ST. WENDEL -- This week in our Home Town Spotlight series we drive out to St. Wendel.

Once known as The Maples, the community of St. Wendel was built by settlers from the shores of Ireland.

Maury Meyer says families like the Meagher's, Murphy's and Callahan's all came from the same part of Ireland to Central Minnesota.

"Most people think of Stearns County being mostly German and Polish, but there was a pocket of Irish that came to this area," says Meyer.

St. Columbkille's church has been a staple of the community for 150 years. But it's not just the church that captures your attention. Rather a 1,500 pound bell that stands next to it.

The bell, which hung in the steeple since 1903, could be heard throughout the town and was rung by hand several times a day.

Bernard Frie says he remembers a women whose job it was to ring the church bell.

"Sally Warzecha, who use to live across the road, would ring the bell for years and year. Once at noon and again in the evening," says Frie.

However, by the 1970s the bells tone went silent. By the 1990s it was removed from the tower and placed into storage.

Claude Opatz says the bell was taken down because the tower could no longer support the weight.

"They took it down because they thought the church steeple started to get weak and the bell was a lot of weight to hold," says Opatz.

"It was around the same time all the churches were going to the recordings instead of having a bell ringer," says Frie.

Meyer says it wasn't until the early 2000s the bell was pulled out of storage and placed in its new home.

"The Rudolph family decided they would like to put something up in remembrance of their parents.They decided to put this monument up since the bell was just sitting in the storage shed," says Meyer.

While the bell may no longer ring, ask anyone resident who drives bye and they will tell you it's still a vital part of the community.

(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)
(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)

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