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2002 March Story of the Month

The Big Farm Bell
Written by Elma Heim Larimore
For her book entitled "Folklore" of the
Pennsylvania Colony of Nebraska

Mention must be made of the large bells several of the families of the colony had and used daily. They seem to have been used in this prairie country to quite an extent, as several early day settlers are known to have had them. They were large cast iron bells and were hung on a post or sometimes on a tall pole near the house, where the woman folks could easily reach them.

Johnnie Heims, Jacob Ulmers, Jacob G. Heims, John J. Heims, Sam Heims and Joe Heims all had these bells. They were used to call the men folks for meals, and if it wasn't meal- time and they heard the bell, it meant come fast, because of some emergency. Strict orders were that the bell was not to be used unless the men were wanted. It was not a plaything by any means. Each of these bells had a different tone and everybody knew whose bell was being rung by the tone of it.

It has been told that on a clear day all these bells could be heard in the entire community and since each had a different tone it was a beautiful sound to be heard, especially on the still air of evening.

The Emanuel Ulmer family did not have a bell and some of the children were somewhat envious of cousins who had them. Reuben says; "I suppose, since we lived so near Uncle Sam's the folks thought we didn't need one as we could hear theirs and so know when it was meal time."

Melvin Heim tells: "Even the horses knew the sound of our bell and knew what it meant, also" If the men didn't happen to hear the bell they could always tell it was ringing by the way the horses acted and by the special sort of whinny they gave when they heard it. If they happen to be headed toward the barn they at once speeded up to get to the end of the row as they knew the bell meant it was time to quit work and go eat. However, if Uncle Joe's bell rang they kept right on working the usual way and paid no attention to it. They knew it wasn't meant for them.

Melvin also says he remembers that two of the emergency calls were to put out flu fires.

In later years when they had the big Keifer pear orchard, his mother used the bell to call his father from the picking of fruit to wait on the customers who came to buy pears.

The bell the Jonnie Heims had was moved by Henry Heim to his own yard and is still in this location used by a great grandson of Johnnie's, Ronald Heim.

The John J. and Jacob G. bells were in use many years by the Israel Heim and Johnathan Heim families respectively. Now Jacob G's grandson, Arthur Heim has their bell still on the old home place. The John J. bell is now in the home dooryard of a granddaughter, Mrs. Arlo Coons (Verna Heim), where it is greatly prized.

I do not know what became of the Jacob Ulmer bell. Perhaps it is still on the same farm.

The bells belonging to Sam and Joe are each still hanging where they first were placed.

None are used as much as they were in former years but if someone on the place, who is at a distance, is wanted, they are still made use of and their ringing voice is obeyed.



This story is from the book "Folklore of a Pennsylvania Colony in Nebraska"
true stories and experiences of the group of Pennsylvanians who settled near Dawson, Nebraska, in the 1870's and 1880's, complied and edited by Elma Heim Larimore. The book can be purchased from the Sales Page for $30.00 which includes postage and handling.

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