The clock picture that graces my blog banner is of a family heirloom. We are not an heirloom-owning family, for the most part, cherishing memories and stories in the absence of riches, but this particular heirloom has been part of my life all my life. Perhaps its occupying that place is one reason for my love of clocks. I would have one on every wall and every flat surface if the sounds would not irritate everyone else.
Time’s passing does not irritate me, though I have known people who did find it to be irritating and even frightening, and I understand their desire to stave it off. But not me. I want time—lots and lots of time. Every second is more mulling time. And so I give you the story of the clock pictured here.
When my mother, Rutha Nell (Riley) Jackson, passed away in 2010, I inherited the mantel clock first owned in the early 1800s by James and Emily (Jones) Evans. My earliest memory of the clock is of my great-grandmother, Della Luvenia (Brannon) Riley, standing on a stool to wind it where it sat on the mantel in her home in the 1950s. When I received it, the clock had not run for at least forty years. Mother had tried to find a clockmaker to repair it but was told that parts were no longer available and the gears were too worn to run again. I sought a second opinion. In 2012, Link Christensen of Christensen’s Clockworks in Oviedo, Florida, assured me that he would make the clock run again. After a year in his care, it keeps perfect time and chimes the hours with the sound my great-great-great grandparents heard in the nineteenth century.
While Link machined no-longer-available parts for the clock, I worked with family history and the scraps of the label left in the clock to research and document its history. What I found supports the family lore attached to the clock. The family history information as recorded on an index card in my possession by my grandfather and his brother, Daniel Dock and Fred Haywood Riley, in 1957 is as follows:
THIS CLOCK IS 122 YEARS OLD, AND IS THE PROPERTY OF DOCK AND FRED RILEY, OF ENTERPRISE. IT WAS BOUGHT IN 1835 BY JOHN AND EMMIE EVANS, THEIR GREAT GRANDPARENTS. IT WAS PASSED DOWN FROM JOHN AND EMMIE EVANS TO RUTHIE EVANS, WHO LATER MARRIED DANIEL RILEY, THE GRANDPARENTS OF DOCK AND FRED RILEY.
The label glued to the inside back of the clock is peeling off but has the following information:
C. & I IVES
Online, I found a record of the label as follows:
Made and Sold by
C. & L. C. Ives
Warranted if well used
P. Canfield, Printer, Hartford
That, of course, gave me the manufacturer’s name and opened the door for more research.
The clock is an antique triple decker clock manufactured by the firm of Chauncey Ives and his nephew Lawson C. Ives in Bristol, Connecticut, sometime between 1833 and 1835. The brass mechanism was the latest patented design by Joseph Ives, master clock maker.
Joseph Ives was born in Farmington, Connecticut, on 21 September 1782, son of Amasa and Huldah (Shaylor) Ives. He was granted six U.S. patents, all pertaining to clocks. He was a brilliant inventor but inept money manager, facing bankruptcy several times and working at several different companies, including C. & L. C. Ives in the early 1830s. He obtained the patent for the rolling pinions (this clock) in 1833. Recording the patent let Seth Thomas and other competitors into the know, and they began making less expensive clocks to be sold by peddlers throughout the country. This clock is one of the originals, not a knockoff! Joseph Ives died 18 April 1862 at 79.
In our family, the clock was possibly an anniversary present from James (not John) to Emily (Jones) Evans. They married in about 1820 in South Carolina before moving to Alabama and having at least nine children. They left the clock to their daughter Rutha Evans who married Daniel Riley 23 November 1854. Following Daniel’s death in 1904, Rutha moved into her son’s home, the home of Charles and Della (Brannon) Riley, and moved the clock with her. She lived with Charles and Della until her death in 1912 when the clock passed to Charles. When he died in 1946, the clock was Della’s and stayed on the mantel in her room where I remember seeing it until her death in 1957. At that time, her sons, Daniel Dock and Fred Riley, decided to sell the clock (the reason for the index card description). My father, James Arthur Jackson, found it in a jewelry store window in downtown Enterprise, Alabama, and, after a major family confrontation and police called to retrieve the clock, transported it to South Carolina where it resided with Mother until her death.
I do not know how long the clock was silent, but apparently something happened to it and some parts in the transitions from Great-Granny Riley to jewelry store to Mother. The important point is that it is running again with the fifth owner (caretaker) and sixth generation of the family. I cried the first time it chimed and cherish its marking time in my home.