8-foot Great Grandfather’s Clock Ticks Off 100 Years

By Edna J. Montani

8-foot Great Grandfather’s Clock Ticks Off 100 YearsHow many times have I heard Grandfather Andrew Jenson say, as he looked at our ancient but imposing family : “Oh my, how I wish this old timepiece would start ticking off the hours and days again!”

The clock, made by my great grandfather Christian Jenson in 1866, seemingly had chimed off its last hour just like in the song, “Grandfather’s Clock.” But its going again now in its 100th year, after a well-merited rest, thanks to the ingenuity and mechanical talent of my husband, Louis Montani, whose hobby is working over old clocks.

This historic clock is shown here with Sandra Neizer, great-great, great granddaughter of the maker. It is ticking off the hours and days as Historian Andrew Jenson wished. It is now at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Harold H. Jenson, who is national historian for The .

The clock stands over eight feet tall and has a hand-carved cabinet and a number of ornamental frills, including an old-fashioned crystal flower vase which holds a world globe, which rotates from the movement of the ticking of the clock. Below the globe are the moon and stars. In this area you see the moon, by quarters and then in its fulness, all working by intricate, small, handmade wheels from within.

The center of the clock has a small dial indicating each day of the month and as this slowly moves along, so do the big hands on the face of the clock. There are no springs; it runs by means of lead weights and a large pendulum. A string on the side of the clock can be pulled to chime out the nearest hour.

Great Grandfather Jenson lost a leg in one of the European wars and died in 1898 while still perfecting his clock. His son, Joseph J. Jenson, a gifted mechanic and artisan with tools, finished the job and had it running on precise time for a number of years. It stopped only a few months after Joseph’s death.

Incidentally, the top spires on the clock had to be removed to fit in my father’s house. Before it was reconditioned, time and termites had eaten the old wooden pendulum and children had broken the glass on the outside of the globe. Surely, the old Jenson family clock—grandfather’s clock or great grandfather’s clock—is an antique that belongs in a museum.

Grandsons and great grandsons of our revered family clockmakers think we have a priceless memento and avow it will never get out of the family.


This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 1972 issue of Pioneer Magazine
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