A St. Clair County resident believes the bell once hung in the North Morenci school, but that might not be the case.
Mark Peck, who lives in Columbus Township in St. Clair County, wrote to Morenci mayor Keith Pennington seeking information about a bell and the letter was forwarded to Bill Van Valkenburg, head of the Morenci Education Foundation. The Foundation now owns the North Morenci school house.
“The previous home owners were big antique collectors,” Peck wrote in a letter to Van Valkenburg. “I really have no idea how they got the bell. When they moved they left a lot of antiques behind including the bell. I wanted to know the history behind it.”
Peck said he really enjoys having the bell in his yard, but he also has an interest in returning it to where it belongs—and he thinks that might be the school house.
The inscription on the yoke reads “Morenci Mich No 3.” Peck located a similar bell with the words “Perin & Oaff MFG Co Cin O”, noting the name of the manufacturer from Cincinnati, Ohio. Peck figures this was custom made for use in Morenci and he thinks the No. 3 refers to Fractional #3, the North Morenci school.
It’s a size three bell, Peck said, but he believes the size is imprinted in another portion of the yoke where the number three appears with a circle around it.
Van Valkenburg isn’t yet convinced the bell came from the school house, but he’s seeking more information. When John and Peggy Zachel began a renovation project at the school in 2000, they believed the original bell hung in the belfry.
At this point it’s still a mystery, but it seems obvious that the old bell used to ring out somewhere in the Morenci area.