top of page

The Old Columbia School Bell To Ring Again

The Tower at the ‘Columbia School, seen here in 1906, was the original home of the bell that has since been kept in storage at Orca at Columbia Elementary School.  The inset in the photograph is an illustration of the bell from the 1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalog. The price was $9.00.  

The bell from the old Columbia School bell tower has been rescued from obscurity. The 175 pound, 22” diameter bell called the local students to classes from 1893 to 1922.

Members of our predecessor organization, the Pioneers of Columbia City, discovered the bell in 1949 in storage at the second Columbia School, now Orca Alternative School. It had been in storage at the school for 27 years.

They negotiated with the Seattle School Superintendent at that time, Samuel Fleming, about ownership of the bell. His recommendation was that the School District should retain title to the bell and, quoting the letter from Mr. Fleming, “is very willing that it should be loaned to the Columbia Pioneers for such exhibition as they may care to make of it.”

The Pioneers and students at the school raised $175.00 and donated the money to pay for a display cabinet for the Bell in the school hall where it remained until this year. Buzz Anderson, president of the Rainier Valley Historical Society, while putting on a slide show for the third grade students, discovered the bell in the display cabinet had been covered by a blanket and was not visible as intended. 

Buzz asked and received permission from the school principal, Mr. Ben Wright, for the Society to take possession of the bell under terms of the original agreement. The sound of the bell was heard for the first time since the seventies when it was loaded on a truck and entered in the annual August Heritage Festival Parade through Columbia City.  We will continue the tradition and enter it in all the future Parades.The bell is now mounted on a rack, next to our display cases at our office in the Rainier Valley Cultural Center. 

Every April the bell will signal the start of the annual meeting of the Rainier Valley Historical Society, formally the Pioneers of Columbia City. We will be holding our 110th annual meeting this year as we have done since 1891.

Days Gone By 

South District Journal 8/12/1998

By Buzz Anderson


bottom of page