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Hyde County Courthouse bell project made possible with community support

Over a decade ago, a group of Hyde County citizens became interested in building a permanent display for the old Hyde County Courthouse bell that first hung outside the Historic 1857 Courthouse in Swan Quarter in the 1920-30s. Built in 1920 in Chattanooga, Tenn. at the Ross-Meehan Foundry, the bell originally hung on a pole from a second-floor wooden landing outside the jury room. The bell was rung to convene court and to summon jurors back from lunch breaks or to signal an emergency in the community such as a fire. At the sound of the bell pealing, folks in the community would gather to hear important announcements.

But it wasn’t until April 2018 when the Swan Quarter Volunteer Fire Department (SQVFD) took on the task as one of their community-outreach projects that it actually appeared the project would be accomplished. With the approval of the Hyde County Board of Commissioners, plans were drawn up by former Hyde County resident Ben Cahoon of Cahoon & Kasten Architects in Nags Head. Cahoon donated his services to the project. Then the fundraising began in earnest.

At that time, Fire Chief Jeffrey Stotesberry indicated it would be a county-wide project. “We know that it will take the support of all of our residents and businesses. We feel that even those who no longer live here but have roots and fond memories of the county will come forward to help.”

The SQVFD conducted a letter-writing campaign, held various events and sold tee-shirts and a newly designed Hyde County vanity license plate to raise funds. A major portion of the funding was the “In Memory Of” and “In Honor Of” park benches that individuals sponsored in remembrance of a loved one. Despite several hurricanes and a pandemic during the past three years, over $28,000 was raised for the project.

The display is in the greenway between the old courthouse and the current Hyde County Government Center, located at 30 Oyster Creek Road in Swan Quarter. The bell display bears a bronze plaque dedicating the display to the people of Hyde County.

A time capsule filled with items donated by local residents is sealed into one corner of the display. A bronze plaque indicates that the capsule is to be opened in December 2069.

The small park area surrounding the display has been named Hyde County Watermen’s Park. A bronze garden plaque shows the park is dedicated to past and present hardworking commercial fishermen of the county. Arranged throughout the site are the nine park benches, each bearing a memorial bronze plaque.

Interviewed recently while the finishing touches were underway, Stotesberry indicated that although it had taken longer than originally planned to complete the project, it would never have been possible without the support of many people within the community and others with deep roots there.

“Our original budget was estimated at $16,500 but as things progressed that amount increased. Our committee was fantastic – always coming up with new ideas to raise money. We sold hot dogs and funnel cakes. We had a couple of raffles. Even the County of Hyde supported us financially,” he said.

Gilbert Everett Builder, Inc. and Travis Harrison Masonry constructed the display. Mike Blizzard Welding mounted the bell for the display. A&W Sales provided the park benches. Numerous individuals donated hours of time working on other aspects of the project.

Stotesberry pointed out that all of this was possible “thanks to the generous donations of hundreds of our loyal supporters. We hope that the Hyde community will enjoy the bell display and the surrounding park area for many years to come.”

In addition to Stotesberry, other committee members were Clare Baum, Margie Brooks, Bea Emmert, Patsy Newman, Brandy Pugh, Merita Spencer, Patrick Spencer and Glenda Williams.

– Submitted by Swan Quarter Volunteer Fire Department

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