Beck-Bookman Library employee Gail Schmitz is shown in the photo above with a grandfather clock that dates back to the early 1800s. The clock was donated to the library by the family of a former librarian, Ellen "Nell" Lowell.

Rare clock donated to library

A grandfather clock previously owned by several generations of a family dating back to early 19th century New England — and turn-of-the-century Holton — now has a new, permanent home at Holton’s Beck-Bookman Library.

The rare clock is a gift from the family of a Holton woman who had been a patron of the library in its early days, Ellen “Nell” Lowell, according to Librarian Candee Jacobs, who welcomed the clock to its new home this past Saturday.

“We are very happy to have it,” Jacobs said of the clock, which does not appear to carry a “brand name” but, given its apparent origin in the early 1800s, has a similar style to early grandfather clocks built by the Willard Brothers in Massachusetts.

The clock — which is not making its first appearance in Holton, by the way — was presented to the library by B.J. and Sara Bono of Lenexa, who also presented the library with a great deal of information about the Lowell family, Jacobs said. Sara Bono is a niece of Nell Lowell, who never married, she added.

“Just out of the blue, he looked us up,” she said of B.J. Bono. “I said, ‘we’ll take it,’ and he said, ‘we’ll be over Saturday.’”

According to a history of the clock provided by the family, the clock’s first owner was Moses Lowell, a resident of Haderville, Mass., who lived from 1726 until sometime in 1817. Its next owner was Jacob Lowell, the fourth child of Moses Lowell and wife Sarah, who lived in New England from 1762 to 1819.

Jacob Lowell then passed the clock on to his fourth child, Abigail Lowell, who lived in New England from 1796 to 1856. She married Asa Houghton, and the clock was eventually passed to their sixth child, Joannah, who was born in 1835.

The clock’s next owner was Joannah’s cousin, Judge James H. Lowell, the grandson of Jacob Lowell and a Civil War veteran who moved from Putney, Vt., to Holton in 1875. A native of Boston, Judge Lowell reportedly served in several leadership capacities while living in Holton.

“He was the county attorney, police judge and mayor of Holton, to name a few,” Jacobs said.

In April of 1878, three years after Judge Lowell and his family moved to a house on Iowa Avenue in Holton, Ellen “Nell” Lowell was born, the third of five children born to Judge Lowell and his wife, Kate. The judge died half a century after his arrival in Holton, in 1925, and he is buried in Holton Cemetery, it was reported.

Nell Lowell, the clock’s next owner, worked for Campbell College as a voice teacher, according to information provided by the Bonos. The college’s 1916 yearbook was dedicated to her for “her uniting efforts on behalf of our college (that) have won for her the esteem of the entire student body.”

She would later serve as a librarian at Beck-Bookman Library and was very active in the library’s Bookman Club, Jacobs said. Sara Bono would often stay with her “Aunt Nell” as a youngster, attending classes at Colorado Elementary School in the 1920s, Jacobs added.

Nell Lowell never married, however, and her father’s will said that the clock must be given to a “male heir.” Since there were no “male heirs,” Nell gave the clock to Sara, who served as the executor of her aunt’s estate, with instructions not to sell the clock but instead to give it as a charitable gift.

After Nell’s death in 1977, the clock stayed with the Bonos until recently, when the Bonos called the library and offered to return it to Nell’s former hometown library. The donation of the clock came with several family photos and documents, including Judge Lowell’s will and the Campbell College yearbook, and those are stashed away in a bag inside the clock.

The clock, now located in the library’s west wing, is still in working condition, Jacobs said, adding that it will be maintained by Boyd Plankinton.

“It’s so much fun to watch the clock at work,” she said.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

Sign Up For Breaking News

Stay informed on our latest news!

Manage my subscriptions

Subscribe to Greer Citizen newsletter feed