Colby College junior Hwida Sevigny rings the Revere Bell on Tuesday during the college’s 204th convocation. At right is junior Evan Domonkos, who rang the bell just before Sevigny. Photo courtesy of Colby College

WATERVILLE — Colby College made the decision in 1824 to purchase a 700-pound bell forged by an outfit called Paul Revere & Son. In the nearly 200 years that followed, the bell became a part of the college’s history — at least until it cracked more than a decade ago.

The bell is considered rare because it’s one of the few bells forged by Paul Revere’s foundry that’s still in existence. It was one of just two significant items that were transported from the college’s former Kennebec River campus to Mayflower Hill in 1929. The other item, according to the college, was the Lion of Lucerne, a grand marble sculpture honoring those who died in the Civil War that’s now on the ground floor of Colby’s Miller Library.

Ever since the bell was repaired, it has sat in storage. But a new chapter in its history began Tuesday when it clanged once again for the college’s 204th convocation.

Margaret McFadden, provost and dean of faculty, said the convocation and the reintroduction of the bell was “a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the day before classes begin.”

The bell has been rung to greet students returning from the Civil War, to mark Gardner Colby’s gift that saved the college and in observance of victories in both world wars. More recently the bell was struck when touchdowns were scored during home football games and for other special occasions.

It’s also been the target of student pranks for decades. In 1880 it was taken and shipped to sophomores at Harvard University, who then sent it to the University of Virginia, according to Colby officials. The college hired detectives who traced the bell to New York harbor, where it was bound for London.

In another instance, students took the bell via sleigh to Brunswick where they swapped it with Bowdoin College’s bell. They then installed Bowdoin’s bell in its place.

Several years ago the Colby bell was damaged in what college officials described as an “overly exuberant celebration.” A “fist-sized chunk” broke away, they said.

Earl Smith, college historian, talks about the history of Colby College’s Revere Bell on Tuesday during college’s 204th convocation. Photo courtesy of Colby College

It was shipped to the Chime Master company in Lancaster, Ohio, which specializes in repairing Revere bells. The repaired bell was then returned to Colby in 2011 where it sat in storage.

But it was used for the first time since it was damaged Tuesday. It was rung on the Lorimar Chapel lawn for the college’s convocation, marking the start of a new academic year.

For first-year students, the convocation was their official welcome to academic life at Colby.


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