It's time for a new clock-minder to watch Roxbury church tower
By Julia Green
The times, they are a-changin’. Or, more to the point: the times, they are a-changin’ hands.
Roxbury resident Dan Underwood, who has been the primary caretaker of the clock tower in the Roxbury Methodist Church for the past 20 years, is handing over the reins. Taking over will be Roxbury Historian Anthony Liberatore, who has been taking care of the clock under Underwood’s tutelage.
“He’s my Quasimodo,” Underwood said of his successor, whose interest in the clock grew as his familiarity with it expanded.
“I was amazed when he first brought me up here,” Liberatore said, standing amid the rafters of the Roxbury Methodist Church, where the clock keeps steady time. “I wasn’t interested at first, but I connected with a guy in Illinois who wrote a book about it, and it’s like anything else – the more you find out about it, the more you get interested. I love history, and this is history.”
The clock itself is over 100 years old and was made by the Seth Thomas Clock Company, a New England-based clock company incorporated in 1853 and responsible for the manufacturing of the clock at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
“It keeps pretty good time,” Underwood said of the clock, which was formerly located in the original schoolhouse in Roxbury.
The school was built in 1895 and included a tower for a new bell and the new town clock, which was given as a gift to the town by Frank J. Gould and was installed Sept. 16, 1895 – the first day of school.
The clock was relocated to the next schoolhouse, which was constructed in 1913. However, when the building was torn down years later and succeeded by the present-day Roxbury Central School, there was no place in the new building for the clock. Thanks to Roxbury resident Helen Gould Shephard, the clock was relocated from the school to the steeple of the United Methodist Church, where it was installed in October of 1939 and where it continues to run today, tended by Underwood and Liberatore.
While it was originally run by weights, with ropes that were pulled manually, a motor was installed in the 1940s and the clock now runs electrically, requiring regular cleaning and lubricating to keep it running smoothly – a responsibility that sometimes requires climbing up the outside of the church steeple. That high-wire act is part of the reasoning behind Underwood’s passing of the torch.
“Over the years, he’s learned a lot, and he’s passing it on to me now,” Liberatore said of Underwood, who himself learned the ropes from former Roxbury resident Marshall Slauson.
“It’s history,” Underwood added. “It’s been a part of the community for over 100 years, and it’s one of a kind. It’s still running… it’ll run forever, I guess.”