Williamson Seward Wrote 'Obituary' for Old Town Clock



In the above photo is shown a likeness of one of Bloomlngton's most prominent citizens of years ago, a man who was loved and honored by all who knew him -- Williamson B. Seward. He was a son of Austin Seward, who started the Seward foundry in this city in 1821 -- one hundred and twenty-eight years ago. This business has the unique distinction of having been kept in the same family during the entire period, and is now being successfully conducted by the great-grandsons of the founder, Fred and Austin Seward. The photo shows Williamson B. Seward in his later years with his grandson, Ben. Hall, who now has three children of his own, and who is engaged in the cafe business on East Third Street.

W. B. Seward was more than an ordinary man. He had an inventive mind and was a genius in mechanics. This was recognized at the time the present State House in Indianapolis was built when Mr. Seward was chosen by the governor to be one of the architectural commissioners during the ten years this magnificent structure was being erected. This job required that Mr. Seward be on the ground most of the time the building was under construction. It was built entirely of Monroe county stone -- from the quarries at Stinesville and Ellettsville. Back in the early days, the Monroe county commissioners appointed Mr. Seward to purchase and install a court house clock in Bloomington. During all the time it occupied a place in the tower, Mr. Seward looked after it to see that it was kept running and in good condition. He doubtlessly felt that the clock was almost like a child to him, and when it came time to bring down the faithful old timepiece when the new court house was built, Mr. Seward felt inspired to write the following "obituary", as a farewell. He had lived almost half a century after he had installed the clock, before the old building was wrecked.

The poem follows:

The old town clock is silent now,
 No more its wheels go round,
No more we hear the peal at noon,
 No more we hear the sound
Of Joyous notes high in the air
 As hours are passing by.
Oh, who is there in all this town
 Who fails to give a sigh
When thinking of the faithful work
 The old clock's ever done,
Who cannot say, down in his heart,
 "Thou good and faithful one."
The old clock had a hint or two
 Its work would soon be done,
That soon its very vitals would
 Be scattered one by one
In places no one cared to look,
 Perhaps for endless sleep,
Without a friendly word or prayer
 Nor mourners there to weep.
One night not very long ago
 When everything was still
Except the beating of its heart
 The old clock wondered, "Will
My old friends still remember me,
 And look up for my face
When I am down, dead, dead and gone,
 And finished my long race"?
For thirty years and more I've toiled,
 And faced the boiling sun,
And winter winds and ice and snow
 Have failed to stop my run.
Sometimes my face encased in ice,
 My hand so still and cold,
That I could scarcely move them round,
 And yet it may be told
I measured the passing time
 Exactly as it came,
And each day in and each day out,
 Was always just the same.
I know they've got a new town clock
 With fangled wheels and bells,
That's tuned exactly to the sound
 Of all the College yells,
And this new clock essays to play
 Most any hymn or tune
I would not be surprised to hear
 It rip out, . . . "Old Zip Coon."
Such frivolities are not for me,
 I never was that kind,
My dignity would not allow
 Such thoughts within my mind.
I am content to ring the hour
 The good old-fashioned way,
Without a prelude, note or sign
 Of what I am going to say.
But all these thoughts can do no good,
 I know the die is cast--
Great Scott, The men are here right now
 To hear me ring my last.
Yes, I'll die game and show my strength
 No matter what is said,
By men who've gathered round me now,
 I'm going . . . gone . . . I'm . . .

Dr. James A. Woodburn, the historian, also lived in Bloomington over a long period of years, and regarded Mr. Seward one of his best friends. At the time of the latter's death, Dr. Woodburn read the following tribute, in part:

"I feel very deeply a desire to pay some brief and humble tribute to Hon. Williamson B. Seward, one of the founders of the Monroe County Historical Society in which he was such an active member. I have known Mr. Seward all my life, ever since I have been old enough to know any one; and it was with the greatest sorrow that I heard during my absence from home last year of the untimely death of his son -- William H. Seward. 'Like father, like son' -- the boy lived the life that his father would have him live, and those who knew William H. Seward, boy and man, as I did, knew him a spirit that was generous, fair-minded, open-hearted -- a useful, honorable, upright, public-spirited citizen. It is a distinct loss to any community to have such a man called from it in the prime of life.

"Death called the father a few months later. Williamson B. Seward, the father, spent his whole life of 76 years in Bloomington. He was born in 1833 in the old Seward homestead at the corner of Walnut and Seventh Streets, on a lot that is now a part of the Batman block. His father, Austin Seward, a man of distinction and of unusual service in the pioneer community of his day, has been suitably celebrated in the archives of our historical society by a paper read by Judge H. C. Duncan before the society several months ago.

"W. B. Seward was a man of unusual intelligence, he read well and widely and he had a good appreciation of the knowledge that came to him through reading. He was a friend of education, and always did what he could to advance the cause of science and learning. He knew the values of life, and never made the mistake of despising the man who gave himself to study, investigation, and discovery.- He had good strong common-sense -- what men sometimes call 'horse sense.' He was always open-minded and fair-minded, the friend of every man who had the disposition to seek a useful life and pursue it earnestly. He appreciated highly and sought to encourage the inventive power of men, and nothing interested him more than some new invention or mechanical contrivance that was calculated to save labor and increase production. His services on the State Board of Agriculture and the State House Commission are well known to his friends."

This page was last updated 4 Dec 2004.