Old mission bell returns to Bay Village
A major part of Dover Township history teaches us that German families settled along Bassett and Bradley roads in the 1860s. Names such as Meilander, Hagedorn, Toensing, Wolf, Davider, Koch and Krumwiede come to mind. Many of these families lived in Hanover, Germany, and immigrated to the Cleveland area in 1858 to escape suppression.
These families lived, worshipped and schooled their children together in the old German manner. Wooden shoes were worn, only German was spoken in the home, German newspapers were read, and school and worship began at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
Just west of the Hagedorn farm on Bassett Road and east of the Wolf farm on Bradley Road, along the north side of Link Road and north of the New York Central & St Louis Railroad tracks, David Sites farmed. In 1886, David sold 10 acres of his land to a group of west side Lutheran churches belonging to the Missouri Synod.
The churches were looking for a wooded piece of land out in the country in order to erect the necessary buildings for holding mission festivals, school picnics and other church gatherings. They named it the Lutheran Mission Grounds.
At first, railroad cars coming from Cleveland would pick up passengers along the westward run and drop them at the mission grounds. When automobiles became the mode of transportation, a driveway was built from Link Road (Ashton Lane today). In 1904, a bowling alley was added.
In one corner of the picnic grove, there was a pulpit with picnic benches around it built under shady oak trees. Here the morning church services were held. Next to the pulpit was a bell on a stand that rang to notify parishioners of the start of the morning service.
One Sunday morning when everyone arrived, it was discovered the bell was missing, and there was no bell to ring for the Sunday service. When the New York Central & St. Louis Railroad heard about the theft, they donated one of their steam engine bells to the mission grounds.
As years passed, the churches stopped using the picnic grove as often on Sundays. In the 1950s, civic organizations and families began renting it for events. The Mission Grounds closed for good in 1964.
When the grounds were sold, the bell was given to the Victor Toensing family, whose home was on Bassett Road, for safe keeping. It then moved to Amherst with Janet Toensing Bremke. It is now back in Bay Village having been gifted to the Bay Village Historical Society by Janet Toensing Bremke and her brother, Carl Toensing, in memory of their brother, Robert.
Another story and piece of Bay Village history is saved. The old bell is located at Rose Hill Museum. David Sites has a street named for him west of Bay Middle School.
I am a historian for the Bay Village Historical Society. Member and Past President of the society. Lived in the village since 1936.