Brother Thomas W. Bradley


“If, as we pass through this life, we leave a mark, the chances are we will have left a lasting impression on the lives of those who follow.” Those are the words of Brother Thomas W. Bradley — a man who was a staple of the community in Walden, New York. Through a moral and ethical approach to life, showing thoughtfulness to others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, and courtesy in society — Bradley embodied Freemasonry at its core.
New York Knife Company
Born on April 6, 1844, in Yorkshire, England, Bradley immigrated to Walden, NY where he began working for his family business, the New York Knife Company, as a “shop boy.” Bradley learned the cutlery trade from the ground up, which proved dividends later in life as he eventually became President and Treasurer of the company. Bradley worked for the New York Knife Company until the brink of the American Civil War.

Thomas W. Bradley, Private in the 124th Regiment NY Volunteer Infantry. Photo taken circa 1863.

On August 14, 1862, at 18 years old, Thomas Bradley enlisted in the 124th New York State Volunteers, nicknamed “Orange Blossoms.” Bradley joined Company H., which was comprised of men from Walden, Montgomery, and Goshen, NY. In Bradley’s own words, “Our Village [Walden] of less than six hundred and fifty turned out a company of 82 upon President Lincoln’s call for ‘three hundred thousand more.’ Is it any wonder that there were many a vacant chair in our homes that never would be filled again?”

Bradley and the 124th New York would engage in some of the largest battles of the Civil War. On May 3, 1863, Bradley and the 124th New York would see their first test of combat at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia. After a three-hour duel with Confederate forces, ammunition began to run extremely low. The Colonel of the 124th New York asked for a volunteer to procure ammo in an open field, which laid between them and the enemy. Thomas Bradley sprung forward at only 19 years of age to undertake the daunting task. He handed his rifle to a file mate, dropped his cartridge box, belt, canteen, and haversack, and ran out between the lines “amid a heavy fire of shell, canister, and scattering rifle shots, across the plain, to where the ammunition boxes lay.” This heroic act would be recognized thirty years later in 1893 when he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The 124th Regiment NY Volunteer Infantry, “Orange Blossoms.”
After the war until 1870, Bradley continued working for the New York Knife Company in Walden, NY. However, in December of that year, Bradley embarked on a new journey — he decided to become a Freemason. Bradley joined Wallkill Lodge No. 627, which in 1870 was at its old location in Montgomery, NY. Wallkill Lodge was still relatively new in 1870, having had their first regular communication only four years earlier on December 7, 1866.
Thomas Bradley was initiated Entered Apprentice on December 6, 1870. The Worshipful Master at the time was H.H. Hallett. Brother Bradley was passed to the degree of Fellowcraft on March 7, 1871, and was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on July 28, 1871. The dues at Wallkill Lodge were $3.00 per year. The tiler was paid $1.00 after each meeting and the brethren met every Friday — the Lodge did not go dark.
Brother Bradley’s life would forever change after becoming a Freemason. His life focus would shift. I believe he embodied the meaning of Freemasonry: goodwill, charity, and brotherhood. As the cutlery industry in Walden, NY fell on hard times in the late 1800s, Bradley took the lead to save his community. In 1876, he was elected to the New York State Assembly and between 1903 and 1913, Bradley served with the U.S. House of Representatives.

On May 30, 1920, Brother Thomas W. Bradley laid down his working tools and passed away. His loss shocked the community. In his will, Bradley bequeathed over 40 acres of parkland to the Village of Walden and the monument of President William McKinley, which is situated in a prominent location on Main Street. After Bradley’s passing, local Reverend of Walden and Gardiner, Theodore F. Bayles exclaimed, “…the efficiency and thoroughness in every activity, the reverence for religion together made up a character that for love of liberty, unbounded generosity and unwavering devotion could not be excelled. Let us find fresh bonds of brotherhood, friendship and service in his cherished memory.”

Brother Bradley is buried in the Wallkill Valley Cemetery in Walden, NY.

Brother Thomas W. Bradley
Wallkill Lodge No. 627
Submitted by Bro. Kyle A. Williams
Wallkill Lodge No. 627
Bro. Kyle A. Williams