The Big Farm Bell

The Big Farm Bell
(this story was written by Elma Heim Larimore for the book published in 1955 entitled “Folklore of Pennsylvania Colony in Nebraska” and is for sale on the for sale page on this web site)
   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 something on a tall pole near the house, where the women folks could easily reach them.
The Big Farm Bell
  Johnnie Heim’s, Jacob Ulmer’s, Jacob G. Heim, Sam Heim’s 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 the 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 knew when it was meal time.”
   Melvin 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 happened to be headed toward the barn they would immediately speed 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 Jake’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 flue 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 Johnnie Heim’s 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.  This bell is in the Colony Museum now gifted by the Ron Heim family.
   The John J. and Jacob G. bells were in use many years by the Israel Heim and Jonathan 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 of 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.