It’s amazing how many of the songs that are sung at this time of year involve bells. But bells are becoming a thing of the past. When the first bell was bought to Big Lake in 1891 and installed in the bell tower of the Big Lake Union Church, it was a big day for everyone. In June, 1884 Mr. C. Varley, Mr. Chas. Snyder, Mr. James Moores and Mr. Benjamin F. Snow set about bringing a church to Big Lake. The closest church before that time was in Monticello. Travel across the river was more hazardous then, especially at certain times of the year. It made attendance difficult. At first they met in various places but in 1890 the first church building and parsonage were dedicated. It was known as the Big Lake Union Church and it was located on Hwy. 10, where McDonald's now stands. The church bell, cast from a civil war cannon and weighing 1,200 pounds, was installed the same year. It came to Big Lake on the train. “It’s hard to imagine how they moved it,” said Jane Shiota, whose ancestor was Benjamin Snow. Jane remembers ringing the bell and riding the ropes. The bell not only called people to church. It was a warning bell with a loud clear tone which could be heard up to 10 miles away in case of fire, inclement weather or other disaster. A New Building The church went through a number of changes over the years. It moved from Hwy. 10 to a location on Lake Street north of the Holiday Station in 1967. The bell went too and stood on a post in front of the doors. There were more changes as time went by. The congregation changed their name to Zion Christian Church and the church was expanded and remodeled in 1984. In 1999, the leadership of the church was changed from a Presbyterian representative form of government to a Theocratic or pastor/elder led church. New bylaws were written and the name of the church was changed to Zion Christian Community. In 2004, the name of the church was changed again when Pastor Dammeier was appointed. For five years it was been known as Lakeside Fireplace. In November, 2009, the old church closed. A new church, Spirit Life Church, pastored by Jim and Julia Herzing, opened in the same building in January, 2010. “I thought more people would be able to see the bell if it was at the Sherburne County History Center,” Pastor Herzing said. History On The Move Last week, the Eddy Family Foundation picked up the tab to move the bell from its post on Lake Street to the History Center in Becker. It took a crane to take the old bell down. The bell was made in Troy, NY, by Clinton Meneeley, the same bell maker who was chosen to replace the Liberty Bell after it was cracked. That bell is in use to this day. Donna Eddy, Dorthy Jean Spencer and Jane, (Donna’s daughter), gathered at Spirit Life Church Wednesday, along with Maureen (Mo) Galvin from the Sherburne County History Center to watch the process. Dorthy Jean recalled climbing up the old bell tower when she was 18. Someone from the fire department asked if she would like to. Dorthy accepted the invitation but said she had to shin up the siding for the last six feet of the climb because the fire department’s ladder didn’t reach all the way. When she got to the top, she met the man she was going to marry. Dorthy Jean struck the old bell with her cane to make it ring. The sound was familiar to them but not to anyone new to town. The old bell had not been rung for at least the past 10 years. “It was loud,” said Galvin. The history center has no immediate plans to display the old bell. The old school bell, installed much later, can be seen at Independence Elementary School.