Almon Thwing: Hopedale Inventor

                                                    
   By Gordon E. Hopper

    A copy of a handwritten bill of sale supplied by Bruce Kingsbury, a Wayland resident, indicates
    that Almon Thwing, a Hopedale machinist and inventor, had built and installed a community clock
    in Wayland. The bill of sale, signed by Thwing, reads as follows: "To Horace Howard and others
    to whom it may concern. Whereas a clock has been made and put up by me in the meetinghouse
    of the First Parish in Wayland, I hereby warrant the same to run well and keep good time and I
    further agree to keep said clock in repair for the term of one year saving all accidents which may
    occur thereto from causes disconnected with any part of my work thereon. Wayland, March 29,
    1851"

     A search of the Wayland Historical Society files conducted by Helen Fitch Emory, author of "The
    Puritan Village Evolves," which is the latest history of Wayland, resulted in locating a long list of
    names of individuals that had subscribed to the cost of the clock. It appears that 120 residents of
    Wayland contributed approximately $450 in 1850 to purchase a clock for the town and according
    to George Emory of the Historic District Commission, the clock was installed in 1851.

     A statement in Hudson's Annals of the Town of Wayland states, 'Unitarian Church built in 1814,
    dedicated in 1815, remodeled in 1850, public clock made by Thwing of Hopedale in 1850." Article
    4 in the November 2, 1858 town meeting warrant reads, "To see if the town will accept the clock
    on the Unitarian Meetinghouse and keep the same in constant repair and running order." It was
    reported in the town meeting minutes dated November 2, 1858, "Passed in the affirmative: the
    clock to remain where it now is." James S. Draper was chosen to take care of the clock at that
    time.

    It is believed that this clock was  replaced around 1910 because there is a formal contract in the
    church archives dated August 3, 1910 between the E. Howard Clock Company and the Wayland
    Village Improvement Society, Wallace S. Draper, Trustee, to install a tower clock in the tower of
    the first Parish Unitarian Church in Wayland for $600. Also to be included were "four sets of
    figures and dots in the very best quality of gold leaf which are to be attached to the present dial
    bodies after they have been refinished and the present hands regilded by the Howard Company."

     In an obituary supplied by Paul Curran of Milford, it was stated that Almon Thwing died on
    November 6, 1892 at an advanced age at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Zibeon C. Field, on
    Walnut Street in Milford and was buried in the family lot at Hopedale Cemetery.

    Thwing was born in Uxbridge, the son of Benjamin and Anne Thwing, on July 21, 1808 and was
    married to Sarah Ann Darling of Uxbridge on September 13, 1832. For a short period he resided
    in Uxbridge, Medway and Grafton before coming to Hopedale where he became one of the most
    valued members of the Hopedale Community. He held several Milford town offices with credit and
    his golden wedding observance in 1882 was more of a town rejoicing than a family celebration.

    A second newspaper item published on November 11, 1892, stated that Thwing was one of the
    early settlers in the Hopedale Community and that he occupied a prominent position in the town
    for many years, both as a manufacturer and as an officer of the town.

    As a point of interest, there was a newspaper item published in 1914 which stated that the
    remains of an ancient automobile had been uncovered in a building being torn down on Front
    Street. It was believed to have been at least 40 years old at that time and thought to have been
    built by Almon Thwing of Hopedale, an inventor and machinist.

    The name of the Thwing family has been given to a street in Hopedale and the name is still
    retained. In his "History of the Town of Milford" published in 1882, Adin Ballou states, "In respect
    to its topography and altitude above the level of the ocean, I engaged Mr. Almon Thwing of
    Hopedale to make examination and measurements which would enable me to place on record
    numerous interesting particulars worthy of transmission to after-times, as well as gratifying to the
    curiosity of the present generation." Thwing's effort in 1879 takes up three pages in Ballou's book.
    Milford Daily News, February 9, 1991.

    Among Almon Thwing's Hopedale relatives were three sisters; Anna, wife of Ebenezer Draper,
    Hannah, wife of George Draper and Sylvia, wife of Joseph Bancroft. Two of his daughters, Susan
    Thwing Whitney and Anna Thwing Field wrote of their days as children in the Community for
    Hopedale Reminiscences. Susan's story about the post office was the inspiration for Lynn
    Hughes's picture book, To Live a Truer Life: A Story of the Hopedale Community.

    Here is a newspaper article which mentions the Thwing house being moved to Union Street, and
    also tells of another clock:

    When Almon Thwing, brother-in-law of George Draper, lived at the corner of Hope and Hopedale
    streets, he had a large clock on the front of his barn. It was the only clock of its size in town and
    everybody referred to itas the Town Clock. It was built and maintained by Mr. Thwing with a great
    deal of pride. The house in which Mr. Thwing lived is now located on Union Street. Milford Daily
    News, October 30, 1934.

    The last sentence in the paragraph above led me to take a look at Union Street to see if I could
    tell which house was the Thwing home. Then I thought about something Anna Thwing Field wrote
    in Hopedale Reminiscences which made me think that I was looking at an Underground Railroad
    house. Click here for more on that.

                                                                          
 The Thwing Family   

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The Thwing stones at Hopedale Village Cemetery.

Thanks to Peter Metzke of Melbourne, Australia for sending this.

Milford Journal obituary from the Milford Library.