In the preceding post there are a couple of lists of notables who either attended services, or contributed to the funding of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Briarcliff Manor, NY. However, I deliberately left out one name so I could mention him in this post.

As I was leaving the church I noticed this small bell tucked away in a corner of the buildings. I thought to myself, I wonder what that is and stopped to take a look. Then I noticed a plaque over the bell. It reads: “Commodore Matthew C Perry 1794-1856 “Father of the Steam Navy” and opener of Japan who made his home here for many years in “The Moorings”. A founder of this church and donor of the bell used until 1910.” Now I didn’t know the other founders and donors listed in the earlier post, but I had heard of Commodore Perry. According to Britannica:

Matthew C. Perry, in full Matthew Calbraith Perry, (born April 10, 1794, South Kingston, R.I., U.S.—died March 4, 1858, New York City), U.S. naval officer who headed an expedition that forced Japan in 1853–54 to enter into trade and diplomatic relations with the West after more than two centuries of isolation. Through his efforts the United States became an equal power with Britain, France, and Russia in the economic exploitation of East Asia.


But wait…there’s more.

According to an online article entitled “The Bells of St. Mary’s. From Villahermosa, Tabasco, to Scarborough, New York: The Mysterious Journey of a Mexican Church Bell”:

One Hundred and seventy-three years ago the United States and Mexico were at war and in the end; vast amounts of Mexican territory became American property along with other things once owned by Mexicans. As happens in every war American soldiers carried home war trophies such as photographs, uniforms, medals flags, rifles, pistols and even cannons that once belonged to the former enemy. This is the story of one of those trophies, a church bell that once hung in the belfry of a Roman Catholic Church called “Iglesia de la Virgen de la Concepción” in the City of Villahermosa, the capital of the State of Tabasco, in the Republic of Mexico. It seems that this church was the successor of several church buildings (known by various names) that have stood in the central square of Villahermosa (once known as San Juan Bautista) since 1614. The “Iglesia de la Virgen de la Concepción” no longer stands as it was shelled by American naval artillery during an engagement between the American and the Mexican forces in mid June of 1847, known as the “Second battle of Tabasco.” The Iglesia was subsequently replaced by several other churches in this site since then the latest being the Catedral del Señor (Cathedral of the Lord).
During the Second Battle of Villahermosa the Americans under the personal command of Commodore Matthew C. Perry stormed ashore with a force of 1200 sailors and marines and took a defensive fortification known as Fort Acachapan manned by 600 troops under the command of Colonel Claro Hidalgo. Perry unlimbered his artillery and shelled the fort then ordered a charge. With his sword in hand, Perry personally led the troops that drove the Mexicans back and he briefly occupied the town and subsequently abandoned it when he realized that he did not have enough troops to hold it. It was probably at this time that he or one of his troops found the bell among the ruins of the bombed out church and decided that it was a worthy commemorative trophy and later took it back to the U.S. ” In those times church bells were considered legitimate prizes of war.

As it happened, Commodore Perry was a resident of the hamlet of Scarborough, NY where he built a home he called, The Moorings ” on 125 acres of land on the shores of the Hudson River near to where Rookwood Park (sic. should be Rockwood Hall) a section of Rockefeller State Park now stands.

At some point after he returned to his home, perhaps in 1851, Commodore Perry presented the bell to the church and had it inscribed as follows: ” Captured At Tobasco (sic) 1847″ and below that, “Presented by Commodore M.C. Perry, Recast.” The bronze bell is 20 inches tall and has a diameter of 18 inches at the bottom end. Most likely the bell was an alloy comprised of copper and other base metals that was locally mined and cast into bronze at a nearby forge. This historical bell was replaced by a larger modern bell in early November of 1910 , donated by the financier, August Belmont, Commodore Perry’s son-in-law. The old bell was placed on an outside corner of St Mary’s to the left of the main entrance where it can be seen today.

I’ve lived in Briarcliff Manor for 22 years and I never knew about this connection to Commodore Perry. And to think that I almost missed the bell completely…

Taken with a Sony A6000 and 7artisans 25mm f1.8 lens.

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