Business and Labor

Timothy Chandler – New Hampshire Clockmaker – Learns About Fire

March 10, 1807, Concord, New Hampshire organized a fire department and Timothy Chandler was named one of five fire wards. In early America, towns named fire wards to keep watch at night for fires and to inspect the houses and other buildings for fire safety violations, such as using wood in constructing chimneys.

Chandler was very active in town affairs, and it's not surprising that he would be chosen for the position. He was born in the town and relocated to Connecticut for a time in the 1880s to serve an apprenticeship as a wool carder. It was during his time in Connecticut that he most likely learned the clock-making trade.

When he returned to Concord, by 1791, Chandler had the skills to set himself up as a silversmith and clockmaker. In 1797 he joined the minutemen militia and was given the rank of Major in 1799.

At the time Chandler was in business, a clock was a luxury item available only to prosperous families, and Chandler was one of a very limited number of clockmakers operating in New Hampshire. Historians say his clocks were somewhat cruder than the clocks available in cities like Boston. But they were still sought-after status symbols.

Late on August 17, 1809, a half-hour before midnight, the inhabitants of the Concord were roused from sleep by cries of "Fire, fire!" An air furnace or forge in Chandler's clock factory had sparked a fire that quickly consumed the entire factory, as well as his house, sheds and a barn full of hay. Before it could be contained, the fire spread to two large barns belonging to Robert Harris and burned them, as well.

Chandler suffered a $5,000 loss in the fire. This was before the widespread use of fire insurance, but the people of the area took up a collection and donated $1,200 to Chandler to help offset his losses.

Chandler would rebuild, and continue his career as a clockmaker. In 1814, when Governor Gilman ordered creation of local companies to defend the town in the event of attack, Chandler, now in his 50s, again volunteered to serve in the militia.

And in 1825, Timothy Chandler was one of the first officers of the newly formed New Hampshire Mutual Fire Insurance Company, one of New Hampshire's earliest fire insurance providers.

Chandler would live until 1848. He briefly entered business with two sons, but the joint ventures did not last. He left behind a legacy of silver pieces and clocks that are today valued in the thousands.

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  1. Pingback: The Rev. William Bentley, on the Alert for Salem Fires in January - New England Historical Society

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