BOTKINS — A local Boy Scout is tying the future to the past at Botkins Local School.
Spencer Heuker, 16, made it his Eagle project to find an old bell and return it to the school. It’s not just any bell. It’s the one that hung in a tower on what was Botkins School until the middle of the 20th century.
The district opened a new school two years ago.
“We had a timeline at the dedication,” said Superintendent Jeff McPheron. “We (exhibited) pictures of old buildings. In a photo, there was a bell.” During construction of the newest school, officials had tried to discover what had become of the bell, but they were unsuccessful. The building it had graced was demolished in the 1950s.
Heuker, son of Ginger and Steve Heuker, took up the hunt at the suggestion of his father.
“I wanted to do something in town,” the teen said of his project to earn his Boy Scout Eagle. He is a member of Troop 301, based in Anna. “I thought finding (the bell) would be cool.”
Steve helped Spencer plan his research. Old minutes of board of education meetings gave them the date of the building’s demolition. With that information, they headed to the Amos Memorial Public Library in Sidney, where they spent hours scrolling through roll after roll of microfilmed copies of the Sidney Daily News. They were looking for an article that would tell them who tore the school down.
“That was unsuccessful,” Spencer said. Next came research in school archives. They hit pay dirt.
“We found our guy. The old contractor that tore down the stuff got to keep everything,” he said. So, they set off to find the “guy.” The search took them to Greenville.
“He had died and passed the bell to his son. (The son) had sold the bell to a dealer in Michigan,” Spencer said.
Following the trail to Michigan got them their prize.
“I rejoiced. I felt happy. It was a very good moment,” Spencer said. “I didn’t think we’d find it. No one did. It hadn’t been seen for so long. When we did, it was a good moment. It went better than I expected.”
Steve paid $6,500 for the bell. The school district eventually reimbursed him. The dealer allowed them to use his forklift to get the 600-pound treasure into their truck and they used a backhoe to get it off the truck when they got home.
Made by the Verdin Bell Co. in Cincinnati, the bronze bell now rests in the Heuker barn, awaiting a new housing at the front of the new school. It has a nice, green patina and a few knicks and bruises, but is in surprisingly good shape.
McPheron said the school has contracted Fanning and Howey, the firm that designed the current building, to create a small structure for the bell to hang in. The housing will sit on the ground in a grassy area just west of the school’s main entrance.
“We want it to match the style of the building,” McPheron said.
When the weather breaks, construction will start. Spencer will assist with some of the masonry work and document the process in a scrapbook.
“I’m looking forward to getting it going and finishing it,” he said. Everything should be complete by the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.
It was Steve who prompted Spencer to go for his Eagle, the highest award in Boy Scouting.
“My dad said he never got his and ‘It would be cool if you got yours,’” Spencer said.
“We’re very proud of Spencer,” McPheron said. “It’s nice to tie in the history of the school and community in our new facility.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.