The Bell of Old Main

Southern Utah University is a school rich in traditions. One of those traditions began in 1923 with the installation of the bell in Old Main. This historic bell was actually given to the Branch Agricultural College by a group of prominent local women who founded the Home Economics Club. They organized the club to raise and maintain a financial fund that could be used to give assistance to any student who needed help completing their schooling. These spirited women strove to use their funds to contribute to any worthy cause. They decided to purchase a cast iron bell which they intended to give to the high school. However after the purchase had been made they realized that the high school had a flat roof and no way house a bell. The ladies decided they should give it to the Branch Agricultural College with the suggestion that it be placed in the cupola atop Old Main, at this time the Library Building. The fact that the gift weighed 1,800 pounds presented an overwhelming challenge to the school. However the school graciously accepted the gift.

The students in the mechanic arts departments, with their inventive teacher, Mr. George Croft , solved the dilemma. Utilizing their collective muscle power they employed the department hoist and some steel cable and managed to fit the bell into the small tower. They also fashioned a mechanism that could be use to ring the bell. The bell rope extended from the operating crank, ending in a loop just below the ceiling. A tall pole with a hook facilitated the ringing of the bell.

The bell rang every morning at 8 o’clock reminding students and the town of the hour and of the school. The bell also rang to announce every athletic contest, at home or away, in which the BAC was victorious. The bell quickly found an endearing place in the hearts of the townspeople and the students of the school. For 25 years, every time the bell rang it reminded the community of their connection with the school they had worked so hard to build and to which they continued to expend their energies to sustain.

On a cold winter morning in December 1948, Old Main fell victim to fire. As the cupola containing the bell was consumed by the flames, the bell that had become a treasured tradition – came crashing down. You could hear the bell clang as it plunged from floor to floor until it finally crashed into the ground and fell completely silent.

The remains of the Old Main Bell

No amount of optimism or work could restore the beloved old cast iron bell. A fund was started by students, alumni, and the community to place a carillon in the cupola of Old Main. The electronic carillon could imitate the sound of the swinging bell, but could also broadcast Christmas music during the wintry months. By December 1949 the new carillon was installed and little by little people transferred their affections and forgot the original bell. Now in 2015, the Carter Carillon, a free standing structure, not only marks the passage of the hours, but also the journey of students at Southern Utah University as they make their way from the freshman class to University graduate. By visiting the carter carillon link you can learn more about this tradition.


The Cedar City Fire Department circa 1948

The firefighters

Back row - Ralph Hanzon, Mark Webster, Scherl Peterson?, Kay Melling, Grant Stevens, Jane Hunter, Carl Taylor, Frank Goddard, Elmer Anderson, Ernie Macfarlane

Front row- Charles (Buck) Gordon, Orwin H. Green, O.H. Rice, Sid Thompson, Marrion Grames, Eddie Peterson, Mel Arns