For nearly a decade, Mike Hurst has climbed three flights of narrow, wooden stairs at the county courthouse every week to keep its centuries-old clock chiming.
He visits a stuffy room that houses the clock’s mechanics and cranks a handle to wind it — ensuring that it will keep on ticking.
“I love it,” he said during a Monday visit to the clock tower. “I love taking care of the clock here and I am just glad I have been able to continue through the years.”
Hurst stepped up as keeper of the county’s clock when no one else wanted the job.
A co-worker pleaded an absolute fear of heights as a reason not to make the climb.
Hurst invested in sturdy shoes and stayed on even after he was promoted from maintenance to the county appraiser’s office.
“I get to see this beautiful piece of machinery that was built over a century ago that is working and doing fine,” he said. “The technology is amazing, the gearing, all the mechanisms, all pre-electricity and the computer age, and it keeps very good time.”
Hurst winds the clock and oils the components. Four times a year the clock is cleaned.
He has learned to make sure the ancient timepiece is running as it should and knows how to make adjustments when he needs to.
“If we’re a minute or two off, it’s a matter of pulling this tab out and literally turning it so it turns forward or back,” he said.
A crank attached to the clockworks can be adjusted to speed up or slow down the clock’s 9-foot-long pendulum.
Hurst had one brief training session with the previous custodian and had to pick up the rest.
A plaque with the manufacturer’s instructions sits by a chair in the tower. The manual has been somewhat helpful.
“I just began observing and reading what I could,” he said. “I do a lot of looking and analyzing so I can understand how the parts work together so I can do what is needed.”
The four-faced clock was installed in 1908 by the E. Howard Clock Co., of Maryland, a year after the courthouse opened for business.
It was purchased with donations from Marion County citizens.
The clock was partially renovated in 1997 and completely restored in 2013.
Accessible by a narrow, wooden ladder, its bell is in a small attic above the room that houses the clock’s components.
Hurst hasn’t been up there since he began working for as a data collector.
“It’s not easy, and it’s really pretty dirty,” he said, adding that he would like to go up there because it needs work.
He just wants to make sure that a county treasure is taken care of. He sees the clock as an example of what people can do.
“The beauty of it is that Marion County citizens pulled together more than a century ago,” he said.