Historic church bell stolen from Dassel Lutheran cemetery

DASSEL, Minn. – A piece of history was stolen from a small southern Minnesota chapel.

The bronze bell has been missing from the Swan Lake Cemetery chapel in Dassel for the last three weeks.

Tim Hendrickson was with other cemetery board members on Oct. 15 when they came out to lay a new plot at the cemetery.

“At first we were pretty shocked that someone would even do it,” Hendrickson said. “We came into this chapel here to look at the map, and then that’s when we noticed that the bell was missing.”

The 1,000-pound bell was gifted to the Swan Lake Lutheran Church, which used to stand where the chapel is now, in the early 1900s. Then the building was sold to Hendrickson’s congregation, the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church, which inherited the bell. 

Their church body outgrew the building, so they built a larger church next door for their busy Sunday services.  



“When we tore the church down, we donated the bell to the Swan Lake Cemetery,” he said.

There is still a faint, yet distinguishable tire track in the grass near the chapel, which clued Hendrickson in to just how this bell might have been stolen.

“Like someone backed up a truck or a trailer or something,” he said. “We could see … there were blue marks there where maybe they put a jack underneath there to lift the bell out of its cradle.”

Hendrickson isn’t sure why someone would want to steal a bell.

“Unless they wanted to use it for scrap, I don’t know,” he said.

However, Hendrickson said he’s confident that whoever it was knows this area well because this chapel is located off a dirt road in rural farmland.

“That’s what we’re thinking, that someone must have known that the bell was there,” he said.

The cemetery board members reported the theft to the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office, who is investigating it.

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