I have long been fascinated by old clocks, especially the old pendulum type. It doesn’t matter if it is a “Grandfather Clock,” mantel clock, or a wall clock, I enjoy the styles, the look and the action of them all. There has always been something calming for me about the quiet “tick-tock” in the background while I am reading, writing, or even paying bills.
I recall when we lived with my grandparents for several years when I was a boy, they had a nice old pendulum wall clock that was in their dining room. Perhaps, it was then that my love for old timepieces was awakened. But that particular clock had an old story that long preceded my arrival on the scene, and I only learned the “rest of the story” recently from our friend John Lutz.
William L. Gilbert (1807-1890) founded his clock making company in December 1828 and directed it into becoming one of the big names in the industry. The concern operated under several different variations of names for over 130 years.
In 1871, the company which was centered in Hartford and Bristol Connecticut, had a complete loss of it manufacturing facility in a spring fire. Not one to accept defeat, Gilbert formed another corporation called the William L. Gilbert Clock Company and began producing more quality clocks for the public.
Around the same time, Dr. Joshua Bower, a Troy doctor who lived on the northwest corner of East Main and Crawford Streets, purchased a Gilbert wall clock. This clock, manufactured in Connecticut, made its way to Troy and became a new addition to the Bower home. In 1875, the doctor built a new home on the same corner (still standing) and the clock, along with other household items, was present in that home until Bower’s death in 1890.
The doctor’s grandson, Brooks Johnson, one time the Clerk of Courts in Miami County, had inherited this clock along with other family memorabilia. But, at some point, it was sold or given away and was no longer in the family. When I was young and interested in it, as it hung in my grandparents dining room, my mother had told me that it had been Bower’s clock, then it got away from the family, but then later returned to the family by someone who knew my grandparents. My grandmother, Persis Faust, was Brooks’ daughter.
Fast forward to about one month ago. John Lutz, local Troy collector and history fan, especially anything Hayner related, asked if I had a wall clock in my possession that had belonged to my grandparents. When I responded that I did, he then relayed the story that his grandfather had purchased the clock years ago and had it in his home for many years before his father inherited it. He did not know if it was purchased at Bower’s estate or from Brooks, but John stated that he could remember as a youngster going with his dad to my grandparent’s home and returning the clock because they knew it had been part of the family heritage.
So, this clock which had been manufactured in Connecticut around 1871, found a home in Troy and has spent years counting the hours in the homes of several generations of two families, now continues to tick away on my office wall. I don’t believe this small time-worn clock is worth much, but I love reading or doing work at my desk while this timepiece quietly ticks away, and I imagine Bower doing the same during his lifetime.
Now, if I could only interpret the ticks and tocks of the clock as it is telling me its life story and those of the individual lives it has witnessed, then that would be something to write about.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org