Every Piece of Metal that Went into Making the Pocahontas Bell

In 1907, the pleasing tone of a new bell rippled across the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition, celebrating the 300th anniversary of the English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. To mark the occasion and to pay tribute to one of America’s most endearing historical figures, plans were brought together for casting the Pocahontas Bell

The Pocahontas Bell Association, formed for the cause, invited “women of other states to assist to make this coming exposition worthy of this Indian princess who saved the colony from massacre and starvation.” The bell would serve as a “deferred tribute to this famous woman.” Individuals from across America contributed gold, silver, and historical memorabilia to be added to the casting, enough to account for one-tenth of the final weight. Those contributions, largely from the 17th century but spanning the arc of U.S. history, were as follows:

  1. William B. Matthews presents a very old brass candlestick in memory of his father, James Muscoe Matthews, descendant of a royal governor of Virginia.
  2. Charles B. Tiernan, a lineal descendant of Pocahontas, through the Bolling line, presents an old coin and other relics of founding days.
  3. John Quincy Adams, lineal descendant of Henry Adams, 1630, Henry Sampson, 1620, presents, as Secretary of the Flag House Association, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a gold ring of the colonial period in memory of Betsy Ross, who made the first flag of the American Republic. The glory of the flag, like the ring, stands a symbol without end.
  4. Mrs. Sadie Adams Smith, lineal descendant of Henry Adams, 1630, and Captain Samuel Wadsworth, 1630; also Paul Dustin and Rev. Robert Gordon, all of Massachusetts, wife of Le Roy Sunderland Smith, a lineal descendant of George Smith, son of John Smith, of Jamestown, Virginia, who settled Dover, New Hampshire, 1640, and maternally descendant of Gov. Benning Wentworth, also his son, Gov. John Wentworth, of the royal province of New Hampshire, 1630, presents in memory of her nephew, Robert Gordon Everett, the Boy Hero of San Juan Hill, a medal of honor of the Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia, 1876.
  5. Mrs. Flora Adams Darling, lineal descendant of Henry Adams, 1630, and Hannah Dustin, 1620, presents a watch chain charm of English and American memories of her husband, Gen. Edward Irving Darling, C.S.A., and her son of the same name.
  6. Mrs. Alice Fountleroy Turner, wife of Wm. B. Matthews, lineal descendant of Sir Henry Turner, 1640, presents an old coin, 1780, in memory of her father, Col. George Turner, of King George's County, Virginia.
  7. Mrs. Rose Turner Hunter, widow of Robert Hunter, and lineal descendant of Sir Harry Turner, presents, in memory of her mother, an old coin of Dominion memories.
  8. Mrs. Caroline Virginia Sinclair Jones English, widow of Col. Thomas C. English, U.S.A., lineal descendant of the Earl of Cairthress of Scotland; through Captain Henry Sinclair, second son, who came to this country 1622. She presents a silver tea bell over 300 years old, used in Scotland and this country by the Sinclairs, and through her own army life from 1850, to the memory of her father, Cary Selden Jones, Esquire, of the Old Dominion.
  9. Mrs. Diana Elizabeth Sinclair Parker Jones, lineal descendant of Sinclair Parker of Virginia, 1630, and Major Charles Jones, of Maryland, 1617, presents a silver napkin ring, engraved with the crest of the Sinclair family, in memory of her husband, Judge Charles Danforth, of New York, a descendant of the Danforths of New England, 1630.
  10. Mrs. Nelson V. Titus, regent of the Adams Chapter, Daughters of the Revolution, presents two hand-wrought nails from the old Adams house, Quincy, Massachusetts, built in 1681.
