Lafayette County clock on track to toll this week

OXFORD – Dozens of Oxford residents and visitors pored Thursday over an object that they’d probably never spied before and likely never will see again.
The mechanism for the four-faced 1870 A.S. Hotchkiss clock that graces the Lafayette County Courthouse was on display in the building’s lobby, a day before clockmaker Lloyd Larish and county workers were to restore it to its working home three floors up in the clock tower.
“I’m fascinated by clocks, especially old ones,” said Carolyn Ross of Oxford.
Larish spent several hours Thursday explaining the mechanism to passersby, showing the gear box that will turn each of the four sets of hands on the 1870 A.S. Hotchkiss timepiece along with a larger gear assembly that still bears a spool for the weights that originally powered it. Before being converted to electric power, probably in the 1950s, the weights had to be rehoisted about every eight days.
“Right in the back of that picture would have been the mechanism,” Larish said, pointing to the center of the lobby’s east wall. County officials had hoped to restore the clock to weight-driven status, but the change was not architecturally practical.
The $35,000 repair on the clock was to have coincided with the $3.4 million restoration of the courthouse itself. The building renovation, originally estimated at 11 months, ended up taking more than twice that long, and Larish’s part of the work – including replacing pieces that had been lost or mistakenly swapped out – took more than three years.
Larish, whose Faribault, Minn., business is known as the House of Clocks, had previously restored the remarkably similar clock at the Marshall County Courthouse in Holly Springs. He predicted on Thursday the clock would be running by today or Tuesday, with each set of hands to 12 o’clock before connecting the five-watt electric motor that will keep everything moving.
On each hour, day and night, the single-tone cast-iron bell will ring the time. When last heard, it was a sound had become irritatingly random.
“I unhooked it probably six or seven years ago,” said Dave Yarbrough, the county’s buildings and grounds superintendent. “It would ring at the wrong times. We knew we were going to get it fixed anyway.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal