Picture courtesy of Sue Smith

 


Picture courtesy of Sue Smith


 

 Fulton County Court House 

I believe one of the most historic bells in our county occupies its place in the Fulton County Court House, high up in its bell tower. 

This bell was placed there in 1772 when the old Historic Court House was built and has remained there to this day. It's not a bell as you would describe a bell today, but rather unique. It is shaped from a heavy piece of wrought iron into a triangular shape and is suspended from a beam in the bell tower. Next to it is a hammer hinged and with a spring. When the rope attached to the hammer is pulled, the hammer strikes the anvil, giving off a distinctive dull sounding voice but one that penetrates outside the court house. 

To my estimation this old bell (and lets hope it is never replaced with a modern one) is as important as the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Due not only to its ancient age and its service to the county all these years but it was rung shortly after the Battle of Johnstown in 1781, when news reached here that Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown. 

It rang shortly after the battle of Johnstown on Oct. 25, 1781 when Major Ross and his Loyalist and Indian allies were pursued by our local militia. The militia caught up with the enemy's rear guard near a ford on the West Canada Creek and here is where the notorious Walter Butler was slain.

Butler was hated by the patriots in the valley. Back in Johnstown news reached the residents of the defeat of the British Army at Yorktown. At the same time word came in of the death of Walter Butler. It was described that the local residents lit a huge bonfire in the street by the Court House and the Court House bell was rung more over the death of Walter Butler than the defeat of the whole British Army.

The old bell in the Historic Court House rang when the Declaration of Independence was signed (the same as the Liberty Bell) and when the U.S. Constitution was signed. I personally rang it when across United States all bells were asked to ring on the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. 

Long may that bell be preserved to remind us of these National and local events. This is truly our county's most historic bell.

Lewis Decker

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