The George Handel Holbrook 300 pound bronze bell has come back after more than 30 years. George Holbrook Jr. apprenticed with Paul Revere in Revere’s foundry.  George Holbrook Sr. started his foundry in East Medway, MA. His son George Handel Holbrook took over the business of making bells. George Sr. stayed in the business overseeing the installation and the tuning.  When the Whitinsville Spinning Ring Company closed in the late 1970’s, business owner G. Trowbridge (Bud) Brown had given the bell and some forge tools, in order to preserve them, to Old Sturbridge Village where it hung in the cupola until the museum closed. The bell was displayed later in the Visitor Center. When Alternatives Unlimited of Whitinsville bought the Red Brick Mill, it started trying to get it back. Then Old Sturbridge Village gave it back in April of 2010.                                          

A ceremony recently marked the transfer of the 1833 bell. Ken Warchol, who was dressed as Paul Whitin Sr. of 1826 represented the Northbridge Historical Commission. Tom D. Kelleher, curator of Old Sturbridge Village, was suited with clothing of this historical period also. A copy of Tom Navin’s book, The Whitin Machine Works Since 1831 was presented to him by Mr. Warchol.                                                                             

Westborough MA resident Harry T. Whitin, retired editor of the Telegram and Gazette and a 7th generation member of the Whitin family, attended the bell transfer ceremony with his brother, James T. Whitin of Westport. They gave Mr. Kelleher a 1900 photo of the mill with the old bell in the cupola. An administrator of Alternatives Unlimited, Shirley A. Haglund announced to someone standing next to her that the bell aged well. Its is now noted that this organization is in the completely renovated 1826 red-brick mill which was once the Spinning Ring Company and not part of the former Whitin Machine Works. A gentleman named Ray Ramsey was hired to transport the bell and later closed the ceremony by ringing it loud and clear.                                                                                                                      

Alternatives Unlimited, as stated earlier, had been trying for many years to get the bell back. Mr. Kelleher said that the effort in renovation of the Paul Whitin Mill is now rewarded with the bell in its proper place. Historical items are meaningful and more purposeful when placed in context and returned to their point of origin. Dennis H. Rice, Alternatives Unlimited Executive Director, reiterated that his agency that helps people and their families with handicaps, was very thankful for the generosity of the staff of  Old Sturbridge Village.                                                                

Alternatives Unlimited has obtained a $160,000 matching grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facility Fund. Once another $20,000 is procured and raised locally in approximately six months, the cupola will house the old bell. During the previous time of the Paul Whitin Mill, this old bell was rung to notify employees that is was the time to return back to their work. Now, Mr. Rice mentioned that it is his intention to ring the bell electrically one or two times per day once it is installed safely inside the cupola. Mr. Rice also shared his sentiment that he was glad the bell was returned because he felt that it finishes the building.                                                    

After the ceremony, Harry Whitin in an interview, mentioned that Paul Whitin was his great-great-great-great-grandfather. Harry also expressed his opinion and said it was great to view the old bell back in his home town and called it a wonderful event for the entire community.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              April 24, 2010

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