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OUR STEEPLE & CLOCK TOWER

ABOUT OUR STEEPLE & CLOCK TOWER

First United Church of Christ was founded in 1745 and we have a rich history beginning even before our independence as a nation was declared. First U.C.C. has been a pillar in the Easton area ever since. First U.C.C. is a diverse community of believers brought together by the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.

 

When the German Reformed Church was built in 1775-76, the St. John's Lutheran congregation, in need of larger quarters, shared the cost and manpower of erecting the second largest building in Easton. The two congregations worshipped together at this Union Church for the next 56 years. Then, in 1831, the St. John's congregation decided to build their own edifice on Ferry Street. They purchased their share of the German Reformed Church for $1,600, built their own Church and have worshiped there happily ever since.

 

The German Reformed congregation decided to use the windfall to help renovate their own building, changing the Sanctuary completely and adding to the original storage area to form the Narthex and arranged for the building of the Steeple. To design the Steeple they contacted an important young architect named Thomas Ustick Walter. Mr. Walter was already showing his genius with many beautiful buildings done in the Greek Revival style, and would go on to design many more, including the extensions for the Capitol building in 1851, which more than doubled the size of the existing building, and adding the familiar cast-iron dome. This inspired architect produced a Steeple which still stands firm and strong 185 years later.

Accessed through the second floor of the Narthex, one goes through a small door, up a couple steps and around a narrow corridor. Passing the box which used to hold the rope used to ring the central bell by hand, you next come to a narrow stairway on the right. Climb the stairs and you are now at the level of the ceiling of the Sanctuary. Around to the right is a second stairway which brings you to a medium-sized room made small by the walk-in glass-fronted box holding the clock works. Ahead of you is a small, steep stairway. Climb it, using your hands to balance, and push the overhead door up and behind you onto the floor of the next level. Climb out carefully and you will find yourself high above the city, surrounded by bells. The 2000 lb. Centennial Bell, placed in 1876, holds place of honor, hanging from an immense cradle in the middle of the ceiling. All around the edges are the eight smaller bells that make up the Chime of Bells, placed in 1902, that were originally played by hand using a Carillon and, since 1963, played electronically each Sunday before Worship. Over in one corner of this eyrie is a set of steps that lead to the clock tower portion of the Steeple. Balanced on top of this is the crown, which stretches up to a finial, making this the tallest church steeple in Easton.

 

There has been a clock in our Steeple on and off since the beginning. The original one from 1833 was removed "some years ago" as of 1885 and the innards given away to Zion's German Lutheran Church, though "the dial of the town clock" remained. The next time a clock is mentioned is 1916, when "a four-dial Clock was added to the Steeple." It's still there.

THE CHIME OF BELLS IN THE CHURCH TOWER

The church started out with just one bell in the tower.

This 2,000 pound bell was called the Centennial Bell.  It was appropriately named for the celebration of our nation’s 100th anniversary in 1876. This bell was operated manually by a rope and pulley system. The bell was rung for many historical events, including the loss of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, as well as the United States Centennial in 1876.

 

The church’s additional chime of bells were a direct result of an address given to the congregation by Reverend Henry M. Kieffer on Sunday, November 12th, 1899.  Rev. Kieffer suggested that the congregation hold a suitable celebration of its 150th anniversary.  Since at that time no other Easton church had a chime of bells, he suggested putting one in the church tower as an expression of the congregation’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1902.

 

Rev. Kieffer’s suggestion was so well received that after the service, Miss Mary Alice Huber, Mrs. Thomas Rinek, and Mrs. Matilda Chidsey volunteered subscriptions for three bells. In addition to those, three other bells were donated by the citizens of Easton in recognition of the church’s great historical role in the town.  Two other bells were donated as well.  Counting the great Centennial Bell, this now brought the total number of bells to nine.

 

The famous Meneely Bell Company of Troy, New York, was given the task of manufacturing the eight new bells, as well as removing the original Centennial Bell.  This Centennial Bell was removed from the church in September of 1901 so that the eight new bells could be cast in harmony with its tone.  A device would now be needed to play the bells, and it is believed at this time a carillon clavier, or keyboard, was installed.  Although the carillon is no longer used, parts of it still exist and are in the church steeple.

 

Research indicates that the church’s first bell carillon player was Edward Osterstock.  Mr. Lorriane Arnold was also a player for nearly 40 years.  During 1963, the carillon clavier was disconnected and mechanical strikers were added.  The bells are played from a small electronic keyboard located next to the church’s Casavant pipe organ.  The chime of bells were again played on other historical events, such as the end of World War II in 1945, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (played by the Reverend George Creitz), and more recently the yearly remembrance of September 11th, 2001.

 

The following is a chart containing the most accurate data available about the bells.

Bell #     Key     Weight in lbs.       Presented by                                 In Memory Of

  1             F                 2,000                    ------                                   Centennial Bell of 1876

  2             G                1,500              Congregation                         Rev. Henry M. Kieffer

  3             A                1,000              Citizens of Easton                  “First Church”

  4          B Flat            825                 Daniel Black Estate               James and Mary Black

  5             C                 550                Mrs. Matilda Chidsey            Michael and Elizabeth Butz

  6             D                 425                Chester B. Fulmer                 Mrs. Matilda Baker Fulmer

  7          E Flat             375                Mrs. Catherine Whitesell     Daniel and Catherine       

                                                                                                            Whitesell

  8             E                  330               The Zulick Family                  Anthony & Jane Morton

                                                                                                            Zulick and Sons

  9             F                  280               Mary Alice Huber                  David and Deborah Huber

*Revised 2/29/2012

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Our "Chime of Bells" excerpted from "History of the First United Church of Christ of Easton, Pennsylvania 1745-2004" by James A. Wright. Photos courtesy of M. Parisi.

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OUR STEEPLE RESTORATION IS COMPLETE

This historic landmark had not been fully renovated since 1971 and needed our attention. So, in 2020 we repaired the two ledges, replaced the eight finials which stood on the corners of both ledges, sanded, primed and painted the entire steeple, replacing any rotted wood found, repaired the masonry and restored the clock. The bells were turned and new chime machinery now allows us to ring the bells more easily. We also cleaned and polished the topping finial so that it will cast its' gleam over the city of Easton once more.

 

Please consider continuing your generous donations to our church using our DONATE link found below or by placing your donations in our collection plate during any of our 10:00 a.m. Sunday services.

 

The historical preservation of such an important landmark as Easton's First UCC needs your continued support and we look forward to continuing our restoration efforts in Downtown Easton.