Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts.

For 30 years, from 1945 through 1975, 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. Elmer 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 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. He was self-taught as a cabinetmaker and received a certificate for completing a one-year course in Carpentry and Architectural Drawing from Wentworth Institute in Boston in 1934. He also worked in the Model Shop in the Quincy shipyards during World War 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 compared to others that were not set up as a factory with employees. He made a variety of forms. These included the Willard style timepiece or banjo clock, a copy of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole, several shelf clock forms, tall case clocks which he called grandfathers, grandmothers, and an in-between size he designed and dubbed the Wessagusset. The name Wessagusset is the Native American name for the Weymouth shore. Elmer was a good marketer, and his clocks were sold nationwide through the contacts he made as a member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (N.A.W.C.C.). Stennes began making his cases full time in 1945 when he left the model shop at the war’s end. He did not manufacture the movements. At first, Elmer used movements from what were then common clocks. Soon he had to find another more reliable source and used good quality reproductions. By 1959, he had built a barn to set up his workshop. He told people his shop was located on Tic Tock Lane. Elmer’s second wife was Eva G. Annanis. They had two children, a son Elliott and a daughter, Ester. 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 dropped 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 business as usual until his trial. During this period, he branded his clock cases 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 seven years. His term was to be served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute Plymouth, a minimum-security prison. 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 prison on October 24, 1969, and took over the maintenance cottage, moved in and set up his personal machine and hand tools, and began making cases using inmates as helpers. One could argue that he was using prisoners, at the expense of Massachusetts taxpayers, to make his products. These were stamped “M.C.I.P.,” the abbreviation for “Massachusetts Correctional Institute Plymouth’ which was actually in Carver, Mass. After having served only three years and three months, Stennes was paroled on January 12, 1973. He later remarried on December 15, 1973. Her name was Phyllis Means. On October 4, 1975, the couple was shot while they were sleeping in their downstairs bedroom. Two men broke into the house, and Elmer was shot five times. Phyllis was shot six times. When the police arrived, she was covered in blood and was screaming that Elmer was dead. Phyllis accused her 24-year-old stepson 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 testifying that at the time of the shooting, he had been with them at a bar in Franconia, New Hampshire. As a result, the charges were dropped. There were other considerations; however, the case of Elmer Stennes’s death has never been solved.

I would like to thank David Howard for helping me get this Stennes bio correct.

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

This is a very handsome example that is stamped in the interior with the number "2." The case exhibits excellent figured… read more

Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts. Dwarf clock. Grandmother clock. Inlaid mahogany case. Automated rocking ship dial.

Stennes made several versions of the dwarf clock case. This example is the most formal and the most complex of those… read more

Elmer Stennes. Reproduction Wall Timepiece, Girandole. This example was made in 1968. 218074

This is an outstanding reproduction of a Girandole Wall Timepiece originally created by Lemuel Curtis of Concord, Massachusetts. This successful recreation… read more