Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts. A rocking ship tall case clock. 3/4 size.

About Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts.

For 30 years, between the 1940s and the 1970s, Stennes was famous for being the only large-scale reproducer of classic American clock cases in the country. But his former friends and associates remember him for another reason, too – because he killed his wife and later was himself killed. In fact, it’s hard to say whether the clocks and other items made by Stennes are so collectible today because of their quality or because of his notoriety. He lived at 45 Church Street in East Weymouth, Massachusetts, in a house he built himself in 1938. He used a design by Royal Barry Wills, the 20th-century American designer of reproduction Colonial-era dwellings. (So the house, like his clocks, is a facsimile.) It is a classic two-story cedar-shingle Cape Home.

Elmer Osbourne Stennes was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, on June 9, 1911. Self-trained as a cabinetmaker who worked in the Quincy, MA shipyards during WW-II. Stennes made his mark as a case maker for the clocks he sold with his name painted on the dials. His production was significant as compared to others that were not set up as a factory with employees. He made a variety of forms which included Willard style time pieces such as the banjo clock, several shelf clock forms, a copy of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole, tall case clocks which he called grandfathers, grandmothers and an in between size he designed and dubbed the Wessagusset, the Native American name for the Weymouth shore. He was also a good marketer and his clocks were sold nationwide through contacts he made as a member of the National Association of Clock and Watch Collectors (NAWCC).

Stennes began making his cases full time by 1948., after he left the shipyards in 1945. He did not, nor did he ever, manufacture the movements. At first, he used movements from what was then common clocks. Soon he had to find another more reliable source and used good quality reproductions. By 1959, he built a barn to set up his workshop. He told people his shop was located at No., 1 Tic Tock Lane.

Elmer’s second wife was Eva who had three of her own children before they married. Together, they had a daughter. Eva died on December 2, 1968, as a result of an argument. Elmer took out his .357 magnum derringer and shot one bullet into Eva’s head. She staggered from the kitchen and died on the bathroom floor. Elmer reportedly called the Weymouth police himself. He was arrested in his home and later released on a bond of $25,000. It was also business as usual until his trail. During this period he branded his clocks with the initials, “O.O.B.,” to signify his new status out on bond. Stennes pleaded not guilty to murder, but admitted guilt to manslaughter and was sentenced to eight to ten years to be served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Plymouth. The retired Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, Judge Steadman was Stennes’ personal friend customer and counsel before the crime. He had purchased a cherry-wood grandmother clock and Elmer had made him a gavel for his bench.

Stennes entered M.C.I.P. In October 1969 and was paroled in January 12, 1973. He soon remarried on December 15, 1973. Her name was Phyllis Means. On
October 4, 1975 the couple was shot while they were sleeping in their bedroom. Two men broke into the house, Elmer was shot five times. Phyllis was shot seven times. When the police arrived, she was covered in blood and screaming that Elmer was dead.

Phyllis accused her 24-year old step son Elliot of being one of the shooters. She had seen his face, recognized his clothes, and heard his voice say, “Dad.” Elliot had five witnesses testified that at the time of the shooting he had been with them at a bar in Franconia, New Hampshire, the charges were dropped. The case was never solved.

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