February 23, 2013

E'town clock, bell to be replaced

Local man donates money in honor of late wife


---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Much like the timepiece in the song “My Grandfather’s Clock,” the one overlooking the community here has tick-tocked for almost 90 years. 

But its time is running out for the clock and bell in the tower of the United Church of Christ.

Melvin “Stubby” Longware has donated half the total $18,500 replacement cost for them, including all applicable mechanisms and timers. 

It is hoped the remaining $9,250 — along with the cost for required carpentry and electrical work — will be covered by other donations and perhaps fundraisers.

Over the years, Longware and his late wife, Gretna, made numerous contributions to the church and town. 

“Any way I can help, I do,” Mr. Longware said. “Gretna was a big supporter of the church and town, and in a way, this honors her memory and is a way of thanking the town, which has been a part of my family for generations, going back to my grandparents.”


Though the clock sits in the church tower, it was intended for the whole community by benefactor Cora Putnam Hale. 

When it was dedicated, according to a report in the Nov. 23, 1928, edition of a Keeseville newspaper, “a simple but very impressive ceremony” was held at the High School auditorium (now the Adirondack History Museum), located across the street from the (Church of Christ). 

”At the November ceremony, many citizens of the town were present, and the various grades of the public school attended in a body.”

The gifts memorialized Hale’s parents, Herbert Asa and Celintha Theresa Putnam. 

“May the striking of this clock inspire all who hear with something of their fine and courageous spirits,” says a plaque honoring the Putnams.

At the dedication, Hale spoke of her parents, and Elizabethtown Mayor C.O. Metcalf accepted the gift on behalf of the town. School Principal Mr. Kilkaenny indicated the “pleasure and appreciation of the public schools in having near them this permanent and guiding timepiece.” 


Along with the actual bell and clock, Mrs. Hale presented the town with an endowment for their care, with the stipulation that the amount of the gift was to remain intact and any repairs were to be paid for from the growth of the initial funds and/or interest. 

”The stock market is not what it used to be,” said Rev. Fred Shaw, pastor of the United Church of Christ, indicating the dilemma of obtaining finances for replacement. 

About twice a year, the clock and bell have required maintenance, which amounts to about $500 annually. 

The cast-iron-and-steel clock, Shaw said, describing its size and works, is “like a watch blown up a couple of thousand times.

“The heavy mechanism has been driven by the same small electrical motor all these years. It’s up there where it’s not heated, and it drives this humongous thing.” 


Shaw also pointed out that the linkage to the hands is stripping out, as are the gears, though for now the clock keeps accurate time. 

And maintaining the antiquated system is fraught with difficulties, among them changing the single bulb that illuminates the clock at night by way of a small reflector located outside the tower. 

Someone with a long skinny arm has to snake through the louvers and reach as far as possible to change the bulb. 

Just ascending the tower’s steep narrow stairway is not for the faint of heart.


The current timepiece features a skeleton face, which has the cut-out Roman numerals as a separate entity. 

The numerals have been painted once in the past 25 years; Greg Merrihew climbed a long ladder on the outside to apply a gold finish. Due to the elements, the embellishment lasted only a few years. 

In addition, if there is a power outage — and for changes during Daylight Savings times — the easiest method to change the time is to let the clock remain still, and then when it reaches the correct time, restart it. 

Since the clock is on a 12-hour cycle and the bell is regulated on a 24-hour sequence, they have to be synchronized. The bell is set so it does not peal during the night. 

In one instance, Shaw forgot to ensure that until he was awoken by the melodic but loud chimes in the middle of the night.


The new clock, Shaw said, will be lit by soft illumination from behind and will be electronically controlled. 

No fundraisers have been set up as of yet, though it is hoped the needed finances will be obtained by the end of June. 

For additional information or to make a contribution, contact Shaw at 873-6822.

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