Newmarket’s Keeper of the Clock in the Church Steeple
John Palmer not only raised the money to buy the clock, he maintained the clock until shortly before his death in April 1874. He was our first “Keeper of The Clock”
Other “Keepers of the Clock” over the years were:
1884- 1904 - Charles L. Dearborn (along with John A. Gordon, William Proctor, Edward Tasker, and George O. Hodgdon). During most of this era, the Congregational Church bell was the primary fire alarm for the town. There must have been a lot of running around to get in if the church happened to be locked. In 1895, there were keys to the church at Dearborn’s Drug Store, the B.F. Haley Company, and Joseph Bennett’s livery stable.
1904-1939 - Charles Lavallee (an electrician in private business in town)
1940-1948 - Fred Lavallee, Charles’ son, (also an electrician and Town Fire Chief for many years until he suffered a fatal accident in 1949, falling down an elevator shaft in the mills.)
Robert Albee was also named as a Keeper of the Clock during this period as he worked as an electrician for Fred Lavallee and had knowledge of the clock’s mechanisms.
1948-1984 —Walter A. Gazda awatch maker and jeweler — who was assisted by his young son Robert
1985-present (2022) — Robert Gazda (now a retired electrician)
There have been several renovations and repairs to the steeple and Town Clock since 1958, when $1,625 was expended by the town for repairs.
In 1967 the town voted to appropriate the sum of $1,300.00 as the town’s share of the cost of repairing the Steeple that houses the Town Clock.
Up in the clock tower, far away from public view is a mini museum of sorts including old hour and minute hands, weathered sections of the clock face, pieces of clock gears that are past repair, and names etched in a pine board of past Keepers of the Clock.
(photo courtesy of Bob Gazda)
In 1972 the clock mechanism was refurbished; however, the old chimes were past repair.
2008 - a summer storm damaged the clock and the striking mechanism. A town committee placed a Warrant Article to raise $25,000 for major repairs to be done by David W. Graf of Kittery Point, ME. Work began in 2009 when Graf removed the timing and striking mechanisms in order to make the repairs. Once completed and reinstalled in October 2011, the chimes could once again be heard downtown.
Bob Gazda, our current Keeper of the Clock frequently walks through the Riverside cemetery. He once asked me about a particular lichen-covered gravestone belonging to Walter Greene and his family.
He thought that Greene had once sold a farm on Packers Falls Road to his grandfather back in the 20’s or 30’s; and he wondered if the Newmarket Historical Society had any info on him.
I told Bob that there was no wonder he was drawn to the stone; he is—in a manner of speaking—the continuation of a family legacy:
1) Bob Gazda Current Keeper of the Clock (2022) helped his father…
2) Walter Gazda (1917-1984) previous Keeper of the Clock, who was the son of…
3) Andrew Gazda (1893-1976), who bought his farmhouse on Packers Falls Rd in 1921 from…
4) Walter Greene (1861-1931) bank cashier, postmaster, real estate agent, who in 1884 married…
5) Bertha Bruce Palmer (1861-1930) genealogist and artist (works displayed in the Stone School Museum). She was the daughter of…
6) John Palmer (1817-1874)—the Original Keeper of the Clock
— I tried, but I just couldn’t find Kevin Bacon
—John Carmichael, New Market Historical Society—
The following article by Liz Markhlevskaya (firstname.lastname@example.org) appeared Dec. 10, 2010:
NEWMARKET —Starting this winter, Newmarket residents will once again hear the town clock chime every hour, as the downtown icon is scheduled to undergo restorations. The town clock, which has been located in the tower of Newmarket Community Church for more than a century, is in need of major repairs… The funds will come from the Town Clock Repair and Maintenance Capital Reserve Fund, which has more than $39,000.
Starting in January, David W. Graf Tower Clock Repair and Restoration of Kittery, Maine, will disassemble and clean out the entire mechanism of the clock. Some parts that have been worn out will need to be replaced by newly manufactured parts, said Robert Gazda, Chairman of the Town Clock Committee… and caretaker of the town clock.
The most expensive part of the project, said Gazda, will be fixing the clock’s face, which will take a lot of craftsmanship and labor. Over the years, the dials of the clock have warped due to weather, wear and tear, and the hands have begun to rub against the numbers, he said.
Gazda predicted that taking off the whole plate and remaking the dial, as well as renting a lift for a month to do the job, will cost between $5,000 and $6,000. The $10,000 contingency has been set aside in case problems are discovered in the clock’s structure once the face is removed. Gazda said while some split boards might be found after the dial is removed, he does not expect significant problems such as rotting in the structure. However, he said the entire project will most likely cost around $30,000 total.
The clock’s striking gear train… experienced major damage in June 2008. An old clad weld job caused the support plate to fall apart, and the clock’s weight fell on top of the mechanism’s gears …
Gazda said that Newmarket’s tower clock has one of the few remaining striking mechanisms that use the crane method, developed by Aaron Crane. “This is one of the very few that is an original,” said Gazda. Over its lifetime, the town clock has gone through four major repairs, the last of which was done in 1972 by Gazda’s father, Walter, a clock and watch repairman who had taught Gazda the trade. Since 1957 Gazda and Walter have been taking care of the town clock, and after Walter’s death in 1984 Gazda continued maintaining the structure’s function and historical integrity.
Each week, Gazda winds the clock … which has to be wound manually every eight to nine days, is sometimes off one or two minutes. Gazda said he will most likely remain the clock’s caretaker for the next 10 years; after that, a new person will have to … to keep the clock running. “It’s a focal point for the downtown area,” said Gazda. For the first time in more than 15 years, after the repairs are finished this winter, the restored town clock will strike its bell on each hour.