Thursday, February 21, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday - Keeping Time With Thomas

Thomas Nelson's clock
One day in 1878, or so the story goes, Thomas Nelson hitched a horse to his wagon and rode the six miles into Waleska, Georgia, a local center of trade.  In Waleska he walked into a store and purchased the clock that today is sitting on our living room mantel.  The story of Thomas' clock is part family lore and part history but worth knowing.

According to the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Thomas and his wife Hannah were living with his elderly parents, John and Elvira Nelson.  Neither John nor Thomas seemed to own any real estate, and Thomas' personal estate is valued at $400.  By the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Thomas and Hannah were living in their own household, had three sons, and Thomas was listed as a farmer.  Although their 1880 real and personal estate values are not given, the $4.50 he paid for the clock probably represented a large amount to this Cherokee County farming family. calculates that $4.50 price tag to be about $105 in today's currency.

Since Thomas farmed in the days when you got up with the sun and worked until dark, why would he purchase a clock?  Was this a means of adding a touch of class to their home, like putting curtains on the windows or using a lace tablecloth?  Had Thomas had a really good crop that year and decided to purchase something for the family?  Perhaps the clock had actually been purchased in 1880, the year both Thomas and Hannah would each 
have celebrated their 50th birthdays as well as their 25th anniversary.  Maybe a letter will surface someday, one written by Thomas or Hannah telling us more about the clock's purchase.  Until then, we can only speculate. 

The story my husband had always heard about Thomas' Clock was that it was passed down to the youngest son.  The next recipient of the clock, William Nelson, however, was not the youngest child in Thomas and Hannah's family.  There was a younger son, Samuel, born four years after William.  For reasons we may never know,  the clock was passed on to William who in turned passed it on to his youngest son, Jud, who gave it to my husband, his youngest son.  When we received the clock about five years ago, we once again heard the story of Thomas' Clock.  Later, while traveling around Cherokee County, Jud pointed out to my husband where the clock had been purchased.  Like the clock, the old building was still around.

My husband and I both have memories of Thomas' Clock, even before it came to be in our home.  For my husband, his most vivid memories are of being a young boy, trying to sit still at his grandparents' house on Sunday visits, listening to the ticking of the clock when he would so much rather have been outside playing.  I remember noticing the clock sitting on his parent's kitchen mantel when I was visiting during our courtship days.  Later the clock was moved to a mantel in another room where it continued to sit.  Through the years something had happened to the clock, for I had never heard it ticking back in those days.  Even with some repair attempts by a friend, Thomas' clock sat silently for a number of years at Jud's house.

After we received the clock, my husband and I wanted to learn more about the clock itself.  Thanks to the Internet, especially, and several books from our local library, we determined that the clock was a Seth Thomas 30-hour brass weight driven clock in an Ogee case.  The clock has a Thomaston dial, and the intact label printed by Thomaston Express indicates that the clock was manufactured after 1865.  One curiosity is the word or name "Horn" written in large pencil script on the inside wall of the case.  From our research we also learned that this was a fairly common style of clock, attractive with its simple case design, flat dial, and mirrored door.  
We were pleased when our tentative identification of the clock was confirmed by the clock repairman to whom we took it to be repaired.  

Now the clock has been repaired.  It sits on our mantel, periodically dusted, and lovingly wound each night.  The soft ticking is part of our lives, a sound we immediately miss when we return home after being away for a few days.  Through the years it has acquired several chips in its walnut veneer, but these nicks are just another part of the story of Thomas' Clock.  Someday Thomas' Clock will have a new home with our younger son, and its story will continue.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting history about your clock. I love that it was passed down to the youngest sons. Thanks for writing such a beautiful post, Mary.