Two historic church bells were recently donated to the Eaton Rapids Area Historical Society (ERAHS) by the Griffith United Methodist Church, which is located on South Clinton Trail. The larger of the two bells, which has a wooden pulley wheel alongside it, was originally in the 1855 Griffith Church. The church still exists on Griffith Road but has been transformed into a private home, complete with stained glass windows. The modern Griffith Church didn’t have the room for such a large bell, and building codes prohibited the hole in the ceiling needed for the rope, according to Ken Nicholas, president of the ERAHS.
Doug Bush from Griffith Church was instrumental in getting the cast iron bells to the Miller Farm, rather than having them end up as scrap. Wayne Ash helped by providing a backhoe to aid in the transportation of the extremely heavy bells to the farm.
The smaller bell belonged to the Charlesworth church. Charlesworth, which was settled in 1863, was mostly known as a railroad town. It served as a stop on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad in Hamlin Township. When the railroad shut down, that was the end of Charlesworth, too. The Charlesworth church is gone but the bell was saved.
The ERAHS hopes to build display cupolas on the ground for the bells to be installed in, as both the church and school at the farm have bells and are not large enough to hold the new arrivals. In the meantime, the bells are being stored.
The ERAHS is excited about the re-opening of the Miller Farm Ice Cream Parlor beginning on April 24. They will offer take-out only at the parlor windows in the Ice Cream Factory. With the temporary closure of the MSU ice cream store, the previous supplier for ice cream for the parlor, they have changed to a premium version of Hudsonville Ice Cream. This ice cream contains 14% butterfat, similar to what the original Miller Dairy made. Ice cream flavors at this time are limited, but they will be adding more soon. New ice cream arrivals include both sugar-free and dairy-free flavors. All the usual milkshakes, malts, sodas, and sundaes are available.
COVID-19 drastically affected the Miller Farm weddings in 2020. There were only two weddings held last year. Hosting weddings in the Miller Barn and on the property is a major source of income for the non-profit.
“Not having weddings hit us hard,” explained Nicholas, “especially after putting a $50,000 roof on the barn.”
But the 2021 wedding season is just around the corner and the barn is almost completely booked for 2021 and some of 2022.
The ERAHS is currently planning on having both the Halloween and the Christmas on the Farm events unless COVID-19 disrupts the plans.
For more information about the Miller Farm, call 517-441-1792 or email email@example.com. The farm is located at 661 State Street, Eaton Rapids.