Emma Sedore and the Bell of Sessions

Emma Sedore and the Bell of SessionsTioga County Legislators gathered for a ceremony on March 12, 2024 that celebrated the return of the Bell of Sessions to county possession and honored Emma Sedore, the county’s historian responsible for researching and then locating the bell. Pictured, Legislative Chairwoman Martha Sauerbrey welcomes Sedore and addresses guests at the start of the ceremony, held on the lawn of the County building in Owego. (Photo by Wendy Post)

By Wendy Post —

On March 12, 2024, now proclaimed as Emma Sedore day in Tioga County, N.Y., county and local officials, and guests from the community gathered at the Tioga County Office Building lawn to celebrate the return of the Bell of Sessions, and to honor the County’s Historian, Emma Sedore.

With over 23 years of service to the county as its historian, Sedore has a wealth of knowledge surrounding local history; knowledge that would prove fruitful in her quest to find the Bell of Sessions, a bell that once rang from the cupola of the courthouse in the 1800’s when court was in session.

Emma Sedore and the Bell of Sessions

Emma Sedore, Tioga County historian, rang the Bell of Sessions during a ceremony held on March 12, 2024 that celebrated the bell’s return, and honored Sedore. Pictured, Sedore is escorted back from the bell by Legislator Tracy Monell, one of several legislators present at Tuesday’s ceremony. (Photo by Wendy Post)

In the late 1860’s the courthouse, once located at the site used to build a new sheriff’s residence in 1882, was declared unsuitable for public business. A new courthouse was built on the public square by 1873, and the bell was installed in the southwest tower and used as the Bell of Sessions.

When the towers fell into disrepair, circa 1931, the Bell of Sessions was no longer used and was removed by the County.

According to the records associated with Sedore’s research, documents showed its relocation to Croton Hose Co. #3 in the Village in 1931 for use as a fire bell, and at the request of the Trustees of the Village of Owego. But by 1951, according to Sedore’s research, a siren was purchased by the Hose Co. and the bell was no longer needed.

This is where any written history about the Bell of Sessions disappeared.

Emma Sedore and the Bell of Sessions

The Bell of Sessions now rests in county possession, and after a long search by Tioga County Historian Emma Sedore, a task that she accomplished and was honored for on March 12, 2024 during a ceremony held on the lawn of the County building in Owego. (Photo by Wendy Post)

Sedore’s quest to find the bell began in 1997, and by 2020 she was able to confirm its location. Through written records and the discovery of a souvenir booklet from the opening of the Lounsberry Methodist Church in April 1955, Sedore was close to finding the bell.

The booklet, and listed on page 2, line 15, read, “Those Who Have Served Us in the Building of this Church,” and listed, “OWEGO FIRE DEPT., OWEGO, N.Y. CHURCH BELL.”

This discovery, for Sedore, proved that the church bell in the steeple of the Lounsberry United Methodist Church, rebuilt following a fire in 1952 at its original location on River Road in Nichols, N.Y., was the original bell that was purchased and hung in the cupola of the first courthouse in Owego, N.Y.

According to a Resolution offered when the bell was loaned to Croton Hose Co. #3 on Talcott Street, the bell was to be returned to the County upon their request. But on April 29, 1953, and according to minutes recorded by Croton Hose Co. #3, it was voted upon to donate the bell to a church for use; on May 27 of that same year, the minutes recorded that the bell was offered to the Lounsberry Church and they accepted it.

Emma Sedore and the Bell of Sessions

Emma Sedore was honored by the Tioga County Legislature on March 12, 2024, and during a ceremony held on the County Office Building lawn. In addition to the ringing of the bell and other accolades, the County Proclaimed March 12, 2024 “Emma Sedore Day” in Tioga County, N.Y. Pictured, Sedore is presented with the proclamation by Legislator Dennis Mullen. (Photo by Wendy Post)

Once located, the county went to work to return the Bell of Sessions, placing it at the County Building in Owego for all to see, and for its history to remain.

On March 12, Sedore shared with guests some of the energy she put behind bringing the Bell of Sessions to what she feels is its rightful place. She even quipped several times, stating how she would go back to people a second time, asking, “Would you look one more time for me.”

She was relentless in her search, and it paid off.

Sedore was able to ring the bell on Tuesday, and was honored for her efforts, and for her service to the County with a County Proclamation, flowers, and a few accolades.

Within the Proclamation, signed by Martha Sauerbrey, chair of the Tioga County Legislature, they outlined her efforts to bring the Bell of Sessions back to its rightful home, and called it an act of honor. 

It was also proclaimed that March 12, 2024 would be recognized as “Emma Sedore Day” in Tioga County in recognition of her 23 years of dedication and service, and for her passion for preserving Tioga County’s history.

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