Boy Scout Ian Ruona, 17, of Standish rings an antique school bell mounted in a structure he built at Buxton United Methodist Church. Robert Lowell/American Journal

BUXTON — A Boy Scout working to earn an Eagle Badge has built a standalone belfry to display an old school bell at the Buxton United Methodist Church. In the process, he kicked off a bit of a mystery surrounding the bell’s history.

Ian Ruona, a 17-year-old Bonny Eagle High School senior, constructed a 14-foot tower to house the bell that once beckoned students to a Buxton high school — but which school that was is unknown.

The long gone North Grammar School in Buxton could have housed the historic bell now displayed at Buxton United Methodist Church. Courtesy photo

The bell had been stored for years in a church shed.

“I was looking for an Eagle project at the time and it seemed like a good idea,” said Ruona, an usher at the church and a member of Boy Scout Troop 875 in Standish.

The weight of the bell is unknown, but once the tower was erected, it took two men to hoist the bell up into position using ropes. Its age is unknown and numbers inscribed on the bell are illegible.

Ruona’s grandmother, Linda Sturgis, who is the longtime church organist, said the Chicopee Fire Station gave the bell to the church, its next-door neighbor, decades ago.

Church historical accounts record only that the bell had rung at an old high school in Buxton. Over the years, the town had three high schools in Buxton Center, including the S.D. Hanson School. That building was razed four years ago. The Hanson School replaced a forerunner built in 1913 that was destroyed in a 1930 fire.

Hiram Davis, a member of the church’s administrative council, has extensively researched both the history of the church, built in 1848, and old high schools in town. Poking around Buxton Center recently, he spotted the granite remnants of an old building foundation. The site is located on Long Plains Road just south of the intersection with Groveville Road.

Brent Hill of the Buxton Hollis Historical Society said the North Grammar School once stood in that area and later housed a high school in an added upper floor.

Davis’ research reveals that the town voted in 1888 to raise the roof of the grammar school to include a high school. Hill said it was last used in 1912.

Hill emailed the American Journal a photo of that old school, depicting what appears to be a structure on the front of the second story that could have housed a bell. Hill said it is “certainly possible” the bell came from that school.

The history of the old school bell is unclear. Robert Lowell/American Journal

Davis said the bell, given to the church in 1948, once was housed in a belfry on church grounds and dedicated Oct. 3, 1959. The structure was later razed and the bell stored away.

Last week, Ian Ruona rang the bell mounted outside the church in the Chicopee section of Buxton.

For Ruona’s project, the church approved spending up to $450 from the John and Elizabeth Dresser Memorial Fund. The Dressers were Ruona’s great-grandparents.

Davis said the church’s council gave final approval for the funds.

Ruona is the son of Janet Ruona of Standish. His grandfather, Jim Sturgis, helped with the bell tower project along with the church’s Finance Secretary Shawn Falkner and Treasurer Bill Houlihan.

As part of his Eagle Badge requirements, Ruona will submit a project report to the Boy Scouts before his 18th birthday in December.

The church, tracing its roots back to 1799, provides a proper setting for the bell.

Linda Sturgis said the church plans a special service to commemorate her grandson’s installation of the bell in a tower. “He hasn’t rung it yet for the church,” she said.

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