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Associated Press
Dan Watson kneels by the remains of Prairie Creek First Baptist church’s bell. The bell melted during the Dec. 5 fire that left the church south of Terre Haute in ruins.

160-year-old bell destroyed in fire that gutted church

– A western Indiana congregation whose rural church was recently gutted by a fire also lost their sanctuary’s beloved nearly 160-year-old bell to the intense flames.

The Dec. 5 fire that left Prairie Creek First Baptist Church in ruins also melted its bell, which was found in the church’s basement after the steeple that once held it collapsed during the fire.

Pastor Kevin Dobson said the bell was a big part of the rural church, in part because many children had pulled on a rope to ring the bell over the decades.

“Lots of kids have been lifted into the air by the weight of that bell over the years,” Dobson told the Tribune-Star.

The bell was cast in 1855, more than 20 years before the church was built in 1876. The church’s insurance will replace the sanctuary but won’t pay for much of the interior work or to replace the bell.

A portion of the bell that survived the fire is now stored in the home of congregation member Dan Watson. He said he isn’t sure how much the 3-foot-tall bell originally weighed but said what remains is still heavy.

“I was hoping we (would) find it intact,” Watson said.

When the fire took place, construction was underway to add on to the 137-year-old church. The congregation of about 80 people now gathers at the community center in Prairie Creek. Despite an offer from another church to use its building, they’ve decided to rebuild the church and replace the bell.

“We’re a community church. Our folks really just wanted to stay in Prairie Creek,” Dobson said.

The church already has received one of its first donations for its rebuilding effort. A young girl who now lives out of state sent $1 to help replace the church.