The Monson Bell: A Historic Legacy

 

What connection do the Mayflower, Paul Revere and Sir Francis Bacon have to Wilbraham & Monson Academy?

Why the Monson Bell, of course!

By Janet Moran

Director of Archives

What connection do the Mayflower, Paul Revere and Sir Francis Bacon have to Wilbraham & Monson Academy?

Why the Monson Bell, of course!

The Monson Bell has sat proudly atop “The Hill” next to Old Academy — the two oldest icons of our Academy history —  since 1971. And the Bell’s history dates back to the early days of Monson Academy.

The original Monson Bell was donated by Benjamin Fuller, less than two years after Monson Academy’s founding in 1804. He was a seventh-generation descendant of Edward Fuller, who had sailed on the Mayflower and was one of the 41 signatories of the Mayflower Compact, the first document to establish self-government in the new colony.

Tragically, the bell was destroyed in the disastrous fire of Old Academy at Monson Academy in 1886.

It was soon replaced by the current Monson Bell, which was donated by Benjamin Fuller’s son, also named Benjamin. The bell came from Meneely Bell Foundry, a late 19th century family foundry in Troy, New York. The foundry’s founder Andrew Meneeley was an apprentice to Julius Hanks, whose father learned from and worked for Paul Revere.

The Meneely sound, it is said, is revered for its rich tone and exceptional quality. This foundry, a leader in its industry, mastered the technique of melding a winning combination of materials made up of 80-percent copper and 20-percent tin to create these beautiful bronze bells.

The Bell was nearly destroyed again by another fire in 1953. Thankfully it was saved and a year later was mounted outside the newly-built Alumni Hall, Monson Academy’s main academic and office building at that time.

Through its history on the Monson campus, the Bell was rung to call students to classes and to celebrate an athletic victory.

Ron Masnicki ’57M shared a recollection of a memorable game. Mr. Masnicki played football for Monson Academy and he recalled the time they drove quite far to play the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, a daunting team against which Monson had never achieved a victory . . . until that day. The Monson team was finally victorious with a 6–0 win. When the team arrived back  at campus, close to midnight, the boys knew what they had to do. They victoriously rang that bell until the lights on all the neighboring houses turned on and the town had awakened.

Since the merger into Wilbraham & Monson Academy nearly 50 years ago, the Monson Bell has established itself as a hallowed fixture on the Wilbraham campus. Today, it is rung at major on-campus events such as Commencement and Reunion, and sometimes after an athletic win. It serves as a reminder of the rich history of Monson Academy, in addition to an active tradition and representation of the storied timeline of WMA.

Written with special thanks to Mary Swierad, Collections Manager, Monson Historical Society.