To say that the 116-year-old clock in the Marion County Courthouse in Palmyra never tells the correct time would be inaccurate. But aside from 5:07 a.m and 5:07 p.m. each day, the clock's reliability as a time piece has become a point of discussion for the county commissioners.

To say that the 116-year-old clock in the Marion County Courthouse in Palmyra never tells the correct time would be inaccurate. But aside from 5:07 a.m and 5:07 p.m. each day, the clock’s reliability as a time piece has become a point of discussion for the county commissioners.

“Our clock’s got problems. It’s quit,” said Steve Begley, Western District commissioner, during a commission meeting in Palmyra earlier this month.

Begley reported accompanying Neil O’Brien, the county’s maintenance director at the courthouses in Palmyra and Hannibal, into the building’s clock tower to work on the device. That maintenance excursion into the building’s upper reaches was not successful.

“We haven’t quite figured it out,” said Begley. “We think it (problem) is in the upper gear box; it is hanging up a little bit.”

Begley offered a theory regarding what might be the clock’s problem.

“I don’t know that we’re using the proper lubricant on that type of mechanism,” he said. “Probably when that old clock was built they used sperm whale oil on it. There’s a newer type of synthetic version of that type of oil. I would like to try it on the clock before we actually go to tearing it apart.”

If the different lubricant fails to get the hands of time moving again, Begley suggested it might be time for the commissioners to consider other options.

“I was looking at possibly upgrading that clock,” he said.

Begley realizes that such a proposal might prove controversial in certain historical circles.

“I understand the historical significance of a 100-year-old clock and everything,” he said. “But wouldn’t it be better if we had a clock that worked up there than one that is historically significant but doesn’t work?”

Replacing the current clock may not be as expensive as some might think, according to Begley.

“There might be such a thing as selling the old clock for a good chunk of money and then upgrade it at little at no expense to us,” he said.

Following the Monday, Sept. 25, commission meeting Presiding Commissioner Lyndon Bode indicated that no funds have been allocated for either repairs to or replacement of the courthouse clock.

After the courthouse was completed in 1901, citizens expressed a desire to have a clock installed in the building’s tower. A public committee was challenged with raising $1,000 for the clock’s purchase.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com