A ringing story

(Photo by Alan Carey)

(Photo by Alan Carey)

Here is the basic story of the bell that was just removed from the cupola of the currently under renovation Mescal Hornbeck Community Center on Rock City Road.

Peter Keegan and Anne Clare resided in Woodstock somewhere around 1870 and had 16 children. When the Community Center was built as a Church in the 1920s, the Keegan children dedicated the bell to the memory of their parents. The town purchased the building in the 1970s.

As per the inscription on the bell, we can see that it was cast by the Meneely Bell Company in Troy, New York, a family owned business that apparently had two competing foundries, the first established in what is now Watervliet in 1826; the second begun by a third son in Troy in 1870. Meneely bells are quite famous and appear in many places, apparently including one from the first foundry at the Saugerties Lighthouse. The Community Center bell was clearly, by the title inscribed on it, from the second foundry. About 65,000 bells are attributed to the two foundries, both of which closed in 1952.


In its 1871 patent documents, Meneely claims that “In presenting to the public the present edition of our catalogue we would state that the distinguishing characteristic of the bells made at our establishment consists in an unequaled combination of sonorousness and purity of tone…The material of which they are composed is a mixture of pure copper and tin, the superiority of which as a sonorous metal has been demonstrated by centuries of use…”

Later bells have been made of bronze or cast iron. Town supervisor Jeremy Wilber says that he’s not sure what it could be made of, as nobody’s put a magnet on it yet.

Brosamer Bells of Brooklyn, Michigan says that cupola bells can be worth $2600 and up, but that can depend on condition and the apparatus that holds the bell. A post on the Bell Talk Forum says that “A good, Bronze, midsized Church bell sells in the high hundreds to low thousands of dollars, generally…”

“What are we going to do with it?” says Wilber. “I have no idea what to do with it. In the meantime, we’re preserving it. Maybe readers can come up with some suggestions.”

Wilber says that work on the Community Center is “proceeding very well. Sometime next week the insulation will be done.” He says that it could be finished by the first or second week in July.