Alexander Willard of Ashby, Massachusetts. Tall case clock.

This is a unique example in that it retains its original paint decoration. It is done in a solid shade of ivory. This has to be considered an unusual color selection for a tall case clock. Very few country tall clocks retain their original painted surface.

This form is quite typical of the production that one would expect to see from the Ashby school of clockmakers. The case is constructed in pine and is painted. This case is elevated by the cut out bracket feet. The pattern is very unusual having spurs incorporated in the design. The long waist section is fitted with a simple rectangular shaped waist door. This opens to access the interior of the case. The door never did have a lock or a knob mounted to it. The molded arched bonnet is supported by four smoothly turned columns. Each is free standing. The top of the hood displays a pierced and open fret work pattern that resembles a gallery. It is supported by three chimney or plinths. Evidence suggests that these plinths were never fitted with finials. The bonnet door is an arched form. Interestingly, it is not fitted with glass.

The wooden arched dial is nicely decorated with paint. The floral designs and coloring used here are quite typical for this Maker. The Clockmaker’s name is on the dial with in the large seconds track. This clock is signed in script, “Alex Willard / Ashby.” This dial displays the time in an unusual format. The minutes and hours are located below the seconds. This is a format that this Maker employed in some level of frequency latter in his career. The wooden geared movement is the construction one expects from this Ashby clockmaking school. These types of wooden geared movements are designed to run 30 hours on a full wind and strike the hour on a cast bell. It is powered by two weights. One for each train. Both of which are made of soapstone. In fact, the pendulum bob is also soapstone. This is supported by the original wooden rod.

This fine clock was made circa 1810. The overall height of this example is 7 feet 3 inches or 87 inches tall.

About Alexander Willard of Ashby, Massachusetts.

It is reported that Alexander Tarbell Willard was a direct descendant of Col. Simon Willard (1605-1676), a co-founder of Concord, Massachusetts in 1637. Col. Willard had three wives who bore him seventeen children. The descendants of which made the Ashby / Ashburnham Willard families relatives of the Grafton / Boston Willard clockmaking families. I wonder if they knew of each other?

Alexander T. Willard was the son of an Ashburnham, Massachusetts farmer, Jacob Willard (1734-1808) and his wife Rhoda Randall of Stow, Massachusetts. He was born in this town on November 4th, 1774. He had one brother named Philander Jacob Willard who was also a clockmaker. It is now thought that he served his clockmaking apprenticeship with the Edwards Brothers of Ashby. He apparently worked in Ashburnham for only a brief time (1796-1800). On May 24th, 1800, Alexander married Tila Oakes of Cohasset. She was employed as a school teacher working in Ashby. They married and moved to Ashby shortly after. It has been recorded that she painted some of the wooden tall clock dials for his clocks.

In Ashby, Alexander made a large number of wooden geared tall clocks and became a prominent citizen of that town. He was employed as a Postmaster (1812-1836), as Town Clerk (1817 – 1821) and he invested and managed the construction of the Ashby Turnpike. It ran through Ashby center from Townsend to New Hampshire. We know that he made many wooden movement tall clocks because we have personally seen and own a fair number of them. It is also reported from various sources that he made the follow items; a musical clock, tower clocks, timepieces, old fashion theodolites or compasses, gunters chains, scales, timers, seraphones (A forerunner of the reed organ), rifles and repaired watches. I have no personal knowledge of any of these other items.


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