  11. Mrs. Elizabeth Drummond Ward, lineal descendant of Major Richard Drummond, of Drummondtown, Virginia, a member of the House of Burgess, and one of the great land proprietors of the Dominion, 1619, presents a very old bell used on the Drummond plantation, Accomack, Virginia, in memory of her family.
  12. Miss Ellen Garnett Matthews and Miss Mollie Virginia Matthews each present a piece of jewelry in memory of their mother, Ellen Hobson Bagley of Scotch ancestry, the wife of Judge James Muscoe Matthews, a lineal descendant of Governor Matthews, through the line of Rev. John Matthews, of Matthews County, Virginia.
  13. Mrs. Minerva S. Wynne, her daughter, Mrs. Harlan, lineal descendant of Sir Robert Wynne, 1607, speaker of the House of Burgess, a descendant of Sir Watkins Wynne of Wales. The tombs of the Wynnes are in the old Temple Church, London, one of which dates back to 405; also a descendant of Governor Harvey of Jamestown, and Governor Hardy of North Carolina, 1622, presents a charm, very ancient, marked W. W., a relic of Sir Watkins Wynne, worn by Sir Robert, in memory of her husband, Robert Wynne of Virginia.
  14. Gen. Marcus J. Wright, C.S.A., Washington, D.C., a lineal descendant of John Wright, 1630, James Wright, his cousin, the last colonial governor of Georgia, presents a gold medal in memory of his father, Major John Wright, of Tennessee, a medal on which the name of John Wright is inscribed.
  15. Wm. Henry Jones, lineal descendant of Robert Jones, 1630, presents a revolutionary coin in memory of his mother, Mrs. Clarissa Wissell Jones, descendant of a Minute Man of Lexington, Massachusetts.
  16. Charles J. Diggs, lineal descendant of Gov. Edward Diggs, son of Sir Dudley Diggs of Virginia, presents an old English coin of early days in memory of his ancestors of Jamestown, Virginia.
  17. J. Harwood Graves, lineal descendant of Ralph Graves, 1607, presents the ring of a gold watch of ancient memories, of Petersburg, Virginia.
  18. Rev. Wm. B. Everett, lineal descendant of Hon. Matthew Tilghman, 1650, also closely connected with Carrolls of Carrolton, presents through his daughter a silver fork of colonial period, in memory of Rachel Tilghman, 1650.
  19. Mrs. Waldine Matthews Zimpleman, wife of Moritz O. Kopperl, Galveston, Texas, lineal descendant of Governor Matthews, of Virginia, presents a brass picture frame of colonial period in memory of her grandfather, Thomas Matthews of Texas, a native son of Virginia.
  20. Mrs. Estelle Ashby Johnson, in honor of Capt. William Ashby, of Culpeper, Virginia, presents a spoon used by the First Minute Men of Virginia.
  21. Mr. Ambler Morris, Culpeper, Virginia, presents a piece of the bell of the First Baptist Church of Culpeper, Virginia.
  22. Miss Clark, Princeton, New Jersey, presents an antique key.
  23. Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, Princeton, New Jersey, presents keys from Prospect Hill, the home of the president of Princeton University, and some brass from Nassau Hall.
  24. Mrs. Thomas D. Stokes, Elk Hill, Virginia, presents a plantation bell of Glenarvon, the Colonial Gait home.
  25. Mrs. Mary Maury, a descendant of the Maurys of Germanna, presents an old Colonial bell, in honor of Governor Spottswood.
  26. Mr. Slaughter Bradford presents a military buckle, in memory of Capt. Philip Slaughter, of the First Minute Men of Culpeper.
  27. Brass knob from the home of Gen. Edward Stephens, which he built after the Revolutionary War, returning as the hero of the Great Bridge battle.
  28. Mrs. Catherine Stark, of Culpeper, Virginia, presents a spoon, a relic of the Withers family.
  29. Mrs. Pokahuntas Green, Norfolk, Virginia, a descendant of Pocahontas, a breastpin, a relic of Gen. John Mercer, of the American Revolution.
  30. Mr. John R. Norris presents a Mexican coin, given in honor of the Ark and Dove, of Maryland.
  31. Mrs. W. W. Grant, of Denver, Colorado, presents a souvenir coin in honor of George Mason, of Gunston Hall, and Hannah Ball, eldest sister of Mary Ball, mother of George Washington, both daughters of Joseph Ball, of Epping Forest.
