Historical Bell of Fort Bend County, Texas

 

The following was written for the Galveston News in response to an inquiry for the history of the first plantation bell in Fort Bend. County:
"Fort Bend County, October 6th, 1874. "Editor News:
"In a number of your journal of some weeks ago, information, was asked concerning a certain bell presented by Mr. Kendall, of this place, to the Historical Association of Texas. No one having responded to the call, I will tell you what we know about bells, at least this particular member of the family.

"In 1835, during the investment of San Antonio by the Texas revolutionary force under Stephen F. Austin, and previous to the memorable assault led by Benjamin Milam and Frank Johnston, there was a scarcity of ammunition among the Texans. To supply this want the men took down the bells of Mission Concepcion, in the hope that they could be molded into bullets. Samuel Damon hauled a number of them to Horseshoe Bend of the San Antonio River, when and where the men attempted to metamorphose them into instruments of music that would sing a sharper chime for the Mexican ears than the matin call or the soft invitation to vespers. Fires were built under, over and around them, the mesquite fuel was piled on, and the flames fanned, while the men stood around with their ladles, anxiously awaiting the moment of fusion; to dip in and `run bullets.' But they were disappointed.

The obstinacy of the amalgam of which the bells were composed proved too much for our soldiers, and the result was an amorphous mass of useless dross. There were several bells (as many as six), and the one now extant owes its existence (in present form) to its unpretentious size and its `voice so low and sweet.'

"This is not intended to `point a moral' at anybody, nor to `adorn the tale' of anyone else, but is a plain statement of a fact in the case. This was the belle petite of the sisterhood, and completely won the too susceptible heart of a sturdy soldier, the initials of whose name are Sam Damon, who belonged to Patton's company of Texas volunteers. This soldier was of Puritan pedigree and nativity, but of Texas education and habits, which fully explains both his appreciation of valuables and his subsequent liberal action in the premises. He saved the bell from the flames and secreted it until it was safe to restore it to light. After the storming of the city and capture of General Cos, Sam Damon brought the bell in his wagon; to Fort Bend. It was in his stable when burnt by Mexicans under Santa Anna, and thus probably escaped observation and recapture. After the war he presented the bell to his fellow soldier, David Bandon, who used it as a plantation bell, and it was the first used for that purpose in Fort Bend County the pioneer of sweet sound in the Brazos wilderness. How ofet in the olden time, when treading the narrow and winding paths through the dense canebrakes, oppressed with the profound density of the jungle, and anxious to reach the hospitable roof of my friend Randon before the darkness came upon me, have I listened to the soft peal of that be calling the then happy laborer from his work to refreshment and repose, and in many instances, like the fog bell of the seas, directing lost ones to safety and deliverance. And when its mellowed sound came floating, in the still air of a summer eve, over the cane tops and through the vine covered branches of the old forest oaks, how many other sounds were awakened from the dark, still recesses of the deep-tangled, thickets. The mocking-bird soared aloft to catch the inspiration, and, alighting on the topmast branch of the thorn tree, which sheltered his callow broad, poured from his swelling throat whole cantatas of bewildering melody; the solemn owl from his dim obscurity hooted his performance as his human congeners oft do from, ignorance of merit, while the stately wild turkey, with characteristic vanity, responded with sonorous gobble to what he considered an especial serenade to himself and family. But there were other sounds evoked by that old bell, which from the dim vista of the past call up memories at once pleasing and melancholy.

"Dative have reached the gate of the cotton field, and our ears are saluted first with a prolonged hoop, quickly followed by `the loud laugh which speaks the vacant mind. We see the Negroes mounted on their harnessed mules, converging in the `turning aobt.' A stentorian voice is heard above the clamor, chanting `De sun am dawn and my day's work am ober; Dis am de chile what libs in de clober.'
"The refrain is taken up by a dozen throats, and the welkin rings with the wild yet mellow chorus, such as negroes alone can sound. The blue hills of Alabama and the rich valleys of 'Mississippi once resounded with these notes of happiness and contentment, but they are heard there no more. The cloud of northern hate and fanaticism hangs over the land like a funeral pall, and from it issue mutterin's of political rancor or the demoniacal ravinggs of Voodooism. We thank God that we lived in the good old times of 'coon songs and stage coaches,' before John Brown's spirit had commenced its journey, or locomotives had polluted the air or corrupted the morals of the South. But that is old fogyism, and don't suit the times. Well, the times don't suit us so honors are even on that deal. Our bell calls us off from this subject, so unpleasant.

"Mr. David Randon gave the bell to the Richmond Academy, and for years it called 'the school boy with its satchel and shining morning face, creeping like a snail unwillingly to school.' It rang out the declaration of Southern independence and then burst with grief in tolling the knell of Southern freedom. We are not positive in this last assertion, but we have an elderly citizen who will 'swear point blank' to the fact, if it is considered a, historical necessity. After the war for Southern independence the old academy was found in dilapidated sympathy with all the other antebellum institutions around it. Our community was too poor to repair it, and it fell into the possession of a wealthy civilian, who converted it into a comfortable residence for his family, and gave the old bell to the historical society, the very best disposition that could have been made of it.

"This is our story of the bell, and for any other information relating to it, we refer to Samuel Damon, of Brazoria (county Emory Darst, H. M. Thompson, and R. J. Calder, of Fort Benda) From good authority it has been learned that the author of the article was Dr. Geo. A. Feris.

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