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Courthouse custodian keeps the clock ticking

Staff writer

Troy Schmidt refused to have his picture taken but he is eager to talk about his responsibilities as the new custodian at Marion County Courthouse.

Since taking the job in early September, he has learned a lot about the 102-year-old limestone building and its contents.

One of his responsibilities is to maintain the courthouse clock. David Seay of Regulator Time Co., Manhattan, who overhauled the clock and its four faces 12 years ago, came to Marion to show Schmidt how the clock operates and how to take care of it.

Schmidt learned that adjustments have to be made from time to time to keep the clock running accurately. A pendulum attached to the interior clockworks occasionally must be adjusted slightly up or down to swing back and forth every 1.5 seconds.

Schmidt said because of the metal parts, the pendulum slows in cold weather and speeds up in high temperatures. When the clock is off by as much as two minutes, Schmidt tweaks a large nut to make the necessary adjustment.

It is Schmidt’s job to wind the clock every week. Using something like a giant replica of the wing nut on an old-fashioned alarm clock, he winds the clock and bell chime.

He oils the clock every month.

Schmidt has enjoyed learning to know the history of the courthouse. The various carvings on the building are fascinating, he said. The sturdiness of the inside walls also amazes him.

“Not one wall has a crack,” he said.

The four-faced clock was installed in 1908, a year after the new courthouse opened for business.

Commission meeting minutes from that time reveal to be made from time to time to keep the clock running accurately. m how it operates.

ew rmany county residents objected to taxpayer funds being used for a clock because only Marion residents would enjoy it. Therefore, Marion businessmen banded together to supply the necessary funds.

Forty years later, when the clock needed minor repairs, taxpayers again rejected use of county funds, so P.J. Garrison, a Marion dentist, volunteered to make the necessary repairs.

In the summer of 1998, Seay did a total restoration of the clockworks. Each of the seven-foot, 200-pound cast iron clock faces was removed, sandblasted, and painted. Some parts were replaced.

This time the project was paid for with funds from Kansas State Historical Society and the county.

Under Schmidt’s watchful eyes and careful attention, the clock should keep ticking for many years to come.

Schmidt and co-custodian Marsha Pagenkopf are responsible for maintaining the courthouse, annex, and county health department on Main Street.

He is happy to have a job in Marion, where he lives with his wife, Eileen, and their 7-month-old son, Noah.

Schmidt enjoys the security his new job provides.

“I like it here,” he said. “I’m a custodian now, but there’s always room for advancement. I don’t think there’s much chance of me being laid off.”

Last modified Oct. 28, 2009

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