The technical name for the time-keeping mechanism in the St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Church is a “Turret Clock” or “Tower Clock”. This type of clock began to be mounted in churches, palaces, or other places where numbers of people worked together, like larger businesses, dating to the 13th century. Now they are found mainly in city halls, county buildings, or churches like ours. They called people to worship and marked the orderly passing of time to mark the start and end of the work day. Even our clock is a simple mechanical clock, powered by heavy weights, suspended by cables on pulleys high in the Church steeple. Every six days, the clock must be wound by lifting the weights to maintain drive-tension. SMICCPS does this task to keep the clock on-time and chiming/striking as it should.
Prior to 1913, the Church had no steeple –only a bell tower. In the 1987 centennial book about the Parish and Church, there is reference to the steeple funding provided by Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Bartles, in memory of their children, Robert Laubaugh Bartels, Frederic Elmo Bartels, and Charles Robert Bartels, Jr. Our tower clock was made by the A. E. Pollhans Company, of St. Louis, and has a manufacture plate with a date of January, 1914, so we presume the clock was installed after construction of the steeple. With gears, rods, and levers, the weights turn gears and drive levers to keep time, drive the hands on the clock faces on the steeple, and ring the bells. The “chime” rings the quarter hours (one for first-quarter (0:15), two for second-quarter (0:30), and so on. The “strike” rings the hour –once for each past hour. We are indebted to James Willman, clockmaker and collector, for assisting us in learning about how to operate and service the clock.
The SMICCPS is proud to maintain the clock as a visual and aural symbol of our shared faith, and owe a debt of gratitude to those who both built and keep our traditions alive. Contact any member of the SMICCPS if you would like to learn more about the clock or are interested in a member tour.
By Karl Schultz, Board Member of the St. Mary Immaculate Conception Church Preservation Society