Sometimes you get more than you bargained for.

Digging around old copies of The Courier-Gazette, I cracked open a historical pandora’s box. Starting with a page of year-end photos and captions, I discovered the May, 1956 removal of the steeple of the First Baptist Church. The caption noted that hurricane winds had left the steeple too feeble to withstand the coming winter.

Additionally the Baptists were planning extensive renovations, which would become the big brick thing that would almost completely obscure the old church from view. Along with the steeple, a clock was removed and put into storage.

About that clock…

I remembered years ago hearing about a mysterious town clock being stored away somewhere in Rockland.

I phoned a friend and was told this was in fact known as the Butler Clock and was likely in the garage behind City Hall, having been moved from the basement of the Rockland Public Library after its rescue from the belfry.

I called City Manager Tom Luttrell who said he was pretty sure there was an old clock in the garage, and that I was welcome to come over and have a look. Tom did not know it was the Butler Clock. I arrived at City Hall, where I was met by a Billington (Sandy) with a key and out to the garage we went.

There it was, a bit rusty but entirely intact. A Howard tower clock by the E. Howard Company of Boston. I knew what I was looking at because of my experience with the Howard Clock in the Chestnut Street Baptist Church in Camden.

I was part of a group that fundraised and arranged the restoration of their clock by the Balser Family of Freeport years ago. I think of Howard Tower clocks as the Harley Davidsons of time keeping. Ruggedly built and handsome when restored.

So who was this Butler fellow?

His name was Edward Ansen Butler, born July 7, 1841. He was a Captain in the Union Navy during the Civil War.  He served as Mayor of Rockland three times in the late 1880s. His major accomplishment was the paving of Rockland’s Main Street (which oddly was not popular with the business community). He served as President of the Rockland Trust Bank which became Security Trust (located in the Harbor Square Gallery Building today).

From 1874 to 1922 he maintained a ship broker’s office in the U.S. Custom House on School Street (now a parking lot). He died March 23, 1924 at his home on Beech Street.

That leaves us to wonder who bought the clock and how it came to be placed in the steeple of the First Baptist Church.

That is a story for another day…

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

The Butler clock. Photo by Glenn Billington