THE BELLS ARE RINGING, FIRE! - The City of Dublin refurbished the former Hilton Hotel on the courthouse square into a city hall. John Kelley, Dublin's premier contractor, was hired to do the work. As a part of the renovation work, Kelley and his crew installed a one ton bell in the top of the courthouse. The bell was dubbed "Big John." The fire department devised a process where the number of rings of the bells indicated what quadrant of the city the fire was occurring.
Alarm boxes were placed at various locations throughout the city. When the alarm button was pushed, a particular box rang in the fire department office. Then the bell was sounded to reflect the location of the fire. There is one old tale of a man who always kept his ear open for the sound of the fire bell. Upon the ringing of the bell, the man would proceed rapidly to the fire, climb on the roof, and break open holes in the roof with his ax. Ignorant of the draft he was causing in doing so, many houses were lost. Some sarcastic Dubliners stated that the motto of their fire department was "we never lose a chimney." When the City of Dublin moved to its new quarters in 1959, the old city hall was doomed to demolition. In 1960 the building was razed. A local scrap metal dealer, P.M. Watson, Jr., purchased the bell. His workers had an extremely difficult time in taking the bell out of the building.
The bell remained at Watson's place of business until Alonzo Boardman of Augusta came along. Boardman had to have the bell. He bought it and made arrangements to have it shipped to his garden fifteen miles from Augusta at Bath, near the notorious Tobacco Road. Boardman's garden, known as Austrian Valley, was a 47-acre tract with lakes, fountains, terraces, and a hillside lodge. Dogwoods, azaleas, and other varieties of plants adorned the Boardman home, which was modeled on an Austrian village. Dublin Courier Herald, Feb. 2, 1967.