service included church bells from around the PNC.

 Marj welcomes information about other Eells bells.


 For information, call 509-382-2471 or email



Copyright © September/October 2015 - Pacific Northwest UCC Conference News


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