of the Troy Irish Genealogy Societies continuing interest in touring
areas of historical importance in the Troy, New York and surrounding
area, TIGS arranged for a tour of the Watervliet Arsenal Museum on
Sunday, November 6, 2005. The tour was announced on the TIGS mailing
list and 20 individuals responded to the invitation.
The tour was conducted by Mr. John Swantek, the Public Affairs Officer
and Museum Director at the Arsenal. The Museum, by the way, is open
to the public, and can be visited without prior arrangements. The
museum also has a library and research facility whose archives provide
resources for historians and genealogists. A more detailed description
of the Museum can be found at: www.wva.army.mil/MUSEUM.HTM
The Watervliet Arsenal, founded in 1813, is the oldest continuously
operating arsenal in America. During the interesting and informative
tour, Mr. Swantek told the story of the Watervliet Arsenal and the
history of the "big guns". On display were many of the "one
of a kind guns" from over the past 400 years. Of particular interest,
was the cannon on display which is depicted in the famous painting
"Surrender of General Burgoyne". There are only two of these
cannons in the world and the Arsenal has one of them. The famous painting
of General Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga, was painted by John Trumbull
(1756-1843) and is in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capital Building in
Washington, D.C. where it has been on display since 1826.
Another item of local interest on display in the Museum is one of
the famous Meneely bells. Meneely bells, made in Troy and Watervliet,
during the period 1826 to 1951, can be found in buildings all over
the world. The most famous Meneely bell was the reproduction of the
original cracked Liberty Bell, which was made for the U.S. Centennial
in 1876. That bell hangs today in the belfry of Independence Hall
in Philadelphia, PA.
Home of the museum is the "Iron Building" which is made
entirely of pre-fabricated cast iron plates, cast and wrought iron
trusses and sheet steel roofing. Built in 1859 as a warehouse, the
"Iron Building" is on the National Register of Historic
Landmarks. As you drive along Interstate 787 and pass the Arsenal
property, you can get a great view of the "Iron Building"
which is the strikingly beautiful cream colored building easily seen
from the highway.
At the end of the tour, I donated to Mr. Swantek for the Arsenal collection,
a document that I have had in my possession for over 50 years. The
document, dated October 19, 1885, was an original Bill of Lading for
a shipment of one box of waist belts, gun slings and cartridge boxes
from the Watervliet Arsenal, West Troy, New York (now Watervliet)
to Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland. My oldest brother, Joseph McGrath
(1925-2005), worked at the APW paper mill in Menands, New York after
his discharge from the Navy following World War II. That paper mill
purchased government scrap paper and Joe would bring home various
interesting documents for his younger brother. The Watervliet Arsenal
Bill of Lading was one of those documents saved from the shredder.
Our father, James J. McGrath, Sr. (1900-1974), along with many other
relatives, worked for years at the Arsenal and I am sure that influenced
Joe when he saved that particular document. The document was donated
to the Arsenal in my brothers memory.
Clifton Park, NY
here for photos