  32. Mrs. Flora McDonald Williams, Louisville, Kentucky, presents a souvenir coin in honor of her grandfather, William Naylor, one of the framers of the Virginia Constitution of 1820.
  33. Brass rule, used by James Green Leach in Charlotte, North Carolina, presented as a souvenir of his first journalistic work.
  34. Fanny Carroll, of St. Mary's County, Maryland, presents a coin, given in honor of Charles Carroll of Carrollton.
  35. Mr. Serrel, of Baltimore, presents a piece of metal from an old Spanish vessel of 1684.
  36. Mr. Edward Carter, Dover, Delaware, presents a brass guard of a musket used in the War of 1812.
  37. Hon. Robert I. Reynolds, Golden Ridge, Delaware, presents a brass key used by Gov. Robert I. Reynolds while Governor of New Jersey.
  38. Brass bracelet worn by Chief Puyallup, Washington State; given to Mrs. Sally Carter Buchanan to insure lasting friendship between Mrs. Carter and Chief Puyallup.
  39. Mrs. Aimee C. Gregg, Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, presents copper coins of 1700.
  40. Mr. Wilson Miles Cary, of Baltimore, presents a piece of the Columbian Peace Bell, which went to Chicago.
  41. Mrs. Mary Chamberlain, Princeton, New Jersey, presents some relics of brass and nickel of 1692.
  42. Mrs. Sallie B. Carter, Dover, Delaware, presents buttons of Mexican War, 1846.
  43. Spur of Major John Pelham, Brandy Station, Virginia.
  44. Mrs. Frank Anthony Walke, Norfolk, Virginia, presents brass plaque, representing three rabbis solving the problem of the Crusaders from Jerusalem.
  45. Blanche Buckner Dove, descendant of the Buckner family, of Culpeper, presents metal mirror brackets.
  46. Mrs. Henry Walton, Culpeper, Virginia, presents a brass plaque; a relic of the Wager family.
  47. Harriet Ball, a descendant, presents brass tongs; a relic of the Ball family.
  48. Blanche Maddox, Culpeper, Virginia, presents a brass antique waiter of the Maddox family.
  49. Mrs. Blankenship, Richmond, Virginia, presents a piece of the CSS Virginia (Merrimac).
  50. Mr. Raleigh T. Green, Jr., Culpeper, Virginia, presents call bell of "Old Glory."
  51. Alice Ashby Makell presents curtain links, from the Makell family of Maryland.
  52. Alice Ashby Makell presents brass snuffers from the Magill family of Maryland.
  53. Sarah S. Miller, of New Jersey, granddaughter of Governor McDowell, presents a brass picture ring.
  54. Mrs. Warren Coons, Culpeper, Virginia, presents silver spoon of Judith James, of colonial days.
  55. Mrs. B. C. McCoy presents candlestick from battlefield near Culpeper, Virginia.
  56. Mrs. Robert Matthews, Culpeper, Virginia, presents a brass lock, relic of the Watkins family.
  57. Lucille Dove Green presents a brass crumb waiter, of the old Cleveland home of the Shacklefords of Culpeper.
  58. Mrs. Enders Robinson, Richmond, Virginia, presents nails from the old Libby Prison.
  59. Brass door knob of Major Philip Lightfoot's first home in Culpeper, Virginia. Presented in honor of the colonial family.
  60. Mrs. Mary Gray Gilkerson, of Culpeper County, Virginia, a descendant, presents brass tongs from the old home of Gabriel Gray.
  61. Norris family presents a Confederate sword handle.
  62. Gen. Custis Lee presents a plaque from Damascus.
  63. Mrs. William H. F. Lee presents metal coins and pieces from Arlington.
  64. Anne Sanford Green, a descendant, presents a spoon, a souvenir of Col. Angus McDonald, who raised the first Colonial troops for Braddock's relief under Dunmore.
  65. Mrs. Mary Mason Norris presents a lock from a bureau which her great-grandmother, Mary Thompson Mason, carried with her to West Farm, in Stafford county, Virginia, from her home, Gunston Hall, when she became the wife of John Cooke, she being the eldest daughter of George Mason.
  66. Mrs. Bayard Stockton, of Morben, presents a brass door plate, a relic of Richard Stockton, of Morben, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
  67. Susan Preston Miller presents some brass nails from a trunk once used by Governor McDowell, of Virginia, 1795.

