April 27, 1930 was not an ordinary Sunday in the life of downtown Carlisle.
Hundreds of people had gathered on the sidewalk around the First Reformed Church to hear the tolling of the Phoebe E. Todd memorial chimes.
Just the night before, the 11 bells in the specially built tower rang for the first time as a single musical instrument honoring the wife of donor Robert R. Todd.
What made Sunday so special was the dedication service that saw the return of Rev. E.L. Coblentz and Rev. Robert J. Pilgram – two former pastors of what is today the First United Church of Christ at 30 N. Pitt St.
“So great was the number that wished to witness the service that scores were unable to find seats and were turned away at the doors,” The Sentinel reported. “Many stood and others sat in the corridors of the church bordering the auditorium.”
Aside from pedestrians, there were motorists outside siting in cars waiting to catch an earful of the celebration. A pastor in Lancaster, Pilgram offered a prayer of dedication while Coblentz, a pastor in Reading, delivered a sermon titled “The Chant of the Chimes.”
“Music is one of God’s greatest charities to the world,” Coblentz said. “It cleanses as it touches the human heart. You and I need the inspiration of something inside of us to awaken and set in motion the better but often dormant life inside of us.
“Music erects a cathedral of peace in a world of din and noise,” Coblentz added. “It builds about us a fence of quietude in which the soul may rest and meditate.”
Each bell had an inscription of a Bible verse. The bells were tolled one at a time as the church pastor, Rev. Roy E. Leinbach, read the inscription on each.
With the exception of the first one, each bell also had a brief quotation from “Ring Out, Wild Bells,” a poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson, poet laureate of Great Britain during much of Queen Victoria’s reign.
The bells were cast by the McShane Bell Foundry Company of Baltimore. The largest one weighed in at 3,000 pounds while the 11 bells collectively weighed 12,000 pounds.
The bells were refurbished and rededicated on Sunday, April 27, 1997.
Tour through Time runs Saturday in The Sentinel print edition. Reporter Joseph Cress will work the Cumberland County Historical Society each week to look at the county through the years. Send any questions, feature or tips to firstname.lastname@example.org
Email Joseph Cress at email@example.com.