Historic church bell rings on high again
If you’re late for Sunday services in Klukwan, saying you missed the bell no longer works as an excuse.
After two years out of commission, the 110-year-old bell at the Assembly of God Church is back in place, in a new, 30-foot tower completed by resident Jeff Bochart June 12. It was rung from its new location for church services for the first time on June 15.
“We tried it out the day we put it up,” said villager Lani Hotch. “It sounded good. They heard it down at Evelyn Hotch’s, which is down at the far end of the village.”
According to church history, the bell was purchased by Hotch’s great-grandfather, James Kaatchkanak, in 1903, the year the church opened. The building originally had a belfry at the peak of its roof. It commanded attention, maybe too much. “It shook the whole building when we’d ring it,” Hotch said.
During a renovation decades ago, former pastor Don Peck relocated the bell on the church’s porch side entry roof, but the move meant less volume. “It sat really low and the sound wasn’t resonating,” Hotch said.
As part of a larger church renovation project started two years ago, Bochart was hired to build a separate bell tower beside the church. Starting with some photos of other bell towers for his design, he used locally milled spruce beams to build a structure he set on a concrete foundation.
A bit of wire brushing and some satin black Rustoleum brought the bell back to life. He built the tower on the ground, then hoisted it into place. For the final step, he used his truck, a pulley and line to lift the 700-pound bell into position, as a small crowd of villagers watched.
“I feel thankful the church let me work on it,” Bochart said this week. “It was a lot of fun, riddling it all out.”
The bell is rung at 10:45 a.m. each Sunday, 15 minutes before services. It’s also rung each New Year’s. “It has a good tune,” Bochart said.
The bell is rung using a line attached to a wheel. Hotch said she’s hoping to bring the line into the building through a conduit, so ringers don’t have to go outdoors, where they sometimes get hit with snow loosened by the bell’s reverberation.
Other recent work on the church included adding new siding and flooring and replacing the roof over the sanctuary and parsonage. Funding support came from the church’s district office in Anchorage and the Haines Presbyterian Church, Hotch said.