Farm Bells as a Means of Emergency Comunication

farm bell

Imagine you are at your homestead or bugout location after TEOTWAWKI and have an emergency at the house.  Your husband is out in the field or over at a neighbor’s home, how do you alert him and call for help. You can fire off a shot or two, but this can be a waste of ammunition.  A better solution might be the use of farm bells, in the past this was pretty common.

They continue to be an important means of communication in rural areas into the beginnings of the twentieth century. A sturdy metal farm bell was often mounted on a post, just outside of the kitchen door.  It could be rung for meals and used to sound a prearranged message to the fields or to communicate with neighbors. In the old days, they used them to alert people to everything from fires to Indian attacks.

The sound of a properly mounted farm bell can travel between 3/4 of a mile and 7 miles.  Since sound travels in line-of-sight, tall trees, buildings etc. will reflect the sound.  A strong downwind can carry the sound even farther than seven miles, as sound travels through the moving air. But a strong upwind may limit it travel.

A farm bell can be used to call people in from the fields, to alert them to fires or to warn your neighbors of raiders.  You just have to figure out a bell code, this normally is a specific number or pattern of rings  With several bells, you can alert a whole community.

When I was a kid, I spent a couple of years in Michigan and I can remember seeing old bells on many of the farm, and some were still in use.  If you live in the Midwest old ones are probably still fairly easy to find.  If you live in the rest of the country, they are available on Amazon and Ebay for less than you would expect.  I found them for under a hundred dollars.

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If modern communication fails, farm bells may once again be a useful method of communication.


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3 thoughts on “Farm Bells as a Means of Emergency Comunication”

  1. Thanks Howard.
    Bells are a great idea! I had forgotten about them and how well they worked for communications when I spent a summer on my grandparents farm during the early 1940s. My job then was to ring the noon day bell to call in folks from the fields for lunch. Now I need to get some – one for me and others for neighbors who I can’t see because of the forest that surrounds all of us but are within farm bell range.


  2. I was wondering if there is a type of code for bells signals. How many, how fast, and how often, etc ( thing morse code?). The idea of tuning limits most peoples means, so stay with one bell’s tuning.
    There is an old story of a widow woman that would signal a man that was hiding from “recruitment” into the Civil war. She employed him on her farm and would ring a bell to communicate that is was safe to come over. The people looking for him figured this out, and it led to his demise.
    He was tied to a woodpile and ………………murdered in the ensuing fire……..
    Most farms and ranches had signal bells. I must assume people had their own signals. I am still wondering if there was a universal code, Okay.

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