2017-07-16 / News

Almont church works to get historic clock to chime again

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 •


Julie and Curtis McCaffrey, Pastor Keith Langley and Eric Bourque want to get the village clock in the Almont First Congregational Church ringing again. 
Photos by Phil Foley Julie and Curtis McCaffrey, Pastor Keith Langley and Eric Bourque want to get the village clock in the Almont First Congregational Church ringing again. Photos by Phil Foley ALMONT — For nearly 140 years the steeple on the First Congregational Church has loomed 120 feet over Almont, the tallest structure on the east side of Lapeer County until the coming of cell towers.

For almost as long, the village’s clock has struck the hours of the day just 20 feet from the steeple’s peak. That is until about six months ago.

“I grew up with the bells,” said church member Eric Bourque. “When was a little kid, we’d stop and count the bells, so we could run and be home by seven.”

Pastor Keith Langley said the clock has been having trouble keeping time for about a year, but six months ago it stopped at 4:07. “So, it’s right twice a day,” said church member Julie McCaffrey.


Curtis and Julie McCaffrey, Pastor Keith Langley and other members of Almont First Congregational Church hope to be able to repair the village clock and steeple that houses it. Curtis and Julie McCaffrey, Pastor Keith Langley and other members of Almont First Congregational Church hope to be able to repair the village clock and steeple that houses it. McCaffrey, who moved to Almont just a few doors down from the church with her husband, Curtis, a year ago Mother’s Day, said the clock “has been here too long, it’s too cool to let go to waste.”

Besides, Langley said, he’s been getting calls almost daily from townspeople since the bell stopped ringing asking what happened and when the clock will start ringing again.

The problem is, the church is small and the bill for repairs is going to be big.

Langley said about 70 people regularly attend Sunday services at Almont First Congregational. Needed repairs to the clock and the steeple that house it are estimated at somewhere between $60,000 and $95,000.

Bourque said the church was established in 1838, three years after the village’s first Post Office was named Bristol and two years after the village was platted as Newberg. He said a handful of New England families met in a school on the corner of Fisher and Bordman roads.

By 1873 the church had grown large and prosperous enough that the congregation hired prominent Detroit architect G. Gordon Lloyd to design a polychrome gothic church and they laid the corner stone on the corner of East St. Clair and North Bristol streets. Two years later the first service was held in the impressive church.

It turns out, the clock doesn’t actually belong to the church. Jim Wade, president of the Almont Historical Society, said James Thompson, who was credited with coming up with the idea of changing the town’s name to Almont in 1846 to honor the then Mexican ambassador, donated the clock to the village in 1878. But, he said, the village didn’t have a place to put it, so it stayed in storage for about two years while the village fathers argued over what to do with it.

Finally, the village struck a deal with church members, who allowed the clock to be installed in their steeple, provided the village pay for someone to periodically climb the 100 feet into the tower to wind the clock.

Bourque said the Almont Garden Club raised money in the 1960s to install an electric motor to run the clock and end the dizzying climb.

Now the church needs to rebuild or replace the motor, but it also needs to repair the structure that houses it so the clock can mark time for another 140 years.

“It’s not that we lack the desire,” Bourque said. “The church’s mission is to expand the Kingdom of God.”

Still, they’ve decided to move forward with a Save the Clock Tower effort. While walking to the church one recent morning, McCaffrey looked up at the clock and it reminded her of the clock in the “Back to the Future” trilogy.

The films inspired her to create a fundraiser based on the prom scene from “Back to the Future Part II,” released in 1989, in which Michael J. Fox goes back to 1955 to ensure his parents get married.

“I’ve never done anything like this,” she said. “This is new territory for me.” But she added, she plans to turn the church’s fellowship hall into Hill Valley High School in time for Almont’s Heritage Festival. “I’ve got a few prospective DeLorean’s lined up,” she said.

Beginning with the church’s annual pancake breakfast set for Sept. 16, she’s planning a series of “Back to the Future” theme activities ending with a showing of the film in the evening.

“She’s a woman with a vision,” Bourque said.

Langley added they’re also investigating the possibility of grants to help fund the steeple renovation.

“There’s something special about this clock,” McCaffrey said.

Return to top

Copyright © 2009-2017 The County Press, All Rights Reserved

Click here for the E-Edition
2017-07-16 digital edition

Unrestricted access available to web site subscribers

Subscribers to the County Press newspaper can now purchase the complete online and E-Edition of the paper for as little as $5 for three months. If you want a six month subscription to the online edition it is $10 and a full year can be purchased for $20.

Non-subscribers can sign up for the online version for $15 for three months, $30 for six months and $60 for an annual subscription.