Church bell lost in derecho storm found, but the mystery of its whereabouts remains

Written by Javed Iqbal

More than two months after a bell in western Quebec disappeared from the rubble of an old church tower that had toppled during a May derecho storm, it has been found, but the mystery of its whereabouts has yet to be solved.

Provincial police confirmed to Radio-Canada that it had been found Friday, a day after the local historical society offered a reward to anyone with information about the bell that had gone missing from the Fassett, Que., church.

Pierre Ippersiel, member of Louis-Joseph-Papineau Historical Society, said Thursday that he did not know what the reward would be but hoped the promise of one would encourage the public to share information.

It seems to have worked.

Overnight, local resident Alain Bertrand posted a photo on Facebook of what appears to be a bell on the edge of Highway 50.

Debris from a toppled bell tower is piled on the grass next to an old stone church.
The Saint-Fidèle church in Fassett, Que., was damaged by winds during the May 21 derecho storm. (Chantale Lauzon/Facebook)

Ippersiel said the bell was briefly taken to the Sûreté du Québec police station in Papineauville, Que.

The society responsible for heritage preservation in Petite-Nation — the easternmost area of ​​Quebec’s Outaouais region — was also the group that requested the Sûreté du Québec to investigate.

“If we find the watch, we will not charge anyone. What is important to us is to find it,” Ippersiel told Radio-Canada in French on Thursday.

Man in shirt with blue collar standing on the lawn.
Pierre Ippersiel is a member of the Louis-Joseph Papineau Historical Society. (Radio-Canada)

The bell disappeared from the debris after the May 21 derecho storm tore the belfry clean off the steeple at Saint-Fidèle church.

The bell is an important piece of heritage for the area, Ippersiel said. It was used in Montebello, Que., until 1895 and was later installed in Fassett in 1925.

It has now been returned to its owners at the church in Montebello. The parish council now believes it can trace the heritage object’s history and plans to do so this autumn.

The mayor of Fassett, François Clermont agreed that the bell has historical significance and said it was important that the bell be found to preserve the region’s history and heritage.

Although the church in Fassett was previously sold to a private company — Faubert Enterprises — Clermont says residents were still disappointed to see the storm remove the bell tower from the rest of the tower.

Rumor has it that the tractor took off with a bell

Since the storm, city residents have wondered where the bell went, he said. “We hear all kinds of things.”

Ipperseil says he has heard that people saw a tractor take the bell from the rubble the night before the storm.

The Sûreté du Québec said only that they are continuing to investigate. Officers have met with witnesses and arrests could be made soon.

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Javed Iqbal

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