In 1915, the Liberty Bell was making a pilgrimage across the United States, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to San Francisco, California, by train. It stopped in Pendleton on July 12 as part of the tour.
The special train arrived in Pendleton at 6:30 p.m., and by then between 6,000 and 8,000 people had converged on the O.-W.R. & N. railroad yard along what is now Frazer Avenue in Pendleton. Bells rang all over the city and a band played patriotic tunes when the train finally arrived, an hour later than promised. Members of the common and select councils of Philadelphia who were shepherding their charge across the U.S. were on hand to give out cards, booklets, badges and other souvenirs to the crowd, and four large policemen stood guard on the bell itself.
Forty-three Pendleton men were deputized to serve as special police during the stop, to ensure the crowd kept moving “in orderly procession.” Hundreds scaled to the top of box cars parked in the rail yard for an unobstructed view of the relic of Revolutionary times. While the special train was scheduled for only a 15-minute stop in Pendleton, it stayed for almost an hour and a half, and everyone who gathered was able to see the bell up close — some from both sides, and those who lingered until the end were able to inspect it from underneath. The bell’s inscription, “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the LAND unto all the Inhabitants thereof,” was clearly readable and the famous crack was visible even from a distance.
The delay of the bell’s arrival in Pendleton was partly due to a stop on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The train stopped at Cayuse, where a celebration was going on, and the Philadelphia contingent filmed a war dance put on in their honor. The train also stopped in Mission so children at the agency school could view the bell.
Officials accompanying the bell said declared the Pendleton crowd one of the largest to greet them from a small city. Residents from all corners of the county, and almost the entire population of Pendleton, turned out for the historic event.