Denison High School restores, dedicates historic bell

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DENISON, Texas -- A bell that dates back to 1874, when the city of Denison was only two years old, is now sitting on the high school campus.

The sound of the bell may not seem like much, but for the city of Denison, the ring holds more than 140 years of history.

"It's been referred to as 'Denison's Big Ben,'" Horace Groff said at Friday's formal dedication of the bell by the alumni association.

Groff graduated from Denison High School in 1958.
He remembers the bell ringing on the hour, every hour.

"This was not a time where everybody had four or five clocks in each room in their home and wrist watches were not as common," Groff said. "So people relied on that to get to work."

The bell was made in 1874, funded completely by students.

It quickly became a symbol for the city, sitting on one of the tallest points in town at the Denison Educational Institute School Building.

"Denison has claimed for many years that that was the first free-graded school in Texas," Groff said.

"It was then put in the high school on Main Street in 1914," Denison ISD Superintendent Dr. Henry Scott said. "So it just shows the bell is tied in to the history of public education."

As the old Denison High School started to fall apart, so did this piece of history. So in 2007, before the building was torn down, the city went in and saved the bell.

"It was quite rusty, you can still see some marks where it's deteriorated over the years," Groff said.

The school contracted with a company to restore and preserve it, and now students have a symbol that will ring true for generations to come.

"We hope former students will come and appreciate it and that these students will know that they've been a part of history here this morning," Groff said.