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Historic Bell from Leggett Family Donated to ECC

After spending the past 40 or so years hidden away in an attic, the iron farm bell that stood outside Cedar Lane Plantation in Leggett for almost a hundred years has a new home.

Irene Goodwyn recently donated the bell to Edgecombe Community College. It was installed next to the historic Norfleet House on the Tarboro campus.

“My husband always wanted to donate it to the college, so I’m glad we did,” Goodwyn says. “And they put it in front of the house they’re restoring.”

The donation was made in honor of her brother-in-law, William Leggett Goodwyn Jr.; and in memory of her husband, Art; her other brother-in-law, George Almon Goodwyn; and their parents, William Leggett Goodwyn Sr. and Lula Fountain Goodwyn.

The bell was mounted on a post in the back yard of Cedar Lane Plantation until William and Lula Goodwyn moved out of the historic home in the 1970s. Art and Irene Goodwyn moved the bell to their home in Tarboro, and it sat in their attic until Art died last year.

“We kept it there for safekeeping,” Irene Goodwyn explains. “After my husband died, I called the college to see if they would be interested in it.”

It took her son and a friend to carry the 200-pound bell down from the attic and truck it to its new resting place.

“We are delighted that Mrs. Goodwyn has given the farm bell to the college,” says ECC President Dr. Deborah Lamm. “It is a perfect complement to the Norfleet House, which is about 200 years old.”

No one knows the exact age of the Baltimore Plow Co. bell or when it was erected at the plantation, but William Goodwyn Jr. says he believes the bell was installed at Cedar Lane by his grandfather, Almon Fountain, and that it must be more than a hundred years old.

Built by Joshua Lawrence as a wedding gift to his daughter in 1848, the house was purchased by Fountain in 1880. Fountain died in 1907, and two of his daughters - Margaret and then Lula - and their families remained in the house until the 1970s.

“My granddaddy had 12 farms, and anyone who had 12 farms had to have a bell to ring for lunchtime and to call workers in from the field for quitting time,” William Goodwyn Jr. says. “It had to have been my granddaddy.”

Another clue in the bell’s age comes from the Internet, which indicates that Baltimore Plow Co. apparently made an assignment for the benefit of its creditors to a prominent Baltimore attorney in 1887, and it went out of business in the 1890s.

“I remember it was there while I was a boy, growing up,” says William Goodwyn Jr., who was born in 1923.

Regardless of how old the bell is, both William Goodwyn Jr. and Irene Goodwyn say they’re happy with its new address. “My brothers would be thrilled to death with it,” William Goodwyn Jr. says.

Irene Goodwyn says it makes her feel wonderful, knowing that the bell will serve as a memorial in Edgecombe County for her family. “People can go by and appreciate the history and remember the family,” she says.