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Paying homage to history

| July 6, 2007 12:00 AM

By KYLE McCLELLAN The Western News

The old church bell at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Libby is one of the last few remaining reminders of the history wrapped in the church.

As workers renovate and reconstruct the church by laying a new roof, hanging new siding and installing new skylights, the bell is lying on its side waiting for a new cradle.

According to church documents, the bell was donated by a former Archdeacon with the last name of Hooker.

It had been in the Hooker family's possession from 1812 until 1923, when it was hung at a special service on July 4th that year.

The bell's history begins apparently in 1812, when it was taken from a British prisoner of war during the War of 1812.

It seems fitting to provide the bell with some sort of ceremony this July 4th, considering the timeline of the bell and the patriotic vibe ringing through that timeline.

The bell was taken from a prisoner during a war that some considered "the second war for independence."

It recommenced it's audible purpose on July 4, 1923 in Libby and now survives, somewhat debilitated, on the floor in a temporary holding space in the church as another July 4 approaches.

Betty Cooper, senior warden at the church and the church's "oldest living member," holds with high respect the oldest inanimate object.

And though it isn't ringing now and likely won't be on this July 4, the bell will mark the occasion, once again, with a silent splendor that Cooper hopes might bring with it more members who are interested in seeing the old things next to the new.

And even though she can't exactly claim it for the bell, "We're here, we're lively and we're doing things," Cooper said.

During a recent daytime visit the newness of the church was arriving in a continuing series of loud hammering as workers were applying the new roof. The pounding reverberated down the walls, through the air and into the floor where the bell itself sat.