Bells of the Prairie – Elgin, Nebraska - Atlas Obscura

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Bells of the Prairie

Elgin, Nebraska

More than 150 working bells from churches and one-room-schoolhouses across the Great Plains are assembled in one man's yard. 


In the front yard of a home in the picturesque town of Elgin, Nebraska is a treasury of more than 150 bells bought, collected, and curated over the course of decades. These bells ring out the story of the Great Plains, as they were formerly on church steeples and one-room schoolhouses just east of the Sand Hills of Nebraska. They rang out special occasions, emergencies, the start of church services and school days, and are firmly a part of rural life.

Jim Mies rescued many of the bells in his collection from being cast into the rubble of the abandoned or torn-down churches and schools. The bells are made of various types of metal, including brass, aluminum, and other materials, and some are engraved with numbers that indicated how far away (in miles) the bells could be heard from; other numbers indicate how much the bells weigh, in pounds or tons.

The bells are thoughtfully laid out in a manner that allows visitors to get up close to see the details on each instrument. Most of the bells are in good shape and good working order, but please don’t touch them out of respect for their antiquity. Also displayed on the grounds are other antique items of interest, including a 100-year-old gas pump, parking meters, and other objects.

Know Before You Go

Admission is free; park on the left side of the homeowner's driveway in the parking space the homeowner has provided. Please be courteous and do not touch or ring the bells. To be courteous to the homeowner, please knock or ring his bell to let him know you are there. If you can chat with him, he is full of knowledge and stories and is a very nice man.

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July 21, 2021

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