“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Troy in Rensselaer County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam Marker - Troy, New York image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, June 20, 2008
1. Uncle Sam Marker - Troy, New York
Nickname of Samuel Wilson of Troy which was given near here to United States from markings of U.S. on military supplies in War of 1812
Erected 1962 by New York State Education Department.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War of 1812. A significant historical year for this entry is 1812.
Location. 42° 43.695′ N, 73° 41.696′ W. Marker is in Troy, New York, in Rensselaer County. Marker can be reached from Ferry Street (New York State Route 2), on the left when traveling east. The Uncle Sam marker is at the foot of the Congress Street Bridge in Troy, also known as the Troy-Watervliet Bridge. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Troy NY 12180, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Edith McCrea House (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); 90 First Street (about 400 feet away); 92 First Street (about 400 feet away); Julia Howard Bush Memorial Center (about 500 feet away); On This Site (about 500 feet away); Rensselaer County Spanish-American War Memorial (about 600 feet away); Emma Hart Willard (about 700 feet away); Second Ward World War II Memorial (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Troy.
More about this marker. The Uncle Sam marker is at a
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place close to where Samuel Wilson had docks on the Hudson River from which he shipped his barrels of packed meat. Due to the physical layout of the area where the marker is placed, between two raised approaches to the bridge over the Hudson River, observers are unable to see the marker from the road way. It is easiest to park off of Front Street near the bridge and walk through a pedestrian tunnel under the bridge approach to access the marker.
Regarding Uncle Sam. Yes, there really was an Uncle Sam, a Samuel Wilson in Troy, N.Y. who was the Uncle Sam that evolved into the Uncle Sam that is the symbol of the United States. Therefore the story of Samuel Wilson is the Story of Uncle Sam.

Samuel Wilson 1766 - 1854

Arlington, Massachusetts

Samuel Wilson was born in Menotomy, Massachusetts on September 13, 1766. The town of Menotomy, became West Cambridge in 1807, and later, Arlington in 1867.

His parents' farm was located in the center of a triangle limited by Massachusetts Avenue, Mystic Street and Russell Street, in Arlington, Massachusetts where now stands the Uncle Sam Memorial Statue.

One of his father's cousins, James Wilson, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and hid in Samuel’s house disguised as a Quaker to escape the British. His father was an active" Son of Liberty" and an early Minuteman.

On April 19 1775, when he was 8 years old, Samuel witnessed the famous ride of Paul Revere who crossed the Wilson property to warn Lexington and
Uncle Sam Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, December 26, 2007
2. Uncle Sam Marker
The Uncle Sam Marker is on the left in this view.
Concord that British soldiers were heading there to capture and destroy military supplies that were reportedly stored by the Massachusetts militia. On that day Samuel’s father and two older brothers took up the call to arms with the Minutemen and fought in the “Battle of Lexington.” The next day Menotomy was the field of some of the fiercest battles that occurred during the first days of the American Revolution. Samuel’s father participated in those events, and later was injured in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Even at a young age Samuel Wilson was strong American patriot and took part in the Revolution. According to one account, Samuel himself is said to have helped in the fight led by David Lamson that resulted in the capture of British supply wagons.

Mason, New Hampshire

Mason was an important step in Samuel Wilson's life. In 1780 when Samuel was 14 years old the family moved to Mason, New Hampshire where Samuel and his brother Ebenezer learned how to make bricks and mortar, and to assemble them for construction. In 1781 at age 15, he enlisted in the Revolutionary Army and became a service boy tending to livestock and repairing fences.

In Mason, Samuel met Betsey Mann, the daughter of Captain Mann, hero of the Bunker Hill battle and owner of the local store and tavern. Being from a poor family, he did not want to marry Betsey until his financial situation had improved.

Troy, New York

In February 1789, Samuel Wilson and his brother Ebenezer left Mason, N.H. by foot, to Troy, New York to seek their
Uncle Sam Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, December 26, 2007
3. Uncle Sam Marker
The Uncle Sam Marker is beyond the pedestrian tunnel beneath the approach ramp to the Congress Street Bridge.
fortune. Upon their arrival in Troy, the two brothers opened a brick factory (E. & S. Wilson) in a part of Troy that was then know as Mount Ida. They soon started building the city of Troy: the first court-house of Rensselaer County and the jail. They effectively helped the community and won the esteem and affection of everyone. They were known by the nicknames "Uncle Sam" and "Uncle Eben".

By 1793 Samuel Wilson and his brother had established an extensive meat-packing business. By 1812, the E. & S. Wilson Company employed 100 people and slaughtered 1,000 heads of cattle weekly. Samuel treated his employees well and they affectionately referred to him as “Uncle Sam.”

In 1797, Samuel went back to Mason to marry Betsey Mann who had been waiting for him for eight years. The wedding took place in the house of Captain Mann. The benediction was given by his childhood friend, Ebenezer Hill who was nicknamed "The little Minister of Mason" (five foot tall). After the ceremony Samuel returned to Troy with Betsey.

When the War of 1812 broke out with England Troy became an important center for shipping food and ammunition for the army. Samuel Wilson won a contract to supply meat to the War Department for the armies in New York and New Jersey, with Elbert Anderson, a government supplier. Samuel was also appointed Government Inspector of Meat. The meat was packed in barrels which were stamped “E.A. - U.S.” where “E.A.” was Elbert Anderson, and “U.S.” stood for United States.

In October 1812, when a large
Uncle Sam Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, May 2, 2008
4. Uncle Sam Marker
Photo of a Photo of Sam Wilson on display at Troy City Hall.
consignment was piled on Uncle Sam's dock in Troy a passenger exiting a boat was surprised by the huge amount of barrels marked with the initials, “U.S”. and asked the service guard what it meant. The guard was an employee of Samuel Wilson. He answered the initials stood for Uncle Sam, and that Uncle Sam owned about everything around there, had the best beef and fed the entire army!

As many soldiers were Samuel Wilson's former employees, this joke spread very quickly and "Uncle Sam” became the nickname of the U. S. government.

Catskill, NY 1817 - 1822

After Samuel Wilson's father died in Troy, in 1816, his mother departed for Mason later that same year, where she lived until the end of her life with her youngest son, Thomas.

Samuel and his young brother Nathaniel moved to Catskill, N.Y. There, Samuel wanted to give "Nat" a start in business and create work for other men. They opened another slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant (Samuel had started his first plant with his other brother, Ebenezer, in Troy, in 1793.) Many of the workmen from Troy moved along and it became a flourishing business. They also opened brickyards along the Catskill Creek and today the bridge spanning that creek is named the Uncle Sam Bridge.

Samuel and Nathaniel's families lived in a large mansion located at 251 West Main Street. That's were Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the United States, was married to Hannah Hoes in 1807, before he became the president.

This historical mansion, which was built in 1797, is still standing.
Uncle Sam Wilson Statue image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, April 30, 2008
5. Uncle Sam Wilson Statue
The City of Troy, New York embraces its most famous citizen, Uncle Samuel Wilson. A metal sculpture of Uncle Sam wearing a long coat billowing in the breeze, top hot in hand and standing before a barrel the type in which he shipped meat is located beside the Uncle Sam Bus Stop at the corner of River Street and Fulton Street in downtown Troy. There is embossed lettering on all four sides of the base of the statue The front side states "Uncle Sam Wilson 1766 1854 of Troy - New York Born in Arlington - Mass" One side states,” Sam Wilson- One of the prime movers For Incorporation of * Troy as Village - 1794 City - 1816 *" On another side the base reads, "Troy's Citizen America's Uncle The Big Thing is Not What Happens to Us in Life - But What We Do About What Happens to Us. Sam Wilson." Another side says, "U.S. of America (written horizontally, and vertically incorporating the letters U.S.,) Uncle Sam Originated During War of 1812" From other plaques placed nearby it would seem the statue was erected through the efforts of the Uncle Sam Monument Committee between December 1977 and September 1980, with a dedication taking place on October 18, 1980.
Two plaques in front of it remind us of the time when Samuel Wilson and Martin Van Buren were there.

Uncle Sam and Aunt Betsey were active in the First Baptist Church and town affairs in Catskill, just as they had been in Troy, however Troy was the town they had seen grow from a river hamlet to a city, and it was their true home. They returned in 1822 to live the rest of their lives, leaving Nathaniel and his family in Catskill.

Samuel Wilson lived a long life and kept on helping the Troy community. He died on July 31, 1854 at the age of 88. He rests in the Oakwood cemetery beside his wife Betsey.

Monuments mark Samuel's birthplace in Arlington, Massachusetts, and site of burial in Oakwood Cemetery, Troy, New York. Another sign marks "The boyhood home of Uncle Sam" outside his second home in Mason, NH.

As early as the 1830s Uncle Sam became a common cartoon figure, eventually portrayed wearing red, white and blue clothing and sporting gray whiskers. Sam Wilson, however, was always clean-shaven. The most well-known drawing, of a bearded Uncle Sam wearing a star-decorated top hat and pointing an index finger pointing at the view, was created by artist James Montgomery Flagg (Flag!) in 1916 and has been used ever since on military recruiting and other posters.


