Alexander Willard of Ashby, Massachusetts
This example is quite typical of the standard form that one would expect to see from an Ashby Clockmaker. The case is pine and features a grain painted surface. This treatment has been restored and is now quite stable. This case stands on and applied bracket feet. The base panel incorporates two subtle details. The first is that outside edges are constructed with a delicate beaded detail. The second feature is a line inlay pattern that shadows the shape of the square panel. Both of these features are highlighted with gold paint. The waist section is long and narrow. A simple rectangular shaped waist door is fitted into the center section and opens to access the interior of the case. The sides of the waist and the waist door are treated with the same details found in the base panel construction. The molded arched bonnet features a pierced and open fret work and three chimney or finial plinths. The plinths support turned wooden finials. These construction elements as well as the turned wooden bonnet columns and interior bonnet door moldings are also decorated with gold paint. The effect is quite striking. The bonnet door is an arched form. It is fitted with glass and opens to access the arched dial. It is a wood dial that is nicely decorated with paint. The floral designs and coloring used here are quite typical for this Maker. The Clockmaker's name is signed within the time track. This clock is signed in script, "Alex Willard, Ashby." The signature has faded. The wooden geared movement is the construction one expects from this Ashby clockmaking school. These types of wooden geared movements are designed to run 30 hours on a full wind and strike the hour on a cast bell.
This fine clock was made circa 1810. The overall height of this example is 7 feet 5.5 inches tall
About Alexander Willard of Ashby, Massachusetts.
It is reported that Alexander Tarbell Willard was a direct descendant of Col. Simon Willard (1605-1676), a co-founder of Concord, Massachusetts in 1637. Col. Willard had three wives who bore him seventeen children. The descendants of which made the Ashby / Ashburnham Willard families relatives of the Grafton / Boston Willard clockmaking families. I wonder if they knew of each other?
Alexander T. Willard was the son of an Ashburnham, Massachusetts farmer, Jacob Willard (1734-1808) and his wife Rhoda Randall of Stow, Massachusetts. He was born in this town on November 4th, 1774. He had one brother named Philander Jacob Willard who was also a clockmaker. It is now thought that he served his clockmaking apprenticeship with the Edwards Brothers of Ashby. He apparently worked in Ashburnham for only a brief time (1796-1800). On May 24th, 1800, Alexander married Tila Oakes of Cohasset. She was employed as a school teacher working in Ashby. They married and moved to Ashby shortly after. It has been recorded that she painted some of the wooden tall clock dials for his clocks.
In Ashby, Alexander made a large number of wooden geared tall clocks and became a prominent citizen of that town. He was employed as a Postmaster (1812-1836), as Town Clerk (1817 – 1821) and he invested and managed the construction of the Ashby Turnpike. It ran through Ashby center from Townsend to New Hampshire. We know that he made many wooden movement tall clocks because we have personally seen and own a fair number of them. It is also reported from various sources that he made the follow items; a musical clock, tower clocks, timepieces, old fashion theodolites or compasses, gunters chains, scales, timers, seraphones (A forerunner of the reed organ), rifles and repaired watches. I have no personal knowledge of any of these other items.
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