A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

The Bell and the Tower Clock

by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
Translated by Brad Schwebler

   After the school/prayer house was built in 1830, the community soon felt the need to purchase bells to call people to church service.  For this purpose 100 Florints was saved and set aside yearly since 1840.  In 1844 Adam Lackner went to Pest with 500 Florints to pick up two bells which had been ordered.  The bells came down the Danube and canals on the middle of a ship to Crvenka and Georg Reinhardt accompanied them and received 25 Florints for it.  At Crvenka the bells were picked up by a wagon.  The inscription read: "Feketehegyi agost. hitvall. evang. fiokgyülekezet szerze 1845 esztend.  Öntðtte Staudt Andras Pesten."  The larger bell weighed 174 kg., the smaller bell weighed 85 kg.  This drove the cost up over 900 Florints.  Meanwhile the treasurer Georg Ludmann oversaw "the tower" (belfry) in Kulpin and got the wood for it in Palanka for 50 Florints.  For boards, shingles, iron, etc. another 75 Florints would be spent.  The carpenter Conrad Spengler put the belfry together and received 60 Florints for his work.  The first two ropes were finished by Christian Gutwein.

   The first bell ringers were: Adolf Howe, who received 2 Florints for the year 1845, but the next year he was already receiving 10 Florints, 30 Kronen.  Johann Gebel then followed for 30 Florints and he was church elder at the same time.  In some villages the schoolmaster was school servant, church servant, and bell ringer all in one person.  In 1855 Stefan Hortyak was the bell ringer and after the depreciation and inflation were measured after the civil unrest, his wages amounted to 50 Florints.  In 1860 Johann Schnauder was the bell ringer.  Friedrich Roß received 24 Florints for his wages as bell ringer in 1863.  His son Daniel Roß took this office over from him.  He was at the same time school servant and church servant for 30 years, from 1874 to 1904.  He was followed by Filipp Gabel Sr. and Filipp Gabel Jr. in the office of bell ringer and they adapted to one wage at the time.  Since 1918 Georg Roß, third member of his family, has been the loyal bell ringer and church servant and receives 1000 Dinar and 6 Mtz. (measures?) of wheat a year for it.  Since the nationalization of the schools the state has paid the school servant.  So the Evangelicals as well as the German Reformed congregation  were concerned that their members' interest in the church lasted.

   In 1875 a new belfry had to be built and it stood in front of the place of worship on the corner, as it did previously.  They got the wood from Parabuty for 74 Florints.  The carpenter, Jakob Freund, received 50 Florints for his work.  2,700 nails and 110 pounds of iron were used on it.  A cross was also made for this belfry.  The two bells were hung in it before a short ceremony in the summer of 1904.  As long as the bells were in the belfry the children learned to use them for target practice, especially during school vacation when they did not have to fear the strict hand of the teachers.  Yet so many of the boys were "malicious" old cousins who lived next to the church were caught on the spot with pipes or setbacks effectively wiped the slate clean.  The storm bell sounded the end of the day.  Those days are gone.

   During the construction of the church a new bell was purchased from the Seltenhofer factory in Ödenburg.  On this very beautifully worked bell there was a picture of Luther with both hands on the the Holy script and pressed against his heart.  Under it was printed Rðm. 1, 16, 17 and the signature "Dr. Martin Luther."  The name of the community, 1904, Fritz Seltenhofer and Sons, Ödenburg.  The cost per kilogram was 3.40 Kronen.  This same company fixed the iron belfry in the tower which cost 700 Kronen and built the yokes around the two old bells.

   The weight of the bells was as follows: the large bell weighed 418 kg. and the yoke with it weighed 105 kg., = 523 kg.  The medium sized bell weighed 174 kg. and the yoke with it weighed 46 kg. = 220 kg.  The little bell weighed 85 kg. and the yoke with it weighed 21 kg. = 106 kg.

   On the 14th of August 1904 a ceremony was held to bless the bells.  Rev. Ferd. Hamel performed the consecration of the bells.  He had the community swear that they would always diligently follow the call of these bells and with it they would not bear witness against the stone of this monumental God's house.  The new large bell was installed in the tower in the middle between the two old bells.  Soon the large bell rang out with a magnificent "A note" and then the other two bells joined in to result in the very successful harmony of the chords A and D and F sharp which were generally approved.  In the records it was said: "All community members liked to be aroused by the beautiful harmony of the three sounds so they will always diligently attend God's house and the harmony at the same time maintains one pure sound."

   Soon after the ceremony blessing the bells, the tower clock that was ordered from Baja was also assembled.  The price for it was 1,100 Kronen.  Every quarter of an hour the middle bell was struck, on the hour the large bell was struck.  Concerning this tower clock we find in the records of the state the following decision:  On page 293/1904 - The state paid for the repair of the clocks to the Hungarians as they did to the Evangelical church.  The explanation was that the Hungarian tower which was built in the 60's was not purchased by the Reformed congregation but by the state.  Therefore the Swabians also received the right to direct this tower clock and contribute to its repair.  However our clock remained exclusively the property of the Evangelical community.  Unfortunately this fact is so little known that physical harm spread in the Evangelical community from it.  Nevertheless, the state estimated the cost of repairs to the two clocks to be 1-2000 Dinares a year.  The state paid for the repairs to the Evangelical congregation for the most part and once disputed the cost of general repairs.

