8. The Clock and Clock Tower

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Continue counter-clockwise around the room to the clock mechanism, housed in the southwest corner of the room. The Library clock tower is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the town of Uxbridge. The clock itself was purchased from the well-known Seth Thomas Clock Company of Thomaston, Connecticut. It was bought through Phillip Taylor of Whitby who installed it in September of 1887, although the nameplate reads August 16th. The cost: $315.00.

The clock was bought in conjunction with the new Mechanics Institute, which was being built at the time. This is the same building which is now the Uxbridge Public Library. A few years prior to this, contractor, E. Anderson, had built a bell tower and hose house to the immediate south of the library site. A one thousand five hundred-pound white metal bells was bought for $235.00 in June of 1887. When the new library was built along with its clock tower, the bell and clock were joined by two cables running from library to bell tower. Cables and pulleys were anchored by a crude box of rocks just below the clock. Until 1954 when the bell tower was torn down, the mighty bell boomed out the passing of the hours. It also doubled as the fire alarm until 1951, when it was replaced by an old air raid siren at the fire department. The clock tower remains to this day.

The clock has not always been in working order. Many people have been responsible for it's care throughout the years. The winding of the clock was and still is done by a large crank (Not referring to any of the clock's keepers of course!). From the day of the clock's installation this duty was the responsibility of the resident librarian who lived in the third floor apartment of the library. In 1894 the librarian was paid to do this job for the first time when the library board decided that Mrs. Sarah Willis would receive an annual salary of $25.00. Repairs had to be made to the clock as far back as 1933 when Angus McDonald, a watchmaker and jeweller in Uxbridge for over fifty years, got the clock running again after it had been stopped for some time.

Time would often stand still during the cold winter months, until spotlights were installed on June 30th, 1989. Ice would accumulate on the tower, freezing up the hands of the clock. Concerned citizens of Uxbridge would inform the librarian whenever the clock stopped or was reading the incorrect time. Pearl St. John was the librarian from 1942 until 1963. Eric St. John, who was her son, would often scale the inside of the clock tower without benefit of a ladder, in order to manually adjust the hands to the correct time. This was done when the hands were out of sync with the small clock on the mechanism itself. The next librarian, Mrs. Agnes Arbuckle then took over the winding of the clock until 1974. She was the last Librarian to live in the library apartment and also the last librarian to wind the clock. (2001 Update: librarians are winding the clock again!)

In an age where wristwatches had now become commonplace, nobody seemed concerned when the clock stopped working. For ten years the clock sat, uncared for and unnoticed. If it weren't for Doug Smith, the clock would read the same time today as it did when it stopped in 1974. Mr. Smith was a library board member in 1984 who took a personal interest in the clocktower. He contacted a clock buff named Earl Pascoe of Whitby to work on the neglected clock. By the time he was finished, the old beauty was once again keeping the time for the main part of Uxbridge. On September 17th, 1986, the clocktower was stuck by lightning. Nearly fifty shingles and a 2x6 rafter on the southwest corner of the tower were badly damaged. This strike from Mother Nature should have destroyed the clock itself beyond repair. As fate would have it, the clock had been removed completely from the library when the incident occurred. Earl, Roy and their crew were doing general maintenance work on it in accordance with the addition that was being built at the time. The irreplaceable clock had been spared.

Today, citizens and visitors of Uxbridge look more to the library clocktower as a town landmark than for the practical service it provides. Although when the clock does stop, people have been known to call the librarian on the phone to let them know about it! The original mechanism, a Model #16 Tower Clock with an hourly strike, can still be viewed in the Joseph Gould Reading Room of the Library. With each passing second of its giant pendulum swing she testifies as witness to over 100 years (or 876,000 hours) of Uxbridge history.

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