History Transcends Through Time

Recollection of a Location, 100 Years Apart

Sometimes ones curiosity about a place may have them ponder a little deeper about it’s historical significance. This was the case with Kevin McIlwain, who spent time in a place that had more historical meaning than he even thought. Kevin’s era at this place was in the 1950’s and 60’s. Also, there was something very important happening at this place in the 1860’s, which by then 100 years had past. This is Kevin’s recollection of his time spent there in his era, and then someone a few generations back recalls her time there.

Taylor House
1904 Directory indicates Benjamin Taylor resided here at 420 S. Jefferson St. He was a foreman at the Steel Works located across the street from his residence.

Having known Pete Harmon for quite a few years I asked him if he had any information or pictures of a house that I knew to be my grandparents’ at the southern end of Jefferson St. It was a red brick house that sat on property that abutted the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was my impression that it was a railroad hotel.


The house had a large yard with a garage that was long enough for several cars parked behind one another. The house had 4 rooms and a bath on the second floor. The rooms ranged from very large to very small. One was used by my aunt Anna Lee and the smallest was used by my grandmother as a sewing room. The first floor had 3 rooms and a large kitchen, which is where my grandmother spent her waning years after not being able to climb stairs.
The house was drafty and several of the rooms upstairs were closed off, but still had beds in them. The center hallway that had the staircase was also closed in by a carpenter later on, in an effort to keep from heating the whole house unnecessarily. The original source of heat was a coal furnace, and the basement always had a large pile of coal in in it, coal trucks would back in across the lawn to dump their loads in the chute. The banister of the stairs had a bend in it large enough that a person could start all the way at the top and slide the whole way. My sister taught me that, and with a little waxed paper, we had some great times on it. There was a large steel pipe in the yard that had the highest TV antenna I can remember in the neighborhood. We would typically watch the 3 Pittsburgh channels (2,4, and 11) but if you wanted to change the direction we had to go out with a pipe wrench and turn the bottom which also turned the top.
The neighbors were Clair Bowser’s North American Van Lines warehouse and Dean Phipps warehouse too. I would visit the loading dock of the outgoing trucks at Dean Phipps frequently. Les Simpson of Wick City was the foreman of this area.
My aunt sold the house to The Urban Redevelopment Authority in Kittanning after Gram passed away and she moved to the northern end of town. It was a nice house and I remember many happy times there with the family. I did go back once after it had been sold and was sitting empty, the grass had grown so tall that it had fallen over, the back door was standing open, so I ventured inside and had a look like before, but obviously there was no one home. Just goes to show a house needs a family before it can become a home.

By Kevin McIlwain

Showing Kittanning Brewing Company

The residence shown in the bottom center in a 1913 Sanborn Map. The Kittanning Brewing Company now is the location of the truck parking lot of Noel Ford.

2015 Location of Former Residence at 420 S. Jefferson St.

Looking north from S. Jefferson St. towards town from the front of the residence former location.

Taylor house


In 1922 an article was written in the Simpson Daily Leader Times of this same residence. Describing it at this time the railroad just came to Kittanning in the late 1850s, and as stated right at the edge of town not through it. This made me think of other historical journals regarding the accounts of the Civil War soldiers in Kittanning which I thought were interesting. One of them was the fact that for soldiers entering the service from the farms and country side, this would be their first time of ever seeing such a things as a train. It must have been an awe inspiring experience to see a complicated piece of machinery. From television accounts we don’t comprehend Civil War soldiers being in Kittanning, but with Camp Orr being south of the current YMCA, this is were several prepared before leaving by train from Kittanning.

Below is an early map of Kittanning showing the residence at 420 S. Jefferson St. which is listed as occupied by C. Rider. Without the date of the map, it is unknown which time period this is, but more than likely later than 1867 after the Reiters moved to Rosston, and due to the completion of the railroad tracks continuing through town.

Map of Lower Kittanning before the 1900’s with the C. Rider residence. The Rolling Mill was in the area of the current PennDot building. The rolling mill remained in Kittanning till 1926.

Note – All photos can be clicked for an enlarged view.

It’s Past Time…

I have had a difficult time in preparing the following article whether is was due to lack of ‘time’, concentrating on the actual delivery and writing of the content, or simply old fashion laziness, I decided I needed to complete it before I started articles of other matters. In my recent quest of becoming a clock collector, and researching the history of the nearly two dozen clocks that have come home with me, I reminded myself that somewhere in my readings and research on other subjects, there was once a clock maker in Kittanning. It didn’t take any real amount of time to locate John Clugston, the individual who built the clocks. This little afternoon curiosity, quickly turned into a quest to learn more about this seemingly obscure piece of Kittanning history.

