St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Cuero boasts three bells in its arched façade. The small copper bell claims a story of survival. It began life on the Reliance, a Morgan Steamship Line merchant vessel that sailed between New Orleans and the thriving Texas port of Indianola.
Indianola residents were enjoying a party onboard the Reliance in 1856 when a fire broke out. The partygoers escaped unharmed, but they heard the ringing of a tiny bell as they watched the burning ship sink into the shallow water of Matagorda Bay.
The Lutherans needed a bell for their new church, and with the Morgan Steamship Lines’ permission, some of the members dove into the bay and retrieved the bell for their church steeple.
Nine years later, during the Civil War, Union troops occupied Indianola for a few months. While they confiscated everything of value, a group of Union soldiers climbed the Lutheran church steeple and tossed the little bell to the ground, intending to return for it when they loaded their other booty.
That night, some of the church members retrieved the bell and buried it. In 1875 a terrible hurricane wrecked Indianola and destroyed most of the churches. Many residents moved inland to places like the new railhead town of Cuero. Then another devastating storm and fire in 1886 turned Indianola into a ghost town.
Meantime, the Lutherans in Cuero held services in the German schoolhouse and finally built their first church in 1889. As the building neared completion and talk centered on the need for a bell in the handsome steeple, one of the members remembered helping bury the little copper bell almost twenty-five years earlier. He led a group to the site where the little bell waited, and they proudly mounted it in the steeple. The bell called the congregation to worship for about five years until a member donated a much larger bell.
Again, the little copper bell received a new life summoning volunteers of the Cuero Fire Department. After several years, the volunteer firemen installed a modern alert system, and an observant church member discovered the little bell tossed in a trash heap. Upon completion of the present church in 1939, the little bell found its final home as one of three bells in the peal.
Serving as St. Mark’s Prayer Bell, it rings when worshipers pray the Lord’s Prayer and it tolls at the conclusion of funeral services when the casket is moved from the front of the church to the narthex.
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church history claims the little copper bell is a reminder to continue serving as circumstances change, even after being buried and resurrected or thrown on a trash heap.