Deputies looking for person who stole historic bell from Cumberland County school

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office is looking for the person who stole a historic alumni bell from Massey Hill Classical High School.

According to deputies, the incident happened in the early morning hours on March 8. Lt. Sean Swain told ABC11 that the thief could be seen on video carrying the bell toward Whitfield Street.

High School seniors told ABC11 that it's tradition to ring the bell. They also question whether someone stole it as part of a prank. Others told ABC11 about Massey Hill's rich history that the bell evokes.

You can look at Massey Hill Classical High School and tell that it has history. The traditional brickwork, the grand staircase and the old oak trees towering over the building really says it all.

But local historian Bruce Dawes said it's the bell out front that rings the history of the old Mill Village School House, an area we now know as Massey Hill.

"The bell marked the beginning of school so the bell would ring kinda like a church bell to bring the people in," said Dawes.

Friday morning, detectives said the bell brought in an unwelcome visitor. Principal Dr. Pamela Watkins said school surveillance video caught the thief sawing away at the historic alumni bell.

"He picked the bell up and kinda walked off with it," said Dr. Watkins.

Deputies said the suspect took off with the nearly 80-pound bell toward Whitfield Street.

"He was kinda limping and dragging it but the saw you can visibly see the saw on the other hand," said Watkins.

Leaders said this is the second time a thief has struck their bell. Years ago, it went missing, but thanks to alumni, the school got it back.

"Our bell signifies our unity as a school and to see it missing is kind of heartbreaking," one student told ABC11.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office is checking around to see if maybe the thief traded the iron bell for money but Bruce Dawes said that bell is worth more than a couple of hundred dollars.

In fact, it's priceless.

"The bell is a tangible link to the past. For generations, if that bell was indeed associated with an earlier school, it would be like historic communion silver being stolen from a church," said Dawes.

If you have any information, contact the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.
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