Saturday, December 20, 2014

Time marches on: Mr. Mallory and his clock

Fast away the old year's passing, and it would be a shame to let 2014 go without extending 120th birthday wishes to the Lucas County Courthouse --- and the clock in its tower. We should have done this on May 22, anniversary date of courthouse dedication and the date the clock, carefully tested and timed, started running. But better late than never.

Lucas County supervisors marked the occasion last summer by having the grand old building's stonework cleaned and repointed. And Steve Laing, one of those supervisors, tells me that in the new year the board plans to have an expert in to evaluate the clock and, hopefully, figure out how to get it running at full potential again. 

Wouldn't it be great if, on the occasion of a future new year, the old clock would be able to chime it in again?


Smith H. Mallory announced his wish to donate the clock with little fanfare in a letter to the county supervisors of that era --- H.M. Finch, A.M. Wheeler and P.V. Van Arsdale --- dated Jan. 1, 1894. It read, "Gentlemen: I desire to present to Lucas County, through your Honorable Board, a Glass Dial Clock to be placed in the Tower of the new Court House, to be placed in position free of cost to the county and guaranteed for 5 years. I would be pleased to be advised of your acceptance."

Needless to say, the supervisors accepted.

And The Chariton Herald of Jan. 11 was able to report under the headline "A Timely Gift" as follows: "Some time since the Herald made the query, 'What about a clock for the tower of the new court house?' The same query has been in the minds of many citizens who have gazed upon the idle dials in the tower. But now all these queries are answered in a pleasing manner and all solicitude regarding the county's big time-piece may be laid aside. The problem has been settled by Hon. S.H. Mallory, who has purchased a clock of the most approved make and presented it to Lucas County through its board of supervisors."


The movers and shakers of Chariton, some 50 of them (all men), expressed their gratitude officially to Mallory during a surprise visit to the Mallory home --- Ilion --- during late January. Actually, Mrs Mallory --- Annie --- and the couple's daughter, Jessie (Mallory) Thayer, had been forewarned. The visit was reported upon as follows in The Herald of Jan. 25:

The feeling of gratitude which the people of Chariton feel toward Hon. S.H. Mallory for the generous gift of the court house tower clock, made by him to the county through the board of supervisors, found a fitting expression last Thursday night, when a large number of representative citizens met at the Bates House and proceeded in carriages to Ilion, Mr. Mallory's home. They were welcomed by Mrs. Mallory and Mrs. Thayer and ushered into the elegant home, much to Mr. Mallory's surprise, but he was equal to the occasion and welcomed each one with pleasant word and hearty handshake.

Hon. J.A. Penick having been chosen as spokesman, took the floor after a few moments of social greeting and expressed in fitting language the thanks of the community to Mr. Mallory, for the generous gift to the people of Lucas county. He referred to Mr. Mallory's uniform record of public spirit, enterprise and generosity. The people of the city and county had in the past never entered upon any public enterprise requiring aid without calling upon Mr. Mallory, and never yet had they been disappointed; the response was always prompt, cheerful and generous. The gift of the clock for the court house tower was but another evidence of the generous public spirit so frequently though unostentatiously displayed, and Mr. Penick again on behalf of the board of supervisors and the people of Chariton and Lucas county, thanked him heartily for the gift.

Mr. Mallory replied briefly to Mr. Penick's remarks expressing his appreciation of the visit and its object as voiced by Mr. Penick. He suggested that when the court house is finished and the clock in place, it would be a pleasant and proper thing to hold a public meeting and dedicate the house with appropriate ceremonies, inviting the people of surrounding counties to join with us in the celebration. Mr. Mallory also spoke on the subject of public improvement and advocated paving the streets surrounding the court house square, as a commencement of a system of paving for the principal thoroughfares.

Lieutenant Governor Dungan (Chariton attorney Warren Dungan) followed Mr. Mallory in a few remarks in which this happy thought was prominent: "In the campaign prior to the vote on the court house bond question, the speakers promised the people that if the bonds were voted and the court house built, Chariton would furnish a clock for the tower. We now see that while we were talking the silent man of Ilion was thinking, and the result of that thinking is the present for which we are gathered tonight to express to you our appreciation and thanks."

Mrs. Thayer then favored the company with music, and after a short time spent in conversation the party retired.


The new clock arrived in Chariton by rail from the Seth Thomas plant in Connecticut during Febuary, 1894, and during the weeks that followed was lifted into the tower, assembled, fine-tuned and timed. Much like a giant grandfather clock, which the tower in its current form resembles, it was weight-driven --- although subsequently electrified --- and had to be wound.

The courthouse was virtually complete by late February, 1894, and the supervisors accepted it during a special meeting on the final Saturday of that month. On the Monday following, county officials began moving into their new offices from temporarly locations around the square.

The Herald reported in its edition of March 1: "The new illuminated dial clock, the gift of Hon. S.H. Mallory, will be put in place in a few days, and will be occasion of just pride and appreciation on the part of the citizens of Chariton and Lucas county."


As Mallory had suggested, a public celebration of the new courthouse was scheduled for Tuesday, May 22, 1894, and the courtroom was packed at 10 a.m. for the official dedication ceremony. Mayor Barger called the assembly to order and the Rev. W.W. Whitten, rector of St. Andrew's Church "invoked the divine blessing." After an official welcome from Barger and a performance of "Praise Ye the Lord" by a mixed vocal ensemble, the podium was turned over the Mallory, master of ceremonies for the day.

After speaking for several minutes, Mallory ended his remarks with, "In conclusion I take great pleasure in delivering and giving possession to Lucas county, through her honorable board of supervisors, in pursuance of my offer to them January 1st, last, the town clock that completes the tower of this palace of justice in accordance with the plans and specifications of the architect. This engraved plate is the conveyance. This clock was constructed by the Seth Thomas Clock Company, and guaranteed for five years. It has been tested for two months past and its operation has proved satisfactory to the experts who have had it in charge. At 10 o'clock this morning I set the pendulum in motion, and pronouncing the clock in perfect running order I turn it over to you, trusting that it will truly beat the time, and strike the hours to notify us when to begin our daily labors, call us from labor to refreshment, keep us company during the vigils of the night, and be like Tennyson's brook, 'Man may come and man may go, but I go on forever.' "

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