Does a bell from the Harpers Ferry firehouse where violent abolitionist John Brown barricaded himself in 1859 belong in West Virginia or Massachusetts? Charleston resident Howard Swint is renewing his efforts to return the artifact from the historic raid to his home state.
The 13th Massachusetts Volunteers were stationed at Harpers Ferry at the time of Brown’s raid. The soldiers took the bell as a souvenir and brought it back to Marlborough, Mass., where it now hangs in the tower of a town building.
Swint, 53, told the West Virginia Daily Mail he started trying to get the bell returned voluntarily in 2004, but has had no cooperation from Marlborough officials. He says he now plans to take legal action by filing a motion with the U.S. District court to bring the bell back to Harpers Ferry.
Brown, who was hung for his attempt to lead a slave rebellion, is sometimes credited with sparking the Civil War that began two years later. Interest in Brown is so strong that anything associated with him takes on value. Last week, a piece of a sledge hammer that U.S. Marines had used to try to break through the firehouse doors, was donated to the National Museum of the Marine Corps.