Currently viewing the tag: "riflemaker John Armstrong"

Last month, I wrote about how a local Emmitsburg collector owned two Armstrong rifles, which had been crafted in town. The same collector owns an Eyster clock, and the Maryland Room at the C. Burr Artz Library in Frederick owns a Hoover clock.

John Hoover is believed to be Emmitsburg’s first clockmaker. He lived from 1771-1832, so his working years would make him a contemporary of riflemaker John Armstrong and Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton.

The John Hoover clock in the C. Burr Artz Library is a tall clock in a wooden case. Hoover signed the face: John Hoover, Emmitsburgh, 20.

The numeral indicates that it was Hoover’s 20th clock.

“The case is very well constructed, and it is interesting to note that both this clock and the Eyster tall clock show a similar Pennsylvania Dutch influence in the design on the base,” Mary B. Nakhleh wrote in Emmitsburg: History and Society.

Little else is known about Hoover, regarding his clocks. Luckily, much more is known of Andrew Eyster (1800-1872). According to Nakhleh, a local story is that a clockmaker named Bachman, who came from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, trained Andrew in clockmaker and silversmithing. However, she also theorizes that, given their ages, it is possible Andrew Eyster learned his trade from John Hoover. Besides clockmaking and silversmithing, Andrew also earned a living as a jeweler. The Eyster shop was on the south side of West Main Street. He was also active in local government, serving as a town commissioner, burgess, and magistrate.

When Andrew died in 1872, his sons, George Edgar Taylor Eyster (1847-1914) and Hall Webster Eyster (1851-1927), took over the business, having been apprenticed to his father. At least one clock still exists that is labelled “G.T. Eyster & Bro., Emmittsburg.” According to Nahkleh, it has a double dial and a calendar dial that indicates day and month.

George was a Civil War Veteran. He had enlisted in the Army in 1864, and then signed up for Cole’s Cavalry in 1864, according to his obituary in the Emmitsburg Chronicle. “

Mr. Eyster was one of the few men who could boast of having heard Abraham Lincoln deliver that immortal address at Gettysburg at the dedication of the National Cemetery,” the Chronicle reported.

Like his father, George was active in civic affairs, although in his case, it was serving with the Vigilant Hose Company for 20 years as its captain.

George advertised his business in a way left little doubt as to what he did. “George T. Eyster has hung out, at his store, a large gilt watch, that indicates the time at 8:20 or 5:40 o’clock as you please to read it. It goes by swinging.” “This sign is still in the possession of the Eyster family,” the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported in 1883.               

Although George was the Eyster name on the business, Hall seems to have had the talent. Andrew may have recognized this because he left all of his watch and clock making tools to Hall. Hall also held a patent for creating an improved clock movement frame. “The frame was designed so that the mainspring arbors could be removed without tilting or damaging the movement. The lower portions of the clock frame, both front and back plates, were constructed in three parts which were screwed together in such a way that the entire lower frame could be dismantled sectionally,” Nakhleh wrote.

A third son of Andrew Eyster was also a clockmaker. George’s older brother, John Thomas Eyster (1833-1921), is listed in Maryland Clockmakers as Andrew’s son and apprentice who worked as a silversmith, jeweler, and watchmaker.

Given the rich tradition of clockmaking in Emmitsburg, it’s a shame that more Eyster and Hoover timepieces haven’t survived.

(left, below) Hoover Clock in the Maryland Room at C. Burr Artz Library.

Besides a Catholic Saint who once lived here, Emmitsburg has a famous riflemaker in its history, as well as other artisans. It’s a town heritage that Town Planner Sue Cipperly would like to see developed in the future.

Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs and Cipperly told the Emmitsburg Commissioners that an effort was underway to find a place where a statue of riflemaker John Armstrong could be placed. Artist Gary Casteel has expressed an interest in creating the statue.

Armstrong is most famous for the variation of the Kentucky long rifle. His rifles are highly sought-after collector’s items today. However, he is not the only artisan or famous person to come through Emmitsburg.

The Eyster Family had a number of notable clockmakers, and John Hoover was also known for the clocks he made. One of them can be seen in the Maryland Room of the C. Burr Artz Library in Frederick. George Miles, author of the unofficial Confederate National Anthem, came from the town, as well as Stanley Krebs, a noted psychologist. Then there are the authors, artists, and notable graduates from Mount St. Mary’s.

“I would love to try and showcase more of the earlier history of Emmitsburg,” Cipperly said. She said that occasionally people bring artifacts and other pieces of Emmitsburg history into the town office, hoping to find more information about them. “We have a lot of people who know quite a bit about the history of the town.”

While there are already established sites in Emmitsburg connected with its religious history, Cipperly would like to see other areas developed. Depending on what is developed, a walking tour through town could be put together that includes the Elizabeth Ann Seton sites, fire museum, and other significant points of interest.

“There’s not a lot of towns our size that have the amount of history that we have,” said Cipperly.

While the developing Emmitsburg’s cultural history is on her radar, it is not something to pursue in the immediate future. The town has major projects ongoing with the Route 140 bridge, sidewalks, and town square going on right now.