A Brief Account of the First Bell Used in Beverly, and How it was Obtained

The report below was placed in our archives undated and unsigned.  Written on blue, wood-pulp paper of non-standard size in pencil, it was most likely penned by Church Historian James A. Marsters around 1896, when the Paul Revere bell was being recast and interest in our bells would have been high.  This first bell hung in the steeples of the First Parish sanctuaries until, in 1797, it was voted to give the bell to the Town for use in a new School house.

 

 

In 1654 an expedition, under the command of Maj. Gen. Sedgewick, against the French at St. John’s and Port Royal, resulted successfully in the capture of both places.

Capt. Thomas Lothrop, of Beverly, was in command of a company raised in Salem and Beverly, and through his instrumentality, a bell was captured at Port Royal, which he donated to the church in Beverly, and shipped home by Capt. Richard More, of Beverly, who claimed it as his own property because he had no bill of lading from Capt. Lothrop: But Capt. Lothrop wrote letters to his wife and Capt. William Dixie relating to the capture and destination of the bell and suggesting that they obtain it from Capt. Moore.

Capt. Moore refusing to give up the Bell, Thomas Trask, William Dodge Junior, with others, took the bill from Capt. More’s yard and hung it on the church;  for which action they were brought before the court by Capt. More, in a suit for trespass and removing the Bell, and the town engaged for their defense, by voting on November 25, 1679 that “Lieut. Thorndike and William Rayment be chosen to manage each case in your behalf of the town of Beverly about ye bill at this present cort held at Salem witch controversy betwixt ye town of Beverly and Capt. Moore about a Bell”,  and again on December 4, 1679  “It was voted and agreed upon that the matter in controversy between Capt. Richard More and us about the Bell hanging in Beverly meetinghouse should be prosecuted to effect at the charge of the town, it was also voted that Andrew Elliot was chosen to prosecute the matter with the three gentlemen abought the bill in controversy.”

On 18 November 1679, the goods of Thomas Trask and William Dodge Junior were attached by Marshall Skerry, “To answer the complaint of Capt. Richard Moore in action of the case for illegally taking away a Bell from the plaintiff out of his possession without his knowledge or consent which bell hangs in Beverly meetinghouse and withholding the said Bell to the plaintiffs great damage.”

The story of the Bell is best told for the depositions regarding as follows:

“The testimony of Capt. William Dixie who sayeth that soon after the taking of the French forts by major Sedgewick, Capt. Lothrop signified to us that he had procured a bell for us for our meeting house and sent it home by Capt. More wishing us to fetch it home whereupon myself with one or two more went to Capt. More for the bell hee asked us whether we had a bill of lading to receive it by or an order under the General’s hand and we having neither with us hee told us that he could not deliver it but denied not that it was Capt. Lothrop’s Bell.

“The testimony of Anthony Needham aged about 48 years who sayeth that I, being a soldier under the command of Maj. Sedgewick at the taking of the French forts viz. St. Johns and Port Royal which is about 25 or 26 years ago and we having taken the fort of St. Johns and having found a bell at the said fort of Saint John’s, I heard Capt. Lothrop desire the said General Sedgewick that he would please to bestow the said bell upon him for the plantation where he dwelt they having a new meetinghouse and wanted a bell the said Gen. answered that he had otherwise disposed of that Bell and therefore could not give it him but I will promise you said hee to Capt. Lothrop that if we take over another bell thou shallt have it, and afterwards, when we had taken Port Royal and there being a Bell there hanging in a house they called the New Friary, Capt. Lothrop came to the said Gen. Sedgwick, he being standing in the fort and in my hearing asked him to give him the said bell for the use aforesaid and the said Gen. freely gave it him according to his former promise and bade him take it down so Capt. Lothrop called me with him and he and I went presently up and threw the bell down and then Capt. Lothrop ordered myself with some others to carry the bell and ship it on board of Capt. More’s Ketch for him so accordingly we presently went and carried Bell now in controversy and shipped on board Capt. Moore’s catch Capt. Lothrop according to his order.

“The testimony of Clement Coldum, aged 56 years or thereabouts testifieth and sayeth it but about 25 years ago I was at St. John’s under the command of Maj. Sedgewick and did heare Capt. Lothrop begg a Bell of ye said Major, who answered he had disposed of that Bell already but if they took over another Bell he should have it; afterwards we took Port Royal and there hung a Bell in the New Friary I being there with Capt. Lothrop in Port Royal Court yard did heare Capt. Lothrop again renew his request to major Sedgewick for that Bell then hanging in the New Friary. The said major gave the Bell to Capt. Lothrop for Bass River meeting house and bid them take the Bell down.  That being done Capt. Lothrop with myself and some others put that same Bell aboard Capt. More with an order to deliver the aforesaid Bell to Bass River men and the said More promised that hee would and told Capt. Lothrop that he had noe need to trouble himself any further about the bell and further to my knowledge Capt. Lothrop sent home a letter to his wife by the said More in which letter be ordered Bass River men to fetch the Bell from Capt. More which bell I have seen and heard in bass River meeting house as I judge further sayeth not.”

It appears that in an effort was made by certain persons in Salem to secure the above mentioned Bell, and place it in a new church there, which was built in 1670.  The only argument- so far as known- advanced by them was, their church was larger than the church of Beverly: Hence the larger church had a right to demand an exchange of bells without any consideration, either pecuniary or recognition of association and attachment that approached reverence by the lesser church; and, but for the firmness of Capt. Lothrop such an exchange might have been made, to the great disappointment of the people of Beverly.

The facts are set forth in the following deposition:

“The testimony of George Stanley aged about 44 years who sayeth that some years since which was about the time of Salem new meetinghouse was built, I being in company with Capt. Lothrop, Capt. More, and Capt. Joseph Gardner, by Capt. Gardner’s house. I heard Capt. Gardner say to Capt. Lothrop ‘I think’, said hee, ‘Wee must have your Bell, for our meeting house is bigger than yours in your Bell is bigger than ours.  I think we may do well to exchange bells.’  Capt. Lothrop replyed he knew no need of that.  ‘Our Bell,’ said hee, ‘is very well where it is.  The Bell was given to me for the place where now it is.’  Capt. Moore answered him that ‘Although the Bell were given to you yet,’ said he, ‘I don’t know that I might have kept the bell as well as you, for I brought it home and I never gave bill of lading for it neither was I ever paid for the freight of it.’  Capt. Lothrop answered Capt. More that he might have kept such and such things, naming several things as well as the bell, ‘For I had no more bill of lading to show for them,’ said he, ‘than for the Bell.’  ‘Come come,’ said Capt. Moore, ‘Let us drink up our wine and say no more about it.  I suppose we shall never trouble you for none of them.’”

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