INDEPENDENCE, Minn. (KMSP) - A 200-pound, century-old, cast steel school bell was stolen from the shore of Lake Sarah in late February, according to West Hennepin Public Safety. The bell was taken from the shoreline property of Brad Spencer on Shady Beach Circle and likely brought across the frozen lake.
"It’s just a bell anywhere else. Right here in this area, it has lots of significance and a lot of history," Spencer told Fox 9.
Spencer is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the thieves and recovery of the bell. The bell is 26 inches in diameter with “B N Co. Cinn OH” on the mounting hardware. Anyone with information is asked to call West Hennepin Public Safety at 763-479-0500.
Eerie scene on Lake Sarah where historic, 200 lbs school bell was stolen. Family offering $500 reward. pic.twitter.com/d60CiSqpA2— Paul Blume (@PaulBlume_FOX9) March 14, 2016
Spencer believes the bell was originally purchased for a local schoolhouse, possibly the Wagner School which was originally located just north of County Road 11 near Independence, Minn. History says the bell was later used at the Anderson Inn hotel to call guests for dinner and to call people off the lake during bad weather.
"You feel really violated because around here we don’t have a lot of issues or crimes. You kinda feel like someone has invaded your property," Spencer told Fox 9.
The hotel property changed names and ownership in the 1930s and 1950s, and the bell was eventually sold to Marvin Johnston, who owned it until his passing 1992. Marvin’s son, Dennis, inherited the bell and displayed it in his front garden for many years until they sold their home to the Spencer family in 2006. The Spencers have since maintained this unique piece of local history on their hillside overlooking Lake Sarah.
“It is a distressing and helpless feeling of personal violation that someone would remove something like this for whatever personal reason they may have had,” Spencer wrote in a letter announcing the theft. “It is a sad commentary on the general untrustworthiness of some of our fellow citizens. To the thieves we would say only may God be your ultimate judge.”