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Lewis, Thomas

Clockmaker
Birth: March 15, 1795, Barkhamsted, Litchfield County, Connecticut
Death: November 27, 1880, Farmington, Van Buren County, Iowa
Burial: Alfrey Cemetery, Farmington, Van Buren County, Iowa

An early settler in Vienna, Thomas Lewis, likely in partnership with Phineas Deming, manufactured wooden-work clocks in the Vienna Township clock industry between 1825 or 1827 and 1830. His place of business was located on Sodom-Hutchins (now Sodom-Hutchings) Road, approximately a mile and a half north of Woodford's Corners. He also peddled clocks and worked in other Vienna clock factories, beginning in 1817.

Lewis financed this clockmaking venture by holding a $500 mortgage against Deming. Though it is not clear whether the business was a factory or an assembly shop, the business employed six men between 1828 and 1830. Deming may have then left the business, which became Lewis's property. Lewis mortgaged the business in 1832, signing a note with Garry Lewis, Warren clock agent for $600, only to lose possession of this property through a later sheriff's sale.

Over extension of credit through mortgages, reduced demand for clocks, and an economic depression in the early 1830s essentially ended the clockmaking "boom" in Vienna and Trumbull County.

Thomas Lewis "declared that [he] had made about 600 clocks and 20,000-30,000 faces during his career."[1]

A clock signed by Thomas Lewis will not be found.  Using the language Lewis used in his court deposition; he “… made or caused to be made…” thousands of clocks.  This meant that he did some assembly, was proficient and even expert at clock assembly, but was not a clock-maker.  When Thomas Lewis hired women to paint clock dials he had to instruct them whose name to paint on the face, it was never his own.  We can assume that Lewis caused to-be-made many hundreds of clocks for Garry Lewis and Phineas Deming; and perhaps others. [2]

Lewis married Diana Deming in Vienna in 1817.  Census and marriage records show that after leaving Trumbull County, the couple took their daughter and three sons (Rodman, Justus & Abner) to Jackson County, Ohio.  It was in Jackson County, between the years 1840-1845, the sons met and married daughters of neighbors George Crookham and Elihu Alderman.  Thomas, Diana, their sons and their wives, and many of the wives’ relatives left Ohio circa 1842-46, settling in Fort Madison & Montrose, Iowa.  Soon after arriving in Iowa, Thomas and Diana Lewis moved on to Farmington Township, