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Sculpture’s Story Told: Beating Swords into Plowshares

Charles Bradley poses with the “Beating Swords into Plowshares” sculpture that he created 32 years ago.

Beating swords into plowshares is both a message and a sculpture. The sculpture was placed in front of the Putnam County Courthouse in Winfield a little more than 30 years ago.

All who read the inscription on the sculpture know that it was a gift to the people of Putnam County from Boilermakers Local #667 and that it is dedicated to the memory of G.I.’s, P.O.W.’s, M.I.A.’s and K.I.A.’s. Very few, however, know what prompted the Boilermakers to make this special gift. There are no other like sculptures which the Boilermakers Union have placed at any other courthouse location in West Virginia.

On Friday, June 16, ten Boilermaker apprentices, all born well after the sculpture was created in 1991, learned how and why the sculpture came to be.

The creator of the sculpture, Charles Bradley of Culloden, was present to describe the circumstances that led the Boilermakers to make this unique gift. At that time, many Union members were Vietnam veterans. “They wanted to put memories of the war away and felt a need to honor those who did not return home,” Bradley said.

Bradley stated that he chose the swords to plowshares theme in designing the sculpture because it captured the turning from war to peace which was common to all veterans of that era. He utilized the skills which he had acquired as a practicing Boilermaker journeyman to fashion the stainless steel sword and plow.

The Boilermakers selection of Putnam County for home to the sculpture was fitting because Putnam, on a per capita basis, suffered more casualties than any other county within the United States during the course of the war.

After learning the story of the sculpture, the apprentices cleaned it and removed spots of corrosion.

James Durst, president of Local #667, stated that the hours which the ten worked will count toward fulfilling the 4-year program which apprentices must complete in their pursuit to becoming journeymen. Durst said that there are currently 70 individuals throughout the state who are in the Boilermakers apprenticeship program. Statewide, there are 500 journeymen who are employed in powerhouses, chemical refineries, locks and dams, and shipbuilding. When ever large equipment is part of the operation, boilermaker expertise is needed.

Pictured are James Durst (second from right), president of Local #667, and ten apprentices who completed work on the sculpture.
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