Most attics have long-forgotten items hidden away and AEP Ohio’s service center in Hillsboro is no different. On a rainy day earlier this year, some of the shop’s lineworkers were showing new employees around the 170-year-old building. When they made their way to the attic, they noticed a hole in the ceiling leading to a crawl space where they would soon discover a trove of rare artifacts.
The Highland County Historical Society is now in possession of a collection of antique bell molds and bell-making parts removed from the rafters of what was once a pattern house for the C.S. Bell Company. The wooden pattern imprints were filled with the molten material that formed the bells.
The Hillsboro service center was once a foundry that made steel alloy bells to be shipped around the world for us in churches, schools, farmhouses and even ships during World War II.
The lineworkers packed up three truckloads of assorted treasures and transported them to the Historical Society’s Highland House for display, including several bells, a stove, meat grinders, photographs, business ledgers and personal mementos of C. S. Bell himself.
According to John Willis, who serves on the organization’s board of directors, though C.S. Bell operated in the area for 100 years, the company relocated to Tiffin, Ohio, and many of these items have disappeared. So the lineworkers’ find is very uncommon.
“It’s a gold mine. We don’t have much on C.S. Bell even though their products went worldwide,” Willis said. “You just don’t find stuff like this. There’s really nothing left of it. These are bits and pieces of the past. It’s not something you’re going to find in an antique store. You just have to kind of fall into it – and that’s exactly what happened.”
Visit the historical society and learn more about C.S. Bell:
Where: 151 East Main Street, Hillsboro
When: 1 to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays