Bell called volunteer firemen to work in late 1800s

Before the days of high-tech emergency communications, many communities used bells to call firefighters to the scene of a fire.

One of the bells formerly used in Marshalltown is now a mainstay on display at Riverview Park, where it has been for dozens of years.

Parks and Recreation staff are unsure exactly how long the bell has been displayed at the park.

An inscription at the base of the tower where the bell hangs reads. “This bell was used in the early days of Marshalltown to call the volunteer firemen to duty before a paid fire department was organized in 1902.”

Local fire department historian David Shearer said the bell was one of three or four used in town. It would ring in number codes to direct firefighters to the location of a call box in the area of the fire.

“The bells would ring all around town,” Shearer said.

The bell was taken down at the conclusion of World War II in celebration as it was hit with hammers while it traveled around town in the back of a truck, Shearer said.

The bell is located near the log cabin at the south-central edge of Riverview Park.

“It’s an historical piece,” Shearer said.