Colonel William Henshaw's clock while living in Leicester, Massachusetts. The Colonel was a vigorous participant in the political and military activities of the revolutionary era.

The written provenance of ownership of this clock remains inside the waist door of this case. It states that this clock was originally owned by Colonel William Henshaw of Leicester, Massachusetts. Henshaw was born in Boston on September 20, 1735 and died in Leicester in the old house south of the Lynde house, east of the city reservoir in February of 1820. William was a vigorous participant in the political and military activities of the revolutionary era. His first military experience took place during the French and Indian War. In 1759, William served under General Amherst and was stationed at Fort Edward and Crown Point. In 1774, he was a member of the Provincial Congress which voted to enroll twelve thousand minute men. In fact, Col. William Henshaw is credited with coining the phrase “Minute Man.” He commanded a regiment of Minute Men raised in Worcester County. He is best remembered for his service during the Revolutionary War. He served as Adjutant General under General Artemus Ward. He participated in the Siege of Boston in 1775 as an assistant to General Gates. In 1776, he was active in the Battle of Long Island, the Battle of White Plains, the battle of Trenton, the battle of Princeton and the battle of Morristown. He left the army to return to his farm in Leicester in 1777.

After retiring from Military life, Henshaw became active in local Leicester politics. He was civic leader. He served as justice of the peace and also as a state representative. He credited as being one of the original founders of Leicester’s first public library.

Henshaw married twice. His first wife was named Ruth Sargent Henshaw (1744-1769). Together they had three children. His second wife was Phebe Swan Henshaw (1753-1808.) Together they had ten children, all but one lived to adulthood.

It is recorded that Captain Daniel Kent (6/6/1777 – 5/11/1849) purchased this clock at Henshaw’s estate sale after his death in 1820-21. Capt. Daniel Kent then passed it down to his son Daniel Waldo Kent (5/5/1810 – 10/11/1906) of Leicester. He wrote that, “The man who made this clock also made a gun for General Washington and walked all the way to Cambridge to give it to him in person.” The next Kent to own the clock was Grosvenor Kent (9/29/1847) of Worcester. It then passed to Edward Kent (9/11/1872 – 6/20/1949) of Newton, MA and then to ? Kent (b 8/7/1909 – ) also living in Newton.

Daniel Waldo Kent’s statement about the manufacturer of this clock is very interesting. In recent correspondence with a member or two of the the Leicester Historical Society, Kent’s description of the clock being made by the man who made a gun for General Washington, suggests that the possible clockmaker was Thomas Earle. Thomas also lived in Leicester, Cherry Valley, less than a mile from Col. Henshaw’s residence. Thomas Earle is not currently known to have manufactured clocks, but it was Earle that was refereed to in that statement that delivered a rifle to Washington. Apparently, Earle had first made a gun for Henshaw in 1773. It was said to have been a fine example of exquisite workmanship. Henshaw had the gun when it fell under the eye of General Washington. He admired it so much that he ordered one of the same pattern. Earle was to make a duplicate for him and he personally delivered it to Washington in NewYork. Thomas Earle was a gunsmith, but the Earle family was engaged in a number of enterprises, usually revolving around early textile machinery. It was Pliny Earle of Leicester who actually built the first carding machine in the United States for Samuel Slater, to use at his mill in Pawtucket RI. Given the family history of the Earle’s it is possible that he might have made clocks at one time.

This painted iron dial was locally made and paint decorated. I believe that this dial commemorates the wedding of Henshaw and his second wife Phebe. The portraits painted in the arch are of a young girl on the left and on the right is a young man in what might be a military coat? The symbolism of a doves and the knot may represent their union. The rooster is a symbol representing power and is admired because of it’s courage and perseverance. The four spandrel areas feature depiction’s of flowers and strawberries. These decorations have a wonderful folk art quality to them. This is a nice variation from the commonplace English painted dials found on clocks made of this period. Interestingly, we have seen several dials painted in this manner. Clockmakers that seemed to favored them include Benjamin Willard, Luther Goddard, and Joseph Loring of Sterling. This dial displays the hours minutes, seconds and calendar date.

This is a fine cherry case tall clock that features a form that representative of the cases that were constructed in the Worcester area of Massachusetts. The current finish and or surface is old and has been waxed. As a result, the color or patina is warm and inviting. This case stands on four applied bracket feet. The feet are original to this case and are mounted directly to the double stepped molding. This molding is attached to the bottom of the base. The waist section is long and centers a nicely shaped waist door. This door is trimmed with a delicate molded edge and provides access to the interior of the case. The hood or bonnet is surmounted with a very interesting open fret work pattern, three fluted finial plinths and three brass ball and spiked finials. This is a traditional New England form and surprisingly, this decoration is original to this clock. The sides of the hood are fitted with tombstone shaped side lights or windows. The bonnet columns are smoothly turned and are mounted in brass capitals. Quarter shaped hood columns are are fitted in the back corners. The bonnet door is arched and is fitted with glass. This door opens to access the painted dial.

This clock features an eight day brass movement. It is weight driven and wound with a key. It is designed to strike each hour on a cast iron bell. The large movement is of good quality.

This case form, specifiacally the proportions, the woods used in the construction, the shape of the waist door and the execution of the painted dial are all features that are most often found in clocks made in Central Massachusetts. Particularly those that are signed by the Grafton Clockmaker, Benjamin Willard. We have owned many similar clocks that were signed on the dial by him.

This clock stands 7 feet 5.75 inches tall and was made 1785.


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