Keeper of the bell to relocate his family’s prized possession

by Dan Holland

For former Broadview Heights Historical Society president Joe Behal, Broadview Heights has been his home of choosing for nine decades. Behal, who grew up on a 100-acre dairy farm located along Edgerton Road that spanned between Broadview and State roads, still lives in his home along Valley Parkway on the last remaining acreage of his family homestead. At 94, Behal is one of the oldest locally-born residents living in Broadview Heights.

Photo: Joe Behal, now 94, is donating the bell to the Broadview Heights Historical Society which will display it on the city campus. Photo by D. Holland.

The Behal family moved to the locale and established a farm in 1902. Much of the land had to be sold when the Ohio Turnpike, completed in 1955, acquired vast tracts of land for its new thruway. According to Behal, the remaining land was divided up between him and his five siblings, who eventually sold off their portions to developers. The last parcels sold off behind and alongside his property now consist of Broadview Heights Baptist Church and the Parkview Meadows subdivision.

Behal still possesses a 60-pound cast-iron bell that was originally perched atop the one-room District 14 schoolhouse built in the 1800s along Edgerton Road on the farm property. The family later acquired the bell and mounted it in a small wooden structure on their homestead.

“I feel like [the bell] is something I put my hands on when I was a kid,” said Behal. “My father was very sentimental about things. Grandpa and my dad would be out in the field, and my mom would tell one of us kids to go ring the bell – it was on the powerhouse next to the milkhouse – they would go and pull the rope to ring the bell, and that would bring everyone in for dinner.”

In addition to dairy cows, the family harvested corn, hay, straw, wheat and maple syrup and raised chickens. Horses were originally used for plowing. A wooden yoke used on the farm, is now on display at the city’s historical society.

Behal later mounted the bell on a wood frame that was placed on the back of a pickup truck so that the bell could be displayed and rung during the city’s annual Memorial Day parades. Plans are currently underway to build a wooden structure that will house and display the bell in front of the historical society building on city campus.

“They enjoyed life,” said Behal’s daughter, Mona Lisa Manos, who grew up in the family’s original farmhouse. “Their family was very strong and they all got along. They would all sit around and drink lemonade after a hard day’s work in the fields.”

“Back then, being poor was being poor, but it was a good life,” Behal recollected. “You have to give those old timers credit for sticking with it – It was the only life we knew.” ∞

Photo: The 60-pound cast-iron bell originally perched atop the one-room District 14 schoolhouse, built in the 1800s along Edgerton Road, landed in the possession of the Behal family which took over the property in 1902. Photo submitted.

Photo (main-above): The bell has been stored in a shed located the rear of Behal’s property for years. Photo by D. Holland.