An Historic bell once rang in a Cades Cove church tolled Tuesday in honor of Mildred T. Bardill, who died Friday. Lendel Abbott of Chilhowee View community tolled the bell 82 times in honor of each year of the life of his deceased cousin.
Twenty-five family members and spouses gathered to honor Bardill on the Abbott farm off Abbott road in Maryville.
"This old bell was bought by Daniel Byrd (D. B.) Lawson, who lived in Cades Cove after he fought in the Civil War. He was a Confederate soldier. After his discharge he returned home to Cades Cove and built the Hopewell Methodist Church" said Abbott. Lawson was his great-grandfather.
The Hopewell Church was located near the Dan Lawson place in the cove.
Like other Cades Cove families, the residents were forced out when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established.
Abbott and his father rescued the bell, which was made in Hillsburro, Ohio.
"We were at a decoration in the park and the bell was laying on the ground beside the church. My daddy, Slick Abbott backed his old A-model Ford car up and we loaded that bell in the trunk of the car and hauled it home. My daddy said "this will be some history the Park Service will never get," Abbott recalled. He thinks this was in the mid 1940'S.
"After that time, the Park Service burned the old church," Abbott said "I am glad this old church bell was saved before it was destroyed"
When forced out of the Cove, Slick Abbott purchased a 77 acre farm from a Burnett family on Abbott road off U.S. 321 (East Lamar Alexander Parkway)
"The bell laid in our back yard for years and years" Abbott said. His mother requested before she died that he build a stand for the bell "in honor of all the folks that have passed on in death."
The family farm was divided up between the children and Abbott erected the bell at the location on the farm where the different sections touch.
Abbott gathered rocks from Old Cades Cove Mountain Road. "I got as close as I could without getting on the Park to get them, "he said.
It took him 60 hours to erect the 61/2 foot tall,10-foot long & 2 foot wide structure. It is built like the end of a church.
"This old bell has been tolled many times in honor of people who have passed on in death, "Abbott said, "Bells have carried messages for hundreds of years.
When bells were tolled, members of the community halted what they were doing and counted the number of times the bell tolled.
If you knew somebody in the neighborhood was real sick, you would know who died by the number of times the bell tolled," said Abbott's cousin Dale Tipton.
Bardill's brother, Don Tipton and Abbott first rang the bell, then Abbott tolled it 82 times. When the bell is tolled the clapper hits only one side of the bell.
"It was sad when it rang one time," Abbott referring to the death of a baby.
"As long as I am able, I will continue to ring and toll this old bell for anyone who passes on in death.
This bell will sit in silence from now until another family member or some other person dies, "Abbott said.
After tolling the bell, the people attending the event were led by Don Tipton in singing "Amazing Grace."