This frame building is believed to be  John Clugston's clock store.
This frame building is believed to be John Clugston’s clock store.


On June 21, 1828 in an ad taken out of the Columbian, a newspaper published in Kittanning, that he had “commenced the manufacture of eight-day and thirty-hour brass clocks, in the frame building next door to Thomas Blair’s office,..” This was located on lot No. 122, on the north side of Market, a little above Jefferson street, and opposite the old Register’s office. It was quickly learned that Clugston never built and of his thirty-hour clocks, and only completed and sold five of the eight-day clocks.

These five clocks that were made cost in around the $40 mark and were made of the finest materials available at that time. One of the clocks was purchased by John Mechling, which later was purchased by J. E. Brown. Another clock was sold to James McCullough Sr., one by Mr. James Montieth, another to James Matthews and finally one to David Reynolds, owner of the Kittanning Inn. Mr. Clugston carefully constructed, polished and fitted each intricate part into creating these clocks. They also included attachments which indicated the day of the month and the current moon phase.

The clock owned by James Montieth, who was a charter member of the First Presbyterian Church, trustee of the Kittanning Academy in 1821 and operated a store in the 1820’s on Market, would become the property of his daughter, Mrs. Nancy Gilpin, whose husband, Dr. John Gilpin, moved the clock to Elkton in Cecil County, Maryland after his wife’s death. This clock originally stood in the mansion on Jacob’s Hill, built by Dr. Gilpin. After Dr. Gilpin passed away the clock was owned by his second wife, Olive Gilpin. Upon her death the clock was brought back to Kittanning by Mary Elizabeth Adele Gilpin McCain, the great granddaughter of the original owner, James Montieth. Jim McClister, and attorney from Kittanning once found McCain standing on a chair to wind the clock. He happily volunteered to the task of winding the clock every Sunday over the next several years. Mr. McClister remarked that the clock was quite tall and was very handsome with beautiful veneer, and that it kept great time.

DSCF0631 (1)The clock that was purchased by David Reynolds, was perhaps the best known of all five built by Clugston. This clock was placed in the Kittanning Inn, and it was that clock that became the official time for all business conducted at the Armstrong County Courthouse. Each day the county crier would transverse the Market and Jefferson Street intersection from the courthouse to the Kittanning Inn and find the ‘official’ time before returning for the start of each days court. This clock eventually fell into disrepair and wasn’t kept running. The clock remained in the Reynolds family until the great-grandson of David Reynolds sold it to Dr. Douglas and Mrs. Caroline Shaffer. Dr. Shaffer, a horologist, was at one time President of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors. In 1984, the Shaffer’s donated the Clugston clock to the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol, Connecticut. This clock which is made from walnut and tiger maple rises at 8’ 11″ tall, and stands as a testament to the craftsmanship of John Clugston.

The Clugston clock that was purchased by David Reynolds stood for many years in his Kittanning Inn and later in the Reynolds Hotel.

The Clugston clock that was purchased by David Reynolds stood for many years in his Kittanning Inn and later in the Reynolds Hotel.


The dial on the Clugston clock owned by David Reynolds is thought to be made by Philadelphian, William Jones.

Mr. Clugston who was believed to be born in Kittanning about 1802 only remained in Kittanning until sometime just before 1840,when he moved his family to Portsmouth, OH. There, he went from being a tall case clock maker to a watch maker. His wife, Caroline, passed away in 1858. Mr. Clugston then virtually vanishes and it is only known that he is buried in a cemetery in Calhoun County, Illinois near where his son William lived.


It is my desire to continue research on the remaining four Clugston clocks to see if any have survived the past 180 years. My clock and Kittanning memorabilia collections would be near complete with a Clugston clock in it!!!

The long walnut case from the Clugston clock now stands with many other great clocks at the American Watch and Clock Museum in Bristol, CT.

The long walnut case from the Clugston clock now stands with many other great clocks at the American Watch and Clock Museum in Bristol, CT.



page 303, 1830 Census of Kittanning Borough, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania.

page 89, 1840 Census of Portsmouth, Scioto County, Ohio.

page 198, 1850 Census of Portsmouth, Scioto County, Ohio.

page 367, 1860 Census of Portor Township, Scioto County, Ohio.

History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, Robert Walker Smith, Esq., Waterman & Watkins & Co., Chicago, Il, 1883.

Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 1914

Forum board of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors.

Mr. James McClister, Attorney

Clugston clock pictures courtesy of the American Clock and Watch Museum, Mr. Thomas Manning, Curator.

Picture of building on Market Street taken from the 1884 picture of Market Street, Christopher Anthony