Remembering Old City Bell

Local News

It was the sound that ruled people’s lives in 1852. The first bell that was installed over Market Square in Brownsville two years after the structure was complete. 

The bell was shared by the city and church, and the townspeople revolved their schedules around the bell.

“The bell was Brownsville’s mother hen,” said Eugene Fernandez, Commissioner of the Cameron County Historical Commission. 

But 15 years later, it was blown down and destroyed by the great 1867 hurricane.  It was already a controversial issue due to Yankee occupiers breaking the clapper and rendering it useless during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. So, the town was without a bell for nine years.

At the demand of citizens, a new bell was finally put up in 1875. With a beloved Brownsville figure who lost his arm during a riot, would ring the giant bell until he passed away on New Year day in 1927. 

And then in 1933, tragedy stroke again, with the great hurricane of 1933, with the bell along with the bell tower tumbling down. 

“We didn’t have a public address system back in those days, so we had to rely upon this. Of course, the town was much smaller, whenever the bell was going, people listened,” he said. 

After moving from a fire station, to a church, decades later the bell was finally moved to its rightful place in 1975. 

“It’s been here with all of the births, the deaths, the trauma, the good things that happened to Brownsville, that was a signal that told people what was going on,” Fernandez said. 

In 2015, the bell was removed while the Market Square dome was demolished and recreated, once completed the bell was returned to its rightful position. 

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