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Reward posted for stolen bell

The MeNeely bell closeup. Photo contributed

MALDEN BRIDGE—A 145-year-old treasure has been swiped from its front lawn resting place. The community—its rightful owners—want it back.

The victim of this somewhat unusual caper is a church bell, not a delicate tinkling bell, but a hefty booming bell that once summoned the faithful from miles around to Sunday worship.

Originally cast for the Old Chatham Methodist Church in 1878 by MeNeeley and Kimberly Founders in Troy, Rensselaer County, the 19th century bell is described as four feet tall, three feet in diameter and weighing in at 1,248 pounds.

A flyer, seeking help finding the bell, put out by the Malden Bridge Community Center at the intersection of Albany Turnpike, Route 66 and Shaker Museum Road, where the bell has been displayed for nearly 50 years, says the bell was last seen the evening of April 24. It was reported missing the morning of April 25.

Information accompanying the flyer says, “Neighbors, friends, members of the Community Center and members of the church congregations were shocked and heartbroken to see that the Old Chatham bell had been stolen!”

Lucinda Buckley, president of the Malden Bridge Community Center, told The Columbia Paper this week that someone leaving yoga class at the center the night of April 24, actually took a picture which shows the bell still in place.

The crook or crooks, not only took the bell, but also the metal yoke it was hanging from. They left the metal A-frame the yoke was mounted on. The yoke and the frame are all part of the original bell structure which hung in the Old Chatham Church belfry, until that church had to be demolished.

The Old Chatham and Malden Bridge church congregations merged in 1960. The bell was brought to Malden Bridge, where it was placed on the lawn in 1975 and has remained—until now.

“It was in the heart of the hamlet for 50 years and all of a sudden it’s gone,” said Ms. Buckley. “It was a part of our lives, it’s a reminder that things don’t always stay put.”

The bell is engraved with the name of the Chatham church, the pastor at the time and several trustees on one side and “MeNeely and Kimberly, founder, Troy, NY,” on the other.

According to Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Mark Dunspaugh, the bronze bell is made of copper and tin. “It is definitely a possibility,” he said, that the crooks were interested in the bell because of its precious metal components. But the perpetrators did leave some evidence, which Sheriff’s Office investigators collected at the heist scene, said the lieutenant.

‘It was in the heart of the hamlet for 50 years and all of a sudden it’s gone.’

Lucinda Buckley, president

Malden Bridge Community Center

The MeNeely bell on the front lawn of the Malden Bridge Community Center, 1087 Albany Turnpike, in the hamlet of Malden Bridge, Town of Chatham.Photo contributed

A reward of $3,500 has been posted for return of the bell in its original condition. Ms. Buckley said, though the bell has never been appraised, a dealer estimated he would pay $3,500 for it, which is how the reward was calculated.

Ms. Buckley said the nearest neighbor to the Malden Bridge Center is situated about 1,000 feet away.

She asks that anyone who may have heard or seen any unusual activity at the center, possibly involving a crane, between 9 p.m. April 24 and 7 a.m. April 25, or who has information regarding the location of the bell or the people responsible for its disappearance, notify the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office at 518-828-0601.

To contact Diane Valden email

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