by Erin Doane
For over two hundred years, the clock that now lives on the first floor of the museum near the admissions desk has ticked away the seconds of history. George Lauman acquired the clock sometime in the late 1700s and it was passed through five generations of the family before finally ending up in the museum in 2016.
The clock’s dial is marked Osborne, Birmingham. The English foundry firm made dials from 1772 through 1813. At that time, it was common for dials and clockworks made in England to be shipped to the United States. While Osborne made the dial, the company did not make the wooden case. It was impractical and expensive to ship full clocks overseas so American cabinetmakers would construct the clock cases around the imported works.
The clock’s first owners, George and Esther Maria Lauman, lived in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Both had German ancestry and were members of the Lutheran Church. George served in the Revolutionary War and then made his living as a stone mason. He died at the age of 65 in 1809 when a horse kicked him in the stomach. Esther lived until 1831. Upon her death, the family clock was passed down to Jacob, the oldest of their nine children.
Headstones of George and Ester Lauman in the Middletown, Pennsylvania. (from The Lowmans in Chemung County, 1938)
In 1788, at the age of 19, Jacob started a business transporting goods on the Susquehanna River to Tioga Point, Pennsylvania. He loaded a boat with 20 tons of goods including tobacco, liquor, dry goods, clothes, guns, ammunition, and tools and traded those goods for grain, flax, hemp, and animal pelts. The enterprise was very successful and he expanded it to the Chemung River. In 1792, he purchased land in Chemung, New York and started a lumber business. At that time, Jacob changed the spelling of his last name to Lowman. Over time, he acquired hundreds of acres of land, including a parcel at the mouth of Baldwin Creek near where the hamlet of Lowman is now located. The hamlet is named after Jacob Lowman.
Home of Jacob Lowman, Sr. built in 1819 (from The Lowmans in Chemung County, 1938)
Upon Jacob’s death in 1840, the clock passed into the possession of his youngest child, Jacob, Jr. His son also inherited the family homestead and other property. Eventually, Jacob, Jr. became the largest land owner in Chemung County with more than four thousand acres of productive farmland. He was involved in the tobacco industry and established the first tobacco warehouse in Elmira in partnership with John Brand. He also operated a distillery in Lowman with his cousin George S. Lowman which produced Old Lowman Rye Whiskey.
Jacob, Jr. never married or had children so when he died in 1891, the family clock went to George S., his cousin and business partner. George S. and Jacob, Jr. operated their distillery in Lowman until high taxes during the Civil War forced them to close. In 1872, George S. purchased a homestead in Wellsburg and built a block of stores downtown. A large hall above the stores was known as “Lowman’s Hall.”
Benedictus Ellwyn, grandson of George S., became the next owner of the Loman clock. B. Ellwyn was born in the family home in Wellsburg and attended Wellsburg Union and High Schools as well as Elmira Academy and the University of Pennsylvania. He was involved with the Thatcher Manufacturing Company in Elmira.
B. Ellwyn had one daughter but when he died the clock went to his sister Georgia’s family. Georgia was married to Chester E. Howell, Jr. The last owner of the family clock was their son George Lowman Howell. George Howell was well-known in Elmira and the wider community as a businessman and philanthropist. He was devoted to community service and the preservation of history. Before he passed away on November 22, 2015, he arranged to have the Lowman Family clock donated to the Chemung County Historical Society.
Lowman clock on display at museum
Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. This article was originally published here July 2017