The story behind the Seth Thomas clock comes from the Stell side of my family. I heard it hundreds of times growing up but it was never written down. For generations the Stell family lived near Fordyce, in the Big Woods of Dallas County Arkansas, an area full of pine trees and farm land.
Just two months before the start of the Civil War in 1861, a clock peddle from Connecticut was traveling through Dallas County, Arkansas. My great grandfather, William Dallas Stell was a teen-ager when the enthusiastic clock peddler’s wagon rolled up to their farm house. He was invited to wash up and stay for dinner.
The young man accepted the invitation and while they ate he explained his predicament. He told the family he was from Connecticut and fully understood the war was about to begin. His brothers already planned to fight with the Union and he felt he had to return and fight along side them.
He was afraid however that he’d never make it back in time because of his wagon and the Seth Thomas clocks he was carrying with him. He made a deal with my great great grand father as young William Dallas Stell listened. He wanted to leave the wagon and the clocks in the barn. If he lived through the war he would return and give Mr. Stell a clock. If he did not return all three or four clocks and the wagon would belong to the Stell family.
The men shook hands and the younger man said he was certain the war wouldn’t last too long. The next morning, at first light, the young clock peddler took off on horseback to join his own brothers.
The barn, the wagon and the clocks survived the Civil War, but they young man never returned. Each boy in the family was given a clock with the instructions it was to stay in the Stell family.
And so, the young Yankee peddlers clock sits in my closet waiting for my son, who bears his great grand father’s name, Jack Stell, to finally take it home.