January 27, 2017
GRANGEVILLE – If a clock could talk, the grandfather standing in the Grangeville Wells Fargo branch would tick out quite a tale.
Neither flood nor fire could destroy his old bones. He’s travelled from Europe and across this great country eventually stopping in Grangeville where he has resided for the past 70 years.
Even as the hands who meticulously crafted and cared for it throughout the years have declined and passed, the antique remains resplendent, ticking away the moments of time.
The woodwork was originally carved by a French cabinet maker, and its timepieces were built in England. After natural disasters threatened the antique, a local master watchmaker meticulously restored the grandfather.
The clock’s first home was the A. C. Taylor Jewelry Co. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, stationed there from 1822 to about 1891. A Mr. Glosser of Colfax, Wash., purchased it and resold it to the Bank of Colfax.
Water rushing into the bank during a 1917 flood overtook the antique, which is no small feat as it weighs a hefty 350 pounds. After receiving considerable damage, it was stored for 12 years in the basement of Glosser’s Jewelry Store.
S. H. Cornelius, a Grangeville jeweler and friend of Glosser, bought the clock. With the help of Orville Biggers, the local master watchmaker, they began meticulously restoring it. Once completed, the antique stood watch in Cornelius’ jewelry store until it was sold to Gerald Walker in 1947.
In 1964, the Free Press wrote an article stating Marion Reilly housed the clock at the Imperial Hotel. It’s unclear how long the clock had resided there, but it is known that on Feb. 23, 1966, a fire destroyed the Imperial.
Orville, a brother-in-law to Gerald Walker, said the clock was displayed in the club next to the hotel. Had it been in the Imperial lobby it may well have been destroyed.
Surviving yet another disaster, Orville went back to work restoring the antique grandfather clock again. Most of the damage was from smoke, not fire or water, Orville said.
After restoration was completed, Gerald lent the piece back to the Reillys, Gerald’s son Bruce said. They then housed it in First Security Bank, which is now Wells Fargo Bank.
Gerald passed away in 1996 and Bruce became the owner of the clock. Like his father, Bruce agrees to house the antique at the bank, stating its grand stature is best displayed where there are higher ceilings.
At one time, Bruce said, the family had a letter Gerald received from legendary entertainer Bing Crosby asking to purchase the clock.
The masterpiece is hand-carved out of oak and walnut with birds-eye maple trim. Perched at the top is a mother eagle sheltering a nest of her young. It stands at a grand 10 feet 2 inches tall and is four feet wide at the base. The pendulum is 39 inches long, 13 inches across at the base and weighs 38 pounds.
Orville said it’s the most magnificent grandfather clock he has ever seen. He celebrates his 92nd birthday on Feb. 6 and is declining in health, unable to continue caring for the grandfather clock. His hands are the last to have gently maintained the antique.
It is through Orville’s efforts our community can enjoy this lovely piece of history. A small thank you seems insignificant for this grand structure and the time and care devoted it.
Only time will tell who will care for this magnificent antique in the years to come.
Laurie Chapman writes about the people, places and events bringing the prairie to life in the weekly blog, Prairie Pulse. If you have suggestion, contact Laurie by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 208-983-1200.