Saturday, June 2, 2012

Benjamin Hanks, Bell-Maker

Near the western edge of the Cemetery (where some of the North Ridge's older lots lie adjacent to some of its most modern sections) is the grave of Colonel Benjamin Hanks.

Born in Mansfield, Connecticut in 1755, Benjamin Hanks served as a drummer during the Revolution and, in that role, took part in the march to Lexington in response to Paul Revere's alarm and later as a drummer with General Israel Putnam's Third Connecticut Regiment. He worked as an apprentice to Thomas Harland, a noted Norwich clockmaker, and he is said to have spent time working in a foundry owned by Paul Revere. During and after the war, he continued in the metal-smith’s trade making (according to an advertisement from the late 1770s) spurs, buckles, beads, hilts, clocks and watches, as well as general silver and gold work. Around 1780, he established a bell and cannon foundry in Mansfield.

Later, with his son Julius, he established a brass foundry in Gibbonsville, New York (now Watervliet). This new foundry, which began advertising its goods in 1808, was located in a hamlet just north of the future Rural Cemetery and later called West Troy, now part of the city of Watervliet. The foundry made an assortment of items, including tower clocks, surveying tools, and church bells.

One young man apprenticed at the Hanks' West Troy foundry was Andrew Meneely who would later establish his own foundry in Troy and become one of America's leading bell-makers.   Meneely is also buried in the Rural Cemetery in a family lot on the Middle Ridge.

Colonel Hanks died at Troy in 1824 and buried Gibbonsville, just to the southwest of the current Watervliet Arsenal. His original grave site was badly neglected until it was removed to the Rural Cemetery through the efforts of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1918.  (See also The Old Arsenal Burying Grounds)

Colonel Benjamin Hanks, drummer of the Revolution and bell-maker, was said have been related to Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln.

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