- FUN FEATURES
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This article appeared in the July-August 2012 Parish Post of the First Congregational Church. It is reprinted by kind permission of the author, Richard Miller, who wrote it in 1996.
In 1890, Julia Ann Humiston donated money to the Town of Cheshire for the purchase of a town clock made by Seth Thomas Clock Company, which had completed it the previous year in nearby Thomaston, Conn. It was decided by the Town to place the clock in the steeple of our church on the green.
The clock was installed in 1891, with the dial facing east across the green.
After all these years, the Humiston Trust still authorizes and pays a “timekeeper and custodian” of the town clock.
It's a tricky job. The climb to the Tower Room must be made on narrow, steep stairs, then through a trap door and into a windowless room. Then the timekeeper must traverse a two-board-wide walkway, with flimsy railings, to the clock works. It is not a job for the fainthearted.
A special enclosure holds the clock works -- looking like little more than a thrown-together wooden shack, with a couple of small multi-paned windows to protect the delicate works from extremes of temperature, from dust, and from dirt. It seems barely big enough to hold its charge -- a cube maybe six feet on a side.
Each week, two tasks must be completed just before the big bell strikes 9 o'clock in the morning. The first is to raise the big weight that powers the striking mechanism, which weighs perhaps 1,000 pounds. A long-unused hand crank lies on the floor, as these days the weight is raised by a small electric motor, with four pulleys and a couple of frayed V-belts.
The powering is accomplished by plugging in an extension cord, causing the weight-lifting cable to be wound slowly on a drum. This operation raises the weight about 25 feet.
Then a smaller weight, which provides power for the clock works, must be raised alongside the bigger weight by another system of cables, this time by using a hand crank. It takes exactly 28 turns to accomplish this.
When the bell sounds 9 o'clock, another clock (usually a wristwatch) must be consulted to see whether adjustment is necessary. If the clock is striking early or late, then a regulating pendulum must be used; a nut under the weight at the bottom of the pendulum is turned one way or another depending on whether more or less time is required.
All in all, it's a complex task that must be performed once a week, year in and year out!