These records are preserved thanks to the “Memories of Virginia: A Souvenir of Founding Days” penned in 1907 by Flora Adams Darling, available for review at the University of Virginia. A few line items stand out:

  • A great many of the contributions come from Culpeper, Virginia. Why? Anne Sanford Green, who instigated the project to cast the Pocahontas Bell, lived in Culpeper. It seems she heavily petitioned the people nearest to her.
  • Several families donated items referencing Governor Lt. Col. Samuel Mathews, spelled with a second letter T and billed as “the last royal governor of the Dominion.” According to our research, this is inaccurate. Governor Mathews died in office in 1660. The above entries have been edited to remove references to the “last” royal governor. That honor resides with John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, who was governor of Virginia from 1771-1775.
  • Edith Wilson (Item No. 23) gave a key to her home. Six years later, as the wife of President Woodrow Wilson, her home would be the White House.
  • Susan Stokes (Item No. 24) got the best return on her investment. She gave an old bell and received the new Pocahontas Bell in return. After the Exposition ended, instead of bestowing the bell to the government or a public institution as announced, Mrs. Green gave it to her daughter (Susan) and son-in-law Thomas Dudley Stokes. They brought the bell to their private, sprawling estate in Goochland, Virginia.
  • Wilson Miles Cary (Item No. 40) donated a fragment of the Columbian Bell, cast for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. How did he have it? He was the owner of the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland, where the Pocahontas Bell was cast. The Columbian Bell was held at the foundry “for a mortgage of $2,000” against payment for some souvenir bells created but never recompensed.
  • Nails from a prison (Item No. 58) seem odd to contribute, but Libby Prison was a Confederate prison at Richmond, Virginia, during the American Civil War. It gained an infamous reputation for overcrowded and harsh conditions, with Union soldiers suffering staggering mortality rates from disease and malnutrition. The women behind the Pocahontas Bell thought the bell's casting might help resolve lingering tensions between the North and South, “making the composite of the bell one of unity when the lion and the lamb in peace now would repose together in the historic bell, which was to be a feature for the great National Tercentennial of peaceful intent.” Given that Mrs. Green hailed from rural Virginia, and was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, it’s no surprise the elements that flowed in from the South outnumbered those coming from the North.

Not mentioned in Mrs. Darling's account are a finger ring worn by Henry Clay and scrap metal from old U.S. Naval vessels. The Pocahontas Bell Association petitioned Congress to give them authority to smelt old cannons, guns, and pieces of battleships. Congress agreed in a March 2, 1907, “Joint Resolution Authorizing the Secretary of the Navy to Furnish Metal for a Bell.”

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Navy be, and is hereby, authorized to deliver to the Pocahontas Bell Association, if the same can be done without detriment to the public service, such condemned historic metal as he may deem proper, not to exceed two thousand pounds in weight, to be used in casting a bell to be placed on the Virginia building at the Jamestown Exposition:

Provided, That the Government shall be at no expense in connection with this gift.

There is some debate about whether the metal ever arrived, with a contemporary lamenting, “If Congress had helped in the matter, a much larger bell would have been the result.” The remaining bell weight comprised roughly 80% copper and 20% tin, the standard proportions of bronze for bell metal.

Cover image: The deck of the USS Monitor, looking forward on the starboard side, while in the James River in Virginia, on July 9, 1862 – four months after the world's first battle between ironclads engaged the USS Monitor against the CSS Virginia. The turret, with the muzzle of one of the vessel’s two 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbore guns showing, is at left. Dents in the turret armor are from hits by Confederate heavy guns. Officers at right are (left to right): Third Assistant Engineer Robinson W. Hands, Acting Master Louis N. Stodder, Second Assistant Engineer Albert B. Campbell (seated) and Acting Volunteer Lieutenant William Flye (with binoculars). Courtesy: U.S. Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command.