Andrew Meneely (1802-1851) [Section 58 Lot 12]

Owner of Meenely Bell Company

Troy, NY is referred to as the “Collar City,” however it could have been referred to as the “Bell City.” Four families, all related, operated four bell foundries, three in Troy, and one West Troy, which later became Watervliet. Together they were responsible for producing at least 100,000 bells between the years of 1808 and 1951, and some are still in use today.

One of these foundry owners is Andrew Meneely who was born in West Troy, on May 19, 1802. He was one of six children to Scots-Irish immigrants, Andrew James Meneely, and Eleanor Cobb. His father died when he was four years old. At age 15 Andrew left school and became an apprentice to Julius Hanks, whose family operated a bell foundry in the Village of Gibbonsville, later incorporated into West Troy. The foundry made bells, bronze cannons, engineering equipment, and clocks. At the Hanks Foundry, he learned how to be an alchemist.

In 1823 Meneely and Horatio Hanks, a son a Julius moved to Auburn, NY operating a foundry that supplied equipment to engineers for the Erie Canal. Upon the completion of the canal in 1825, Meneely came back to West Troy, taking ownership of the foundry in Gibbonsville. Hanks moved across the Hudson River to Troy, establishing another foundry before moving to Cincinnati.

The same year Meneely married Philena Hanks, first cousin to Julius. Together they had ten children, with six living into adulthood. The Meneely foundry became quite successful, which afforded him his own home with live-in servants.

Andrew Meneely’s bell foundry changed names over several decades. Beginning in 1826 the foundry was known as Andrew Meneely Bell Foundry. In 1836, due to a period of ill health, he made his foreman, Jonas Volkert Oothout, who was perhaps a relative of Philena, a partner changing the name to Meneely and Oothout. In 1841 the partnership was dissolved, and Meneely becomes sole proprietor. In 1849, Edwin, his eldest son, was made a junior partner, with the name changing to Andrew Meneely & Son.

In 1851 Meneely died at the age of 49. He is interred in the Middle Ridge section of Albany Rural Cemetery.

The same year Meneely’s son George became a partner, with the name change to Andrew Meneely’s Sons. Edwin and George’s uncle, James Harvey Hitchcock, who worked for the company for twenty years, ten years as the foreman, left and established Jones and Hitchcock Foundry in Troy. Though only around for 35 years Jones and Hitchcock made several bells, one of the last was for Troy City Hall, which burnt down in 1938.

In 1863 Edwin and George changed the company name to E.A. & G.R. Meneely. Around the same time their youngest brother, Clinton Hanks Meneely, who served in the Union Army returned home seeking a partnership in the foundry with his brothers. After not being offered one he moved to Troy and established Meneely and Kimberly Foundry, later the Clinton H. Meneely Foundry. This lead to contentious legal battles between the brothers, which sued Clinton preventing him from using the name. The court sided with Clinton.

George eventually left the partnership with Edwin, seeking other business ventures in Albany. Edwin made his son a partner with another name change, Meenely & Co. Around 1902, Clinton changed the company one last time to Meneely Bell Company. Both companies competed bitterly with each other across the Hudson River. With the city boundaries eventually being defined by the Hudson River, at the end of the 19th century, the two foundries were known as Meneely Watervliet, and Meneely Troy.

Both foundries remained family-owned and operated until the early 1950s. In total, over 65,000 bells were made and shipped around the world. The bell tower near the Albany Rural Cemetery office is a Meneely Bell which is rung on special occasions.