Heritage, Volume 10, Number 4, Fall 1992 Page: 12
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had not been used at the battle at the
Alamo, but one that had been buried by
revolutionists who took San Antonio from
the king of Spain's soldiers in 1813.
The cannon of almost pure copper was
made into a 526-pound bell by the Meneely
Foundry of West Troy, New York. On one
side of the bell is the Texas star with the
word "Alamo" in the center. Three dates
appear on three points of the star: 1813, the
year of the revolutionists' spiking of the
cannon; 1836, the date of the siege of the
Alamo; and 1874, the year the cannon was
transformed into a bell.
On the opposite side of the waist of the
bell are the words that appropriately give
a message of rebirth:
"Ye must be born again."
The Master spake of man's new birth
By water and the spirit:
But I into my mothers's womb
Returned and have been born again
From work of death to words of life
Through Christ's eternal merit.
La Villita was built on lands that belonged
to the Mission San Antonio de
Valero (Alamo). The Little Church of La
Villita was originally a German Methodist
Church that was built in 1879. John Wesley
DeVilbiss, who preached the first Protestant
sermon in San Antonio,
brought a bell from
Cincinnati, Ohio, to San
Antonio and set it up before
the church was built.
He would ring the bell
crossing the river to meet
his congregation in the
Court House on the east
side of Main Plaza, a
quarter of a mile away.
Hanging high on the
outside wall next to the
doorway of the Little
Church is such a bell.
Though its authenticity
as the original DeVilbiss
bell has been questioned,
it is typical of those made
in Cincinnati at the time.
Pictured top is the Bexar County Court House bell, originally used on the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto.
Below: St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church is built in the style of the Alamo.
12 HERITAGE * FALL 1992
La Villita and the missions were established
on the river the Indians called the
Yanaguana, renamed Rio de San Antonio
de Padua by the Spaniards. In order to thwart
efforts of diverting the river from downtown
San Antonio for flood control, architect
Robert H.H. Hugman presented a plan to
conserve the San Antonio River in 1929. In
a special ceremony in 1978, local dignitaries
presented five cast bronze bells for the arches
that provide a background for the Arneson
River Theater, a part of La Villita. The
largest bell bears the inscription:
In honor of
Robert H.H. Hugman
San Antonio River Walk
Conflicting stories exist concerning many
San Antonio bells. Some have maintained
that the bell in the Quadrangle Clock
Tower at Fort Sam Houston was an original
Alamo bell. The 600-pound bell, however,
was cast in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1846,
and was brought to Texas on a gunboat that
grounded in Galveston Harbor in the 1870s.
It was stored in the Alamo when the Alamo
was the Quartermaster Depot for the Army.
The Quartermaster was moved to the
Quadrangle in 1876, and the bell was placed
in the tower in 1878. Geronimo and his
band of Indians imprisoned at the Quadrangle
for 30 days in 1886 were reported to
be extremely frightened of the bell.
St. Joseph's Catholic Church was built
after 1868 when the German congregation
was unable to obtain the use of the Alamo
for its services. The Alamo was still Quartermaster
Depot at that time. Four Meneely
bells were consecrated in 1891. The largest
bell, weighing 3,000 pounds, was named
"Joseph." "Mary" weighed 1,500 pounds,
"Henry" weighed 750 pounds, and the little
"Joseph" bell weighed 300 pounds. (In the
olden days, bells were given names and
were baptized in order that they might
have the power to turn away thunder and
lightning, to protect people from storms of
every kind, to drive away evil spirits, and to
put out fires.)
The Bexar County Court House near
San Fernando Cathedral was in need of
something on the southeast lawn, according
to Bexar County Commissioner Frank
B. Vaughan. He contacted U.S. Senator
John Tower about the possibility of a bell
being placed there. Senator Tower found an
800-pound brass bell from the World War II
aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto in
Williamsburg, Virginia. The carrier itself
was a part of a "mothball" fleet in San Diego.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 10, Number 4, Fall 1992, periodical, Autumn 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45421/m1/12/: accessed March 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.