A bell from Boonville’s original Central School will soon be moved to Laura Speed Elliott Middle School after Frank Thatcher and a group of alumni raised money to have it relocated from the empty field where Central once stood.
The original Central School served Boonville students from 1867 until a fire destroyed the wooden building in 1937. The bell — tolled to tell students it was time for class — was the only piece that remained. It was placed at the newer Central School when it was built in 1938, Thatcher said.
Central School originally served Boonville students of all grades before Laura Speed Elliott and David Barton were built. Later, the construction of Hannah Cole Primary took the last grades out of Central. It was torn down in 2014, leaving the bell behind again.
When Thatcher attended Central, everybody played around and sat on the bell during recess. He joked that his butt print is probably still somewhere on the bell.
After it tore down Central, the school district moved the bell to the northeast corner of the lot where the school used to stand. The school board was following the results of a community survey at the time, but Thatcher and a group of Boonville alumni didn’t think the bell should sit alone in an empty lot.
The bell has been a part of the early years of a lot of people in Boonville. Just about everyone who went through Boonville schools before Hannah Cole was built played on it. Over time, people may forget why the bell sitting in an empty field along Sixth Street is important, Thatcher said.
Thatcher and other alumni raised money to move the bell to Laura Speed Elliot, where they hope more people will see it. They hired Nixa-based Show Me Safe and Vault to move the bell, which weighs more than 1,000 pounds.
Thatcher has been working with the school district for about a year to find a location for the bell and develop a plan to move it, said Superintendent Sarah Marriott.
“We hope our community enjoys seeing the bell as they pass down Main Street, and that it recalls fond memories for those who played on it at Central School,” she said.
John, Andrew, Diane and Justin Bannon were in Boonville on Wednesday to lift the bell off its concrete platform and move it to the Boonslick Technical Education Center, where it will be stored until a platform is constructed at Laura Speed Elliott, according to Thatcher.