   The large bell and the small bell fell victim to the World War.  On the 28th of August 1916 after a touching farewell church service the bells sounded for the last time.  The bells rang for ¾ of an hour and no eyes were without tears at this wistful parting.  Under the ringing of the remaining bell, Adam and Georg Bittlingmayer guided the bells onto the train.  At a rate of 4 Kronen per kilogram, the Army detachment in Budapest paid 1,996 Kronen for the weight of 499 kilograms.  The clappers of both bells remained here and still exist.  Also the lightning conductor was requisitioned and replaced with other materials.  For eight long years the single remaining orphaned bell announced the joys and sorrows of the community until in 1924 when two new bells were ordered from the Krupp'schen Bell Foundry in Berndorf.  On the 21st of June 1924 they arrived and on the same day without any special festivity they reached their destination.  The weight of the large bell is 420 kg., the small bell is 85 kg.  They have the combined sounds of "A" and "F sharp".  The cost of the new bells was 43,000 Dinar.  Countrymen in America donated 10,500 Dinar towards it.  On the large bell is the picture of Luther with the inscription: "One solid fortress is our God."  The small bell bore the inscription: "Watch and pray."  The new bells did not work out so well in the long run as the old bells did.  The clapper of the large bell broke in 1926 as it was sounding for Karl Morrell's burial.  The clapper was replaced with the one from the old bell.

   The large bell rang at daybreak until 1915 (after which they refrained from ringing it at day break).  When the large bell rang eleven times the children streamed out of the school and came hungry to noon meals which were already mostly prepared.  The "night bell" rang at dusk, also by the large bell.  On Sundays and holiday church services the large rang first at 8:30.  Then the second bell rang at 9:00 o'clock.  Then at 9:30 the bells were rung together.  During the Lord's Prayer the middle bell rang so it was called the prayer bell.  For guest sermons the bells rang as they did on Sundays, only usually in the evening hours instead.  Rev. Hamel always kept prayer hour in the church about 2:00 o'clock on Sundays in the winter and about 7:30 on Mondays and Thursdays in the Spring.  At the present it is on Sunday afternoons during Sunday School (children's lesson).  For this the large bell rings about 1:00 o'clock and about 1:30.  In the winter the large bell rings 5:00 o'clock in the evening every Wednesday for the Bible hour in the school instead and it is considered the night bell at the same time.

   Baptisms were done every day in the old days but later they were held three times a week about 10:30, then everyone hurried to have their children baptized in one day because half of them would not get to experience it until the next Sunday.  The bells rang for it as they did for the weddings.  Today most baptisms are done on Sundays after church service instead and the bells are not rung separately for them.  It is a rare exception for baptisms to take place at 11 o'clock during the week.  The small bell rings to signal the baptism.

   Marriages: In earlier times weddings were almost exclusively on Sundays.  The small bell rang first at 11 o'clock and about 11:30 the bells rang together.  Several couples were also married at once.  There was no wedding without lunch and supper in which the pastor and the teacher joined in.  Since the end of the war weddings were held on Sunday afternoons or large weddings occurred on Thursday afternoons instead.  The bells rang about 2:30 with the large bell first, then together about 3:00 o'clock.  In most recent times these old customs were introduced again where no weddings would be performed during Advent and Passiontide, so that even announcing an engagement ceased.  It is the one difficult question which many tactfully required, especially since the mixed marriages would be unanimously considered as Evangelical marriages in the Reformed church without being proclaimed so by the Evangelical church.  It must also be respected that those living together in sin would not be supported, as was the case in the old days.

   In the case of deaths the bells rung out: for men they rang three times, for the women they rang two times.  If the deceased is a Reformer the bells in the Reformed church are struck first.  For everyone not yet confirmed the small bell is rung.  The large bell announced the death of those who were married or over 20 years old.  Many in recent times mourning bells toll at 8, 12, and 4 o'clock during which the bells would always be rung together, but this did not seem to especially please the Germans since it is not the German custom.  For funerals the bells rang together for an hour and for half an hour beforehand the large bell rang first.  During the funeral procession to the cemetery the bells rang together and likewise from the cemetery to the church for the eulogy.

   For the Evangelical congregation members and women of other beliefs the Evangelical men do not have to pay anything for the tolling of the bells.  The bells would be rung for foreign deaths if they were close relatives living here, as the parents or children wanted it.

   It is also extremely seldom that the Evangelicals did not ring for the German Reformed who died, for which they were paid and the reverse was true.  There was good reason for this, since the Germans, whether they were Evangelicals or German Reformed, lived among each other and there were few families who did not have relatives who were German Reformed.  Also the bells were rung for several Hungarians but this was not mutual and no one knows why.

   During the World War the bells were rung free of charge for each person from Feketitsch who died in the war.

   When King Peter the 1st died in 1921 the bells rang from early in the morning until late in the evening always for 10 minutes followed by a 5 minute pause. - On the occasion of the death of King Alexander the 1st the bells rang for 10 minutes every hour.

   In February 1929 an extraordinarily severe cold weather prevailed (-28°C).  For this reason the bells were not rung for a week since there was a danger that ringing the bells could cause the bells to break.

   On occasions when there was a fire in the village or a storm the bells would be rung.  During school days the bells were rung at 7:30 AM and at 1:30 in the afternoon with the small bell.

[Published at 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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