Missing: Old Chatham Bell Near Albany, New York

Police in Malden Bridge, New York – a village roughly 30 minutes’ drive from the state capital of Albany – are looking for suspects in the theft of a 145-year-old bronze bell. The bell had sat in prominent display in front of the Malden Bridge Community Center, but in the hours between 7:00pm on April 24 and 7:00am on April 25, 2023, the bell vanished, likely hoisted by a portable crane and shuffled onto the back of a waiting truck. A $3,500 reward has been amassed for information that results in the return or recovery of the bell, or the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.

Video: ABC News 10 report on the missing Old Chatham Bell. Courtesy: Giuliana Bruno, WTEN/WXXA.

A brief history of the Old Chatham Bell

Cast in bronze on September 17, 1878, the 36”-diameter bell weighs 1,248 lbs. Originally made for the Old Chatham Methodist Church in a neighboring village, the bell is inscribed with the name of the foundry on the obverse, and on the reverse, the names of the church, the paster, the trustees, and the date of casting. 

Colonel Clinton H. Meneely, together with his brother-in-law George H. Kimberly, cast the bell at their eponymous bell foundry, the Meneely & Kimberly Bell Co., which operated from 1869-1879 on the banks of the Hudson River in Troy, New York. It was later renamed the Clinton H. Meneely Bell Co., and then, from 1902-1951, simply the Meneely Bell Co.

Old Chatham Bell

Image: Composite image of the obverse and reverse of the Old Chatham Bell. Courtesy: Giuliana Bruno, WTEN/WXXA.

The bell gave service at the Methodist church in Chatham for more than 80 years, until the structure was condemned in 1960. It was relegated to storage for a time and then, in 1975, was moved 15 minutes north along with the congregation to a Methodist church in Malden Bridge, which later became the Malden Bridge Community Center. 

Until this week’s theft, the bell was displayed proudly in front of the public building, suspended from the original Meneely yoke and resting on an A-frame, which was left behind by the criminals. A capital improvement project had been planned in recent months to make repairs to the historical bell.

A plea for the bell’s return

A simple, plaintive sign now rests where the beloved bell once hung: “RETURN OUR BELL.” The hope is that the bell can be recovered before it is sold along for scrap and smelted into copper and tin, the component metals of bronze

Hand-painted sign that reads: "Return Our Bell"

Image: A hand-painted sign reads “RETURN OUR BELL” at the site of the missing Old Chatham Bell in Malden Bridge, New York. Courtesy: Giuliana Bruno, WTEN/WXXA. 

Anyone with information regarding the disappearance of this bell is invited to contact the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office or by writing to the Malden Bridge Community Center.

Cover image: The front elevation of the Malden Bridge Community Center, with the Old Chatham Bell in the foreground. Courtesy: Lucinda Buckley, Malden Bridge Community Center.