On September 15, 1961, the 87th Congress of the United States passed a joint resolution: The bill saluted the "strength and idealism that characterized the life of Samuel Wilson" and recognized Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York, as the progenitor of
Uncle Sam House image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Don Rittner
6. Uncle Sam House
The wooden clapboard sided house was at one time the home of Samuel Wilson. The house stood on the corner of Seventh Ave. and Ferry Street. The building is no longer there because, sadly, the City of Troy and the State of New York tore it down in 1976 while the country was celebrating its bicentennial. In recent months the city of Troy has expressed interest in creating a type of Tourist attraction at the site of the former home which is beside a busy thoroughfare.
the American national symbol Uncle Sam. The bill was signed by President John F. Kennedy.

Also, the New York State legislature passed a resolution recognizing Samuel Wilson as Uncle Sam and Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared his birthday, September 13, Uncle Sam Day.

President Ronald Reagan designated September 13 as Uncle Sam Day, and the resolution was passed on November 9th, 1988.

The City of Troy, N.Y. proudly proclaims itself as the Home of Uncle Sam, and has held an Uncle Sam Parade each year in September since 1976.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. Uncle Sam's House, near Mason, New Hampshire.
Also see . . .
1. Menotomy Minuteman Trail Guide. The Menotomy Minuteman Trail Guide of Arlington Massachusetts is available in PDF format here. It has an informative segment about young Samuel Wilson. (Submitted on June 28, 2008, by Howard C. Ohlhous of Duanesburg, New York.) 

2. Troy's Oakwood Cemetery: A Brief Overview of the Oakwood Cemetery Grounds. Cemetery website entry (Submitted on June 28, 2008, by Howard C. Ohlhous of Duanesburg, New York.) 
Uncle Sam Brewery image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, May 7, 2008
7. Uncle Sam Brewery
Uncle Sam promotes a great number of things in the City of Troy, in this case a micro-brewery near the Hudson River in downtown Troy.
I Want You image. Click for full size.
Library of Congress
8. I Want You
This is one of the most widely recognized Uncle Sam images, a WWI recruiting poster created by James M. Flagg in 1916.
Uncle Sam's Grave image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, April 17, 2008
9. Uncle Sam's Grave
Many people come to visit the grave site of Uncle Sam in the Oakwood cemetery in Troy. There are small signs posted along the way to help you find your way to the grave site.
<b>Uncle Sam Grave Marker - Oakwood Cemetery </b> image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, May 6, 2008
10. Uncle Sam Grave Marker - Oakwood Cemetery
Samuel Wilson
Died July 31, 1854
Aged 88 Years
Uncle Sam Monument - Oakwood Cemetery image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, April 17, 2008
11. Uncle Sam Monument - Oakwood Cemetery
Beside the grave stands a monument to Sam Wilson:
In Loving Memory
"Uncle Sam"
The name
originating with
Samuel Wilson
1766 --- 1854
during the War of 1812
and since adopted by
the United States.
Erected 1931
by his granddaughter
Marion Wilson(Sheldon)
A U.S. flag, which is maintained by the local Boy Scout council, flies nearby.
Samuel Wilson and Betsey Mann image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, May 6, 2008
12. Samuel Wilson and Betsey Mann
In 1854, Samuel Wilson died and was buried in Troy’s Mt. Ida Cemetery. In 1858 his son Benjamin bought a plot at Oakwood and Samuel was re-interred at Oakwood. His wife Betsey is beside him. Also three of his children and two of his grandchildren are buried in the Oakwood cemetery.
Uncle Sam Grave Side Monument - Detail image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, April 17, 2008
13. Uncle Sam Grave Side Monument - Detail
Visitors often leave coins as a gesture of gratitude and respect for the values and virtues of Samuel Wilson, and all that he has come to symbolize.
Wilson Children image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Howard C. Ohlhous, April 20, 2016
14. Wilson Children
Polly Wilson & Sam Wilson Jr., also in Oakwood Cemetery.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 6, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 28, 2008, by Howard C. Ohlhous of Duanesburg, New York. This page has been viewed 8,028 times since then and 423 times this year. It was the Marker of the Week June 29, 2008. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. submitted on June 28, 2008, by Howard C. Ohlhous of Duanesburg, New York.   14. submitted on May 2, 2016, by Howard C. Ohlhous of Duanesburg, New York. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.

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Dec. 5, 2023