Our Historic Tower Clock

The Church was built in 1867, with Bell installed,

In July 1899 some on Williston’s “monied men” started raising funds for the purchase of a Town Clock.   It was felt the Williston Methodist Church steeple would be the best location for it as it was high, visible and would allow the sound of the bell, which would strike the time on the hour, to carry well.Picture12

– The Clock (Tower Clock) was manufactured by E. Howard Co. of Boston MA.  It was delivered August 16, 1899 & installed on August 30, 1899.  The E. Howard Co. is known for providing hundreds of tower clocks all over the United States.  Others delivered in the same period as ours were sent to NH, MO, West Virginia, Brewster and Rochester NY.  Business records are available in the Smithsonian Institution. The Clock is owned by the Town of Williston.  They pay for its upkeep and for a Custodian/Winder.

– The Steeple was removed for restoration in March 1997. Many repairs were made to the tower & steeple, such as new clock faces, stair cases and threads, bell rope & pillow blocks. etc.

– The Clock movement was removed in March 1998 for restoration by The Green Mountain Timekeepers.  The project was headed up by Mert Esmond & Fred Ringer.  This organization restores a tower clock every several years as a community service.

– In September 1998 the Steeple was reinstalled.  The clock movement side plates were also lifted by the crane and placed in the clock movement room where it was re assembled.

– The Clock was restarted in November 1998.

– The Steeple and Clock were re dedicated on November 22, 1998

The clock represents wonderful engineering. It has run accurately through a 140 degrees temperature range for 117 years of operation, as of 2016.

Our bell is “Chimed” on the hour by striking the outside with a hammer, articulated by the clock movement.

The bell can also be struck, while stationary, by striking the inside of the rim with a hammer that is pulled with the smaller bell rope.  This creates a softer, quieter sound, called “Tolling”, normally done prior to a funeral service.

The bell can be rung “Rung” for church services by pulling the large bell rope which rocks the bell back and forth.

The clock has run faithfully since 1900 with only minor repairs. Is was designed by the E. Howard Clock Co. of Boston, hundreds of these clocks were built in the late 1800’s and shipped all over the country. Some clock movements have been electrified, but many, including Williston clock, are still hand wound every week.

The movement is provided with power from two cable/weight sets. The bell has a Time & Strike bell side. The weight sets are made of stone filled wooden boxes. The time weight is 500 lbs and the strike weight is 1500 pounds. In the clocks 98 years of continuous operation these weights have been wound over 5000 times, equivalent to 15 miles of vertical travel for the time weight and 29 miles for the strike weight. There is evidence in the chute, which guides the strike weight, that at one time the cable broke, sending the weight crashing through the floor where it ended up in the basement. As boards halfway down the chute are charred from a fire that apparently self extinguished, it is suspected that lightning ran down the cable, severing it, and then exited through the outside tower wall.



Memories of Winding the clock Our son Eric was thrilled to be hired by the town to wind the church clock for one year. It came with a stipend of $100 which was a lot of money for a teenager! Little did we know how hard the work was for a light-weight person, or how much it would involve the family! For instance, we would need to plan our arrival back from vacation so that Eric could fulfill his duty while we sat in the car, waiting in the dark. Eric remembers, “It was a job I took very seriously – what I do recall is the panic I felt when we got a call that the clock had stopped and we’d have to rush down there and correct the matter.” Stephen Magill sometimes assisted Eric. Stephen says, “I remember sticking my head out of the window and realizing that the steeple was REALLY high up. I also remember that there was a handwritten list of names on the wall of all the clock-winders going back a long time. I hope the list is still there.” It was a momentous moment when Eric Stone added his name to the wall. submitted by Nancy Stone

Here is a collage of three pictures that show the area’s that have been used to scratch in the names of individuals that have wound the clockPicture7


2001 I almost had to give up the job as clock winder as raising  the 1500 pounds of rocks that powered the bell strike was killing my back .  To save my back I built & installed a bicycle drive and attached it to the clock movement.  It must have helped as that was 15 years ago and I’m still winding!             Bill