Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"The Burden Water Wheel" by Ethan O. Smith (1918)

Dear Editor:

        Perhaps I may answer, thru your paper, some of the inquiries concerning the great Burden Water Wheel of this city. it stands within the city limits in the south end of Troy, N.Y., and was built by Henry Burden in 1838, to propel the machinery of his immense Iron Works. It is the greatest water wheel in the world, being larger and more powerful than any similar wheel that was ever built in this, or any other country. It is 60 feet in diameter, 22 feet wide, and has 30 buckets 22 feet long, and 6 feet deep. When running at a speed of only two revolutions per minute, more than 500 horse-power was developed. In traveling thru sixteen states I have not seen a more interesting ruin. Mr. Burden also put in a large turbine to use in emergencies in case the great wheel gave out; but it was never needed for a day. It is a great pity that it could not have been preserved for the admiration and inspiration of generations to come. Perhaps the inclosed verses which were written for "The Troy Record," would interest your readers.

        Ethan O. Smith.


The Burden Water Wheel

While traveling though many states and cities of the land,

Full many a wonder have I seen, wrought by some skillful hand.

But none of greater interest has ever met my gaze,

Than Burden's king of water wheels, the pride of other days.

Stupendous instrument of power! A master mind indeed,

That planned and built that wondrous wheel, to fill a pressing need.

Five hundred heavy horses with their sinews strained like steel,

Could not produce the power of this one gigantic wheel.

The Brooklyn bridge of New York, or Woolworth's mighty tower,

Inspire no greater interest, than this great Wheel of Power.

Alas! that rust, and slow decay, those gnawing teeth of Time,

Should be so evident today, in this old wheel sublime.

'Tis well its builder is not here, that he may not behold

The product of his wondrous skill in rust, decay, and mould.

'Tis well that he may never know just how his wonder great,

In after years, should come to be neglected to its fate.

'Tis now a falling ruin, leaning hard against the hill,

And all its wheels of industry, are now forever still.

Alas, that it should ever pass! It seems almost a crime,

To leave this matchless wonder to the ravages of Time.

—Ethan O. Smith.

"The Burden Water Wheel: One of the Wonders of the Age in Which It Was Built." Wyoming County Times. September 12, 1918: 4 col 5.

Troy being Troy, the wheel was not preserved. A giant water wheel was preserved in Wales, however:

Another giant water wheel, even larger than the Welsh one, was preserved on the Isle of Man:

Sadly many sites in the Capital District have been destroyed by neglect, arson, the wrecking ball, e.g.:

Crowley, Cathleen F. "Demolition begins at ironworks; Plant that was to be part of Troy's riverfront revival smoldered as the work began." Albany Times Union. May 27, 2008: D1. http://albarchive.merlinone.net/mweb/wmsql.wm.request?oneimage&imageid=6572296

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