Telling Time

Postcards and photo: CrazyasaCoolFox
Last week I featured an authentic New England white clapboard church in my Sepia Saturday post. This week I have another one a bit closer to home. In fact I attended this church as a child.

This is the East Parish United Methodist Church in Salisbury, Massachusetts. It was built in 1834 by, as legend has it, workers who were offered a barrel of rum as payment. I guess rum was good to barter with in those days.

The unique feature is the clock. It is actually owned by the town and funds are still appropriated for it's maintainence. This is one last vestage of when parishes were set up in Massachusetts Bay Colony and became an official state church.

The clock face is not made up up numbers, either Arabic or roman, but made up of letters. They spell out "MEMORIALGIFT." I've seen this on a few other public clocks as well. The church owned bell above is connected to the timing mechanism and strikes out the hour and half hour.

Some time in the 1960's someone got the bright idea of changing the colour arrangement from a black face with white letters to white face with black letters. Many people even then used the town clock as their main source of time. This caused a huge uproar not only among the church members but other townsfolk as well. Apparently there wasn't enough black paint for the dial so the painter covered it in white. Then outlined the letters and clock hands in black.

church steeple clock faceThat configuration remained till the 1990's, when steeple had developed a bit of a lean to the east. It was removed and set upon the ground next to the church. It was an amazing sight to see it's massive structure up close.  A renovation project was taken up to strengthen the church structure to hold the weight of the steeple as well as refurbish the steeple and clockworks. When the project was completed and steeple reattached, the clock face was black as it was and the letters and hands were gold.

Today the steeple stands straight and tall, and the clock face can be seen from all over town.
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Wendy said…
I understand the uproar. From the photos, it seems easier to read white letters on a black face than the other way around. Certainly don't want anyone to be late for the T o'clock Sunday service.
Peter said…
In Europe I have never seen a clock face made up with letters. I presume it is not easy to create a meaningful 12-letter saying in any language but this one is very appropriate. And are you certain the rum was used for trading purposes? :)
Bob Scotney said…
The b;ack face is definitely better and easier to see. You had me counting the letters in MEMORIALGIFT.
Postcardy said…
That is a really unique and interesting clock. I like the way the car is included on the postcard.
Kathy H said…
I, too, really like the car. It reminded me that as I travel I likely try to "frame" too many photos. I need to include more of the details and what we often consider to be the mundane of life so that those in the future can appreciate the realities of our time and place.
What a great story and important part of Salsbury's history. I don't know why people think they need to do something new without asking, but it never fails.

Thanks for the interesting post!

Kathy M.
Nancy said…
I've never seen a clock with letters instead of numbers. It's very interesting. I can imagine the community was thrilled with the return of the black face and white letters. It's a sweet church, with its two front doors. I loved reading the history you presented.
21 Wits said…
That is completely amazing. Never before have I seen such a cool clock! Nice friendly church as well!
Mike Brubaker said…
What a beautiful classical style church! Please show us the interior sometime. Church clocks were once the way all the citizens of a town kept a unified time. Did this steeple have a chime or bells?
Anonymous said…
What a pretty church, and the clock would have been of great importance to everyone in the town. Love the old car in the first photo! Jo

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