Letter: North Adams-Monitor link is fake news


To the editor:

Every few years, there is an article about North Adams' relationship to the USS Monitor. The recent article is less offensive to the truth than the others, however ...

In February 1861, President Lincoln visited Albany, N.Y., where he had a secret meeting with Troy industrialists John Griswold and John Winslow. The Union's wooden ships were being attacked by the Confederate Navy and Lincoln was reviewing several defensive options. Griswold convinced Lincoln to go with John Ericsson's ironclad warship. Lincoln agreed, but gave them just 100 days to deliver the iron plates, rivets and angles. Griswold reached out to the 21 iron ore mines and furnaces from the Adirondacks to Connecticut which included three in the Berkshires. Basically, Griswold needed iron pigs by the tons delivered to Troy as soon as possible.

This we know: No iron plates for the Monitor were ever made in the Berkshires. All plates were fabricated at Troy's Rensselaer Iron Works where the iron pigs were delivered. The two iron mines in the Northern Berkshires owned by John Adam Beckley ran out of ore by the late 1850s, so maybe iron ore from the mines in Richmond, Mass., or Canaan, Conn., or Copake, N.Y., was shipped to the Beckley Furnace here to be smelted into pigs? Good story, but not likely at all. The contract with Beckley was for his "Copake Ore" and he had good furnaces in Canaan and Copake Falls.

Please know that the Beckley Family tried without any success to convince the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston that the North Adams Iron Company had a role in the fabrication of the Monitor. From 1924 to 1950, the commonwealth rejected all of the Beckley family's requests after studying the historical details and the lack of any documentation to support their claims. The various North Adams mayors during this period also rejected the Beckley family's claims.

Things changed when the Beckley family filed lawsuits against the commonwealth and at the same time offered to make all payments for the design and fabrication of a monument including having Governor Dever's name on the plaque. That seemed to have clinched the deal and that is how we got that fake news Monitor Monument on Main Street.

Unfortunately, Mass MoCA also holds on to the fake news Monitor story. Now that they have some money, it should redo its website with the truth.

Ralph Brill,

North Adams



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