GOESSEL — Examples of timepieces spanning two centuries of design and craftsmanship are now on display at the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum. "Time to Celebrate: Russian Mennonite Clocks and More" is on exhibit through the month of September.
The oldest clocks in the museum are Russian Mennonite wall clocks with metal faces that are about 18 inches tall. A pendulum and chains hang down behind the clock's face, making its total length about four feet.
"The museum has three of these antique Russian Mennonite wall clocks; the oldest is dated 1822," said Fern Bartel, director of the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum. "In addition, we are displaying four Russian Mennonite wall clocks owned by Jerry and Leann Toews that are working."
Popularly used in Ukrainian farm houses during the 19th century, the clocks cost about two months' wages.
"They were prized possessions; they were status symbols," Bartel said.
Russian Mennonite wall clocks have square metal faces and arched tops painted with floral designs.
"Kroeger was the most well-known manufacturer of these kind of clocks," Bartel said.
Newlyweds sometimes received the gift of a Russian Mennonite wall clock with their initials and the year of their marriage painted on its face.
Immigrants from Ukraine wrapped their clocks in blankets and placed them in baskets or trunks so they would survive the trip to America.
While some of the Russian Mennonite wall clocks are displayed inside showcases, they were built without being enclosed in a wooden cabinet.
"These are not like grandfather clocks," Bartel said. "They were hung in the kitchen and were meant to be used."
Bartel synchronized the clocks as much as possible so they will chime together.
"I have to go around and pull their chains all the time," Bartel said. "They're not 24-hour clocks, either."
Not only do the working Russian Mennonite wall clocks sound the hour, several other clocks made in the early 1900s that are also on display still chime.
Clocks ranging from intricately carved wooden wall clocks to small, porcelain desktop clocks can be seen in the exhibit, softly ticking away the minutes of the day.
Five handcrafted clocks made by late Goessel native Orie Voth are also on display at the museum.
"He was a farmer in this area," Bartel said. "...When he retired, he built clocks."
Most of Voth's clocks are from Bartel's personal collection. Built from oak, there are three wall clocks, one mantel clock and one desktop clock included in "Time to Celebrate: Russian Mennonite Clocks and More."
The Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum, located at 200 N. Poplar in Goessel, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $5 for those 13 and older and $2.50 for ages 7 to 12. For more information, visit http://www.goesselmuseum.com or call 620-367-8200.