117-year-old Marion County courthouse clock running again

Marion County’s Courthouse clock is keeping accurate time again.

“We’re glad to report that,” said Presiding Commissioner Lyndon Bode, during the Jan. 8 county commission meeting in Palmyra, where the clock has been located in the courthouse for what in 2018 will be 117 years. “We know it’s been a long time coming. We’re glad it’s up and going.”

The clock has actually been functioning since late in 2017.

“Neil (O’Bryan, the county’s maintenance director at both courthouses) called me back right before Christmas, on Dec. 22, and said the clock was up and going,” recalled Bode. “We held off saying anything, but now we feel confident it’s going to keep working since it’s been a couple of weeks.”

Bode noted that an assortment of tasks prevented O’Bryan from giving the clock’s repair his undivided attention.

“As our maintenance director he would get calls from here or there to work on parts of either courthouse, whether it was the one in Hannibal or Palmyra,” he said. “Then there’s the weather, too. When it was really hot the clock tower definitely holds all the heat. He kind of had to wait for the right time to work on it.

“Neil has been looking at it and trying different things over the last couple of months. It took a few tries, but Neil was able to get the clock going.”

Bode saluted O’Bryan’s efforts to revive the clock, whose hands for weeks were stopped at 5:07.

“Neil did a great job getting it repaired,” he said. “Neil has done a very good job at various projects like this in the past. He has kept the clock going all the years he’s been our maintenance director.”

According to Bode, the commissioners were delighted that for the most part O’Bryan did the repairs in-house.

“He had to have some parts made at the Hannibal Career and Vo-Tech School,” he said. “The two boys (Shawn O’Bryan and John Fowler) that made the parts greatly helped.”

O’Bryan also sought advice from an expert.

“Neil has been in contact with an individual from Indiana who’s actually worked on clocks similar to ours,” said Bode.

The costs associated with getting the clock running again were not excessive.

“They were nothing like (the cost of) a new clock or even to have a repairman in,” said Bode.

Had O’Bryan not been successful the commissioners were prepared to spend some money in 2018 to get the clock running.

“We were even looking at budgeting some (money) if we needed to,” said Bode. “We always have a line item for repair work at the courthouse. We were going to use some of those funds if we had to have a repairman come in from out of town who had worked on that type of clock.”

Based on the public feedback he received, Bode knows restoring the current clock to service will please many county residents.

“There was some consideration for getting a different kind of clock and putting it up there, but all the public comment I had was to try and get the original clock going, and we were able to do that,” he said.

Public sentiment is what led to the courthouse even having a 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