After long journey, church bell back home in Milford
The Myrtle Beach Community Church bell is home and now stands in front of Mary Taylor Church downtown.
The story of the bell, its arrival in Milford and then its departure, goes like this.
On Sunday, Dec. 5, 1915, some young boys went to play with Arthur Burgess at his home at 12 Van Avenue in Myrtle Beach.
While waiting for him, one of them, Herman Schultz, noticed the large family bible on the table and asked Julia Burgess if they might look at the pictures in it.
That was the beginning of a Sunday school that grew to be the Myrtle Beach Community Church. Mr. and Mrs. Burgess were members of the Mary Taylor Memorial Church, and Mrs. Burgess was named superintendent of the Sunday School of Myrtle Beach. During those early years, Mary Taylor was perceived as the “mother church” and one pastor served both churches, preaching in Milford center in the morning and at Myrtle Beach in the evening.
In 1918 a “temporary” wooden structure (a World War I portable chapel) was erected at the corner of Maplewood and Monroe streets for $1,000. A bell tower was added in the 1930s, and a bell was purchased with pennies donated by the neighborhood children, who were allowed to ring the bell to announce the beginning of classes, if they behaved themselves.
In 1929 Myrtle Beach was organized as an independent church, severing its special ties to Mary Taylor.
The wooden church was razed in 1955, and a brick church was built on the site. The bell was not used in the new church, but was stored in its basement.
The church was again razed in the 1960s as a result of redevelopment, and its members voted to merge with Mary Taylor Memorial Church in 1969.
Travels of the bell
Joseph Latham, a church leader at the time of the merger, asked to purchase the church bell. It journeyed to Sandy Hook and then to two different sites in Florida and was the center piece of his flower garden in each place.
After his death and the subsequent sale of his home in Fort Pierce, Fla., the bell was returned to Connecticut on July 8, 2013 through efforts of Sally Chapin, Bruce Rumford and Ken Greenhill in Milford, and Bill Latham, Joseph’s son in Florida.
The bell was refurbished in the spring of 2014 and installed through the efforts of a Myrtle Beach Bell Relocation Committee: Dennis and Judy Darak, and Sally Chapin of the former church, and Allen Berrien, trustee liaison, Mary Taylor Church.
Jim Repetsky and Dennis Darak assisted in the installation, with concrete donated by Suzio Concrete of Meriden. It was first rung on Sunday, June 29 after morning worship service, and then on the Fourth of July.
The bell was dedicated at a special presentation during the morning service Oct. 5 at Mary Taylor Church.
Special guests Ralph Lord Roy, pastor of Mary Taylor from 1974 to 1979, offered words of remembrance. A litany followed, led by former members of the Myrtle Beach Church: Beverly Pierpont, Judy Darak, Michele Lapadula, Sally Chapin, Ken Wilhelm and Diana Titus. As each participant read a line of dedication and the congregation responded, the bell could be heard as it was being rung outside by Dennis Darak.
The litany concluded with an original homily of dedication written by Pastor Brian Bodt called “Ring Out, O Bell.”