Officially, some years ago, the grant City Lions Club assumed
the responsibility of repairing and maintaining the clock in the
courthouse. As with most organizational undertakings the project
became the responsibility of the few
in this case very few.
Jerry Hunt and Charles Foland have been the ones principally responsible for the project.
Several years ago the county court decided to make inquiry about getting the courthouse clock back into operation. The clock had been silent for several years. Some man came along and offered to get the clock back in operation for $500.
Charles Foland, who had previously been on the county court, heard about the interest in getting the clock started and the bid which had been make to do it. Foland thought the bid a tad (or maybe two tads, depending on which Hunt you are talking to) high and also that the project would be a good project for the Lion's Club.
The club warmed to the idea and scheduled a pancake breakfast to raise funds for the project.
We had the best response from the county for that breakfast than any we have had. We really got support," said Foland.
The big clock mechanism sets about 25 feet below the center of the clock faces. The clock movement is transmitted from the clock to the faces through a tumbling rod mechanism. Originally, this mechanism was made up of wooden rods something like an old wooden pump rod. These rods had rotted until they were no longer serviceable.
The hands of the clock are also wooden and the two hands on the west dial had deteriorated until they would not turn. Sometime in the past the center of the west dial had broken out and had been replaced by plywood. This too was rotted away.
"We knew we could fix all of those things pretty easy but we didn't know about the clock mechanism. Luckily, it was in excellent shape and all we had to do to it was give it a good cleaning and lubricate it, " reported Foland.
Foland and Hunt began the process. They took the old hands off of the west dial and removed the old centerpiece. They cut a new centerpiece out of exterior plywood and, using the old hands for a pattern, they cut out new hands and weatherproofed and painted them. The new centerpiece and hands were installed.
"I got out on the platform on the north side and handed things to Charles but I didn't venture out on the roof." That was the way Jerry Hunt described the outside work.
The next part was simple. In the first place, they were back inside to work. The wooden tumbling rods were removed and replaced with metal rods. All of the hands on the four dials had to be coordinated as they hooked everything together. The mechanism was cleaned and the old clock was ready to go.
But that was only the beginning. She has to be kept running. That means the old lady has to be wound a couple of times a week and reset occasionally.
I followed along one day as Jerry Hunt made the long trip up to the mechanism. First, there are 58 stairs to climb and then 5 more rungs of a ladder to make it up to where it is wound.
The clock is powered by two weights, which work in a shaft, which extends all the way down to the basement. The shaft goes through the assessor's office and through the recorder's office on its way to the basement.
Not only did Jerry Hunt know exactly how many stairs we had to climb but he also knew exactly how many turns it would take to wind the cables up. He even has the process down to such a system that he winds so many turns with his right arm, then so many with his left arm and then finishes with both arms.
As he ground away he remarked, "It's not that I know anymore about winding a clock than Charles does but right now I seem to be in a little better shape than he is. He has done his share of the winding."
The history of the courthouse clock goes back to the year 1898. When the plans were drawn for the new courthouse, which was to be built, provisions were made for a place for a clock in the dome but none of the bond money was set aside for a clock.
In the August 4, 1898 issue of the Worth County Times Editor Garver writes:
"Last Saturday a number of farmers inquired of us whether a clock will be put in the tower on the new courthouse. For the information of the public we will say that so far as the county is concerned, there will be no clock put in the courthouse, and for the very good reason that it will require every dollar voted to complete the building. The proper kind of clock will cost about $500 (Note: That amount doesn't mean very much to us now but bear in mind that the total cost of the new courthouse was a little less than $25,000) and that is too much money to appropriate out of the county building fund. A clock costing the sum named would add greatly to the appearance of the courthouse and could be heard striking for a distance of seve5ral miles. Why not raise the money by subscription for the bell?"
In the bond election in 1898 when funds were approved to finance the construction of the new courthouse the levy passed by a 3 to 1 margin. Most of the opposition was in the west part of the county. The editor of the Sheridan Advance, Moores, was still a little edgy when Editor Garver make his plea for the funds for the clock. Said Editor Moores in the Sheridan Advance:
"Let's finish the courthouse first Bro. Garver; then we can easily devise some scheme of robbing the people of money to but the courthouse clock."
Of course Editor Garver responded in his paper the next week. He suggested that since Moores had brought up the subject of robbing the people he, Moores, should be put in charge of the "whole scheme of robbing people".
A subscription list was started in the Times office and the Times mentioned the project for a few weeks but only a few persons responded to the plea for funds and not much came of the first effort to raise funds. The idea lay dormant for about 14 years until the year 1912. Interest began to revive in the idea of a courthouse clock. A committee was formed and some moneymaking projects were initiated.
Two civic groups in Grant City presented plays to raise funds for the project. One of the plays presented was entitled The Convicts Daughter. From its title one would assume that it was quite a melodrama.
The cast of characters for The Convicts Daughter included Dell Eighmy, Sr., W.E. Sparks, Harry Dalby, Fred Dawson, Bert Miller, Jay Cokely, Ed Eighmy, Gladys Hass, Mrs. John Jamison, Marie Eighmy and Dorothy Sparks.
The play was presented in Grant City on September 5, 1912 and was presented in Sheridan the following week. The play was well attended in Sheridan so the intervening years must have softened the opposition to the project.
About the most innovative fund raising effort was One Old Hen Day. The clock committee appealed to the women of the county to donate one old hen for the project on August 31, 1912. A list of poultry houses in the county, which would buy the hens, was published. The September 5, 1912 issue of the Grant City Star carried a "Chicken Day Honor Roll" listing 150 county women who had donated hens.
The funds were finally raised and in the late fall of 1912 the clock was ordered from E. Howard & Co., Boston, Mass.