Historic bell missing from Camp Parsons

Property crime up in Brinnon area, director says

PORT TOWNSEND — It’s not even brass; it’s cast iron.

The bell that has adorned the entrance to Camp Parsons since at least 1960 was stolen sometime between March 6 and March 8, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Camp Parsons staff.

“I came into camp a week ago and the bell was gone,” Camp Parsons Director Josh Cunningham said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “It’s not light by any means. It has to be 400 or 500 pounds.”

Where it came from

Cunningham said the bell has two origin stories, or legends, as to how it ended up at the camp.

One is that it was a gift from the Campfire Girls in 1919 and the other was that it was delivered by the mosquito fleet sometime between 1919 and 1925. Between the 1880s and 1920s, an armada of steamships known as the Mosquito Fleet was a main means of transportation for goods and people all along Puget Sound’s 1,332-mile shoreline.

The bell has been at the camp since at least 1960 because the current archway was dedicated around that time, but it goes back much further than that, Cunningham said.

“I’m pretty certain it’s in our possession for 100 years,” he said. “Except for a brief period in the ’80s when it was stolen and found in a Seattle pawn shop. Staff bought it and brought it back to camp,” he said.

Camp staff has called scrap yards and sent out photographs of the bell, anything to help, he said.

“It’s cast iron, so it’s not going to bring a high scrap price. But it has tremendous sentimental value because it has been here so long,” Cunningham said.

The camp spent $900 last year to have the bell sandblasted and repainted in Chimacum, so the old Camp Parsons logo seen in older photos isn’t there anymore, he said.

The theft has Brinnon in quite an uproar, Cunningham said, especially since the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office was in town just last week talking about crime in Brinnon.

“Property crime is staggering in the county, but how much is in Brinnon? We were told the county has had 23 property crimes so far this year and 17 have been in Brinnon,” he said.

The bell theft also is the fourth time just this year the camp itself has been hit by property crime, Cunningham said.

“That hasn’t happened in the two years since I’ve been director,” he said.

In one instance, a door was kicked in at the rifle range, but nothing was stolen. In another, a contractor for the camp’s new water distribution system had $5,000 worth of brass fittings stolen. In a third, a portable toilet that was bought last year and was sitting on a rickety old boat trailer was stolen.

“You had to drive into a specific area of camp to get that, and now the bell,” he said.

The camp has added some security cameras that can take photos and send notifications, and the facility has implemented a few other security measures, Cunningham said.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at brian.gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.

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