A Page from North Quabbin History: Telling time in Templeton

  • A compilation of the collection of time keepers housed at the Narragansett Historical Society. Contributed photo

  • One of the first time clocks, made by E. Watkins while working at Heywood Brothers shop in Gardner. Watkins would later go on to start Simplex Time Co. Contributed photo

Published: 5/21/2021 2:37:04 PM
Modified: 5/21/2021 2:37:00 PM

At the Narragansett Historical Society is a collection that will take a visitor back in time. The society houses an exhibit of 11 different timekeepers, clocks and watches from a bygone era.

“We have grandfather clocks, steeple clocks, which are usually on a mantle or desk, tower clocks which run the dials in a church steeple, and time clocks to keep track of employees as they start their day,” said Curator and President of the Historical Society, Brian Tanguay.

Most of the timepieces were left to the collection when the owner passed, others were donated by family members who did not have a home for it, and a few we spent time and energy to have them donated to be added to the collection, Tanguay said.

The oldest clock in the collection, Tanguay said, is the 1762 Ipswich Tower clock made in Oxford, England by a clockmaker named Hawting. Tanguay explained, “The Ipswich clock was restored by a fellow clockmaker in Vermont, Donn Lathrop. I met with him to talk about the work he was doing on the clock. After he delivered the clock, the church found it was in the way and no one wanted it so they took it apart and moved it to the cellar. I offered to take the clock and display it in our museum. It was made in 1762, the same year Templeton was incorporated. The main reason it came to Templeton was to have it displayed as one of the oldest clock towers in the country and to remove it from the cellar.”

The clock was put together with a homemade case made from 2-by-4s. It actually works and will be installed in the Grange Hall next to the stage, according to Tanguay.

Another Tower Clock in the collection is the 1872 Tower clock from the Baptist Church of Baldwinville, built by E. Howard of Boston. “It took eight men over eight hours just to remove it from the clock room,” he said. Tanguay devoted six months of nights and weekends to restore the Baptist Church tower clock; it is ready to be installed at Grange Hall and will be a working model for visitors to see, wind and set. It will even strike a bell on the top of the hour.

Tanguary: “The Baptist Church clock will be installed on the second floor of the Grange Hall, with weights against the walls from floor to ceiling, a 14-foot drop, a bell will be placed on the first floor and a slot will be cut in the floor under the clock to have the 9-foot pendulum suspended through the first floor,” he said.

There are several grandfather clocks in the collection as well, Tanguay said. These include grandfather clocks from the early 1800s with wooden gears made in Jaffrey by R. Perkins. The Jaffrey grandfather clock was once in the main living room of the Templeton Inn, Tanguay recalled. “We found a negative which verified that the clock was there. So, it was given to the Museum when the Inn closed.” He continued that the museum also has a nice grandfather clock given by Grace Blodgett; it was given to the family as a payment for what was owed at their general store on South Road. Percivel Blodgett ran the store on South Road with his daughter, Grace

“Our most recent donation was a 1780s grandfather clock made by John Rogers of Newton, Mass. It was in the Eames family, of East Templeton, for five generations and it’s in great condition, Tanguay said.

Our unique clock was made by Eli Bruce of Baldwinville, 1790, and used by Elizabeth Wellington Lord, the author of “The Story of Templeton,” who claimed it to be the most accurate clock she ever owned,” Tanguay said. Also in the collection is a small pocket watch with Jeweler Walter Jones’ name on it, which was sold in his store in Baldwinville, over the laundromat.

The society also houses a unique time clock “We have one of the first time clocks made by E. Watkins while he was working for the Heywood Brothers shop in Gardner; he wanted to make them full time, so he left his job to start Simplex Time Co.” This time clock was the early example of the type of time clock Simplex would later make. There is a tall clock from 1800 given as a gift from Charles Flood, who had it in the tavern on Boynton Road.

The clocks are each unique in their own way. “They are made all out of wood, the case, the plated, and the gears, others are made from brass plates and train wheels. Some are weight driven with cables and pulleys, others are wound up with a mainspring for power. The tower clocks used pulleys and a box of rocks for weights, some weigh as much as 500 pounds,” Tanguay said.

According to the website, the museum at 1 Boynton Road, Templeton, is open Tuesday nights from 6 to to 8 p.m., and summer Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m.


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