It seems that tragedy closely followed the “Bell of Destiny” that once guarded Boston Harbor and endured a mill fire in Turner before being installed in a Bryant Pond church tower.
For one long-ago Lewiston Journal newsman, that bell and a pair of diamond rings are linked in a fascinating story of fate.
Ossie Faulkner (J. Oswald Faulkner) was the reporter who was central to this tale that began around 1850. It was told to Journal Editor Arch Soutar in 1957 by Harry A. Packard, who also wrote for the Journal.
“I have often wondered what became of Ossie’s diamonds,” Packard said. “Ossie and I roomed together in Auburn. Or, rather, he took me in when, as a cub reporter on the old Journal, I was making the princely sum of $6 each week. That was truly a long, long time ago but the mystery of those diamonds haunts me still!”
Ossie Faulkner was a favorite nephew of the famous owner of the old Turner woolen mill, and that brings us to the bell. It was said it had been cast by Paul Revere, although Packard acknowledged that such claims were far too common.
It first hung in the lighthouse on Minot’s Ledge at the hazardous southeast approach to Boston Harbor. A fierce mid-April storm in 1851 toppled the light and bell into the sea, and it was recovered a few years later.
Somehow, Ossie’s uncle gained possession of it, and it was hung in his Turner mill, calling the workers to the plant early each morning.
“For 50 years its mellow tones were heard in Turner Village. Then a second tragedy struck. Fire destroyed the Faulkner Woolen Mill on Sept. 3, 1905,” Soutar’s retelling of Packard’s story said.
“Now, Mr. Faulkner had been a prosperous man, and among his choicest possessions were two diamond rings which he always wore. He had them on his fingers when notified of the raging fire. Without fear, he rushed into the blazing structure to save some of his manufacturing records, but the fire caught him as he groped about on the landing at the top of the stairs.”
Ossie’s uncle died in the blaze, and the fierce heat left the tragic Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse bell just a melted mass of metal in the charred wreckage.
“Shocked though he was by the horrible death which had befallen his uncle, Ossie couldn’t resist the impulse which sent him into the burned interior of that mill just as soon as possible. He had two things on his mind … the bell and the diamonds,” Packard said.
First, he must gather the melted metal which had been the Bell of Destiny. He had the metal recast and it was later hung in the Bryant Pond Baptist Church in memory of his uncle.
“But there were the diamonds, too,” Packard said. And Ossie also was successful on that score.
“Poking around in the ruins where his uncle’s body had been found, the pair of glittering diamonds finally came to light. The gold was no longer in evidence — but not even Hell’s fire could destroy the icy blue, and sparkling glitter, of these two great stones.”
Everyone cautioned Ossie that he had gone far enough, Packard said.
“He had the diamonds, to be sure, but we felt that they were ill-starred, and advised him quietly not to wear them. But Ossie had a mind of his own. That’s why he was such a good newspaper man. Set in his ways, he was,” Packard said.
Ossie had the gems remounted in circles of gold for his own fingers.
It was several months later when an idea came to Ossie for a feature story. He planned to shoot the rapids in the Nezinscot River, not too far from the site of the burned woolen mill. It was to be a feature story of thrills and high adventure, and his craft was a fragile canoe.
“The story was written, but Ossie did not write it. Someone else did,” Packard recalled.
As he stepped into the canoe, Ossie Faulkner was wearing the rings with the ill-fated diamonds.
“Something went wrong,” the account said. “The cockleshell of a canoe foundered in the swirling rapids, and the boiling whirlpool claimed him for its own.”
What became of the gems of destiny?
“I never found out,” Packard said. But the recast bell associated with them had already been hung by Ossie in the Bryant Pond church on April 4, 1906.
It weighed 816 pounds, and with all the mountings it came to 1,250.
Concluding his memory of Ossie, the bell and the rings, Packard said, “Even now, it seems, the weight of its triple tragedy seems to weigh still more than that with me.”
Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.