A bell suspended in the belfry of the engine house at the Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, on September 26, 1861, was disconnected by Lieut. David L. Brown and 15 other troops of Company “I” of Massachusetts, who climbed to the roof and proceeded to lower it to the ground.
As it reached the edge of the roof the rope separated and the bell dropped – striking on a flagstone, chipping a few pieces from the flange, but not enough to injure the tone of the bell. It was loaded on a scow and towed across the river to the Maryland side, where it was boxed and loaded upon a canal boat named Charles McCardell. That boat was used as the officer’s quarters and remained so until they rejoined their regiment.
On the 31 of October, orders were received to return to the regiment located at Williamsport. Upon this same boat, the soldiers landed at the Williamsport lock with the bell. This regiment remained there during the winter, camping in the south-eastern section of the “Bowery Woods”, on “Springfield Farm”.
During their stay, they became acquainted with William Ensminger, who, with his wife, owned and managed several boats. When about to take their departure they made arrangements with him to take charge of the bell and to keep it until called for.
William Ensminger died and Mrs. Ensminger married Mr. George Snyder. She remained the custodian of the bell for 30 years. In the meantime, the bell was often used in election celebrations, the last one celebrating the election of President Cleveland in 1884. It was kept in the northeast corner of her yard, her residence being on the south side of East Church Street, opposite the Methodist Church and many youths played around it while there.
In 1892, James M. Gleason, one of the number who assisted in lowering it from the roof of the Arsenal, came from Marlboro, Massachusetts, boxed it and loaded it on a freight car destined for Marlboro.
Today the famous bell, that was atop the building where John Brown made his last stand, is suspended on the front of the Grand Army Building. John A. Rawlins Post, No. 43; too oft in the days gone by it tolled the knell of some departed comrade. Of the 16 soldiers who were responsible for the removal of the bell from the Arsenal, only 9 of them remained at the close of the Civil War, the others being killed.
Williamsport and Vicinity Reminiscences Maurice Snyder, Town Historian, said a visitor to the Williamsport museum told him the bell had been moved to the Fire Hall in Marlboro Mass. They have added security, just in case someone would try to and take the historic bell.