More than a century after it was installed, courthouse clock is coming back to life in Cass County

bbashioum@demo-mo.comAugust 8, 2014 

In the early 1900s, a group of 18 women spearheaded a movement to put a working timepiece in the Cass County courthouse clock tower.

The courthouse was about a decade old when the women formed the Harrisonville Town Clock Club on May 11, 1908.

According to an article in the Democrat Missourian, they held their meetings in the ladies’ restroom in the courthouse, usually on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons.

The women raised fund for the clock through pie suppers, ballgames, bazaars, minstrel performances and a now-mysterious activity that the newspaper of the time called poultry and egg proposition.

With those funds, and $200 from the county court, the club purchased a Seth Thomas clock, which remains on the tower today.

Installation was completed on June 10, 1909.

Total cost: $1,231.

More than a century later, Cass County is prepared to spend nearly 90 times that much to restore the timepiece and get it working again. It’s been broken at least 10 years.

The Cass County Commission, in partnership with the county historical society, conducted a ceremony July 31 inaugurating the restoration of the 1909 Seth Thomas tower clock.

“I believe the Tower Clock Restoration Project at the Cass County Historic Courthouse is an endeavor that all Cass Countians can take pride in,” Presiding Commissioner Jeff Cox said. “Preserving our history is one of the most important things we can do for future generations.”

Lifelong Harrisonville resident Katrine Cummins, 83, was among about 80 people who attended the event.

Her grandmother, Elizabeth “Fanny” Schweizer, was a member of the clock club.

Schweizer died when Cummins was 3 or 4 years old, but the girl heard stories about the club from her aunt. And she grew to love the clock.

“It always made me sad when a storm would come along and knock it out,” she said.

“I always looked toward the clock to make sure I was getting to school on time.”

Also attending was 88-year-old Kathleen Dickerson.

She said her grandfather, Romey Robert Rooks, brought the clock to Harrisonville on his work horses and helped hoist it into the tower.

Dickerson grew up in Garnett, Kan., but spent summers in Harrisonville with her grandparents.

“I would hear the clock all the time,” she said. “Grandpa told me all the time, ‘Oh, I put that clock up there.’”

Dickerson now lives in her grandparents’ home, four blocks from the square at Ash and North Lexington streets.

“I’m glad they’re going to fix it,” she said.

It might not have happened without Larry Boucher, a clock enthusiast and second vice president of the Cass County Historical Society board. More than a year ago, he began urging county leaders to consider restoring the timepiece.

The financing proved daunting, just as it did for the Harrisonville Town Clock Club back in 1908.

But no pie suppers this time.

The county applied for a state historic preservation grant, which will cover 70 percent of the $106,450 cost. Cass County taxpayers will pick up the rest.

And by this time next year, clock restorer Chuck Roeser with Essence of Time in New York State is expected to have finished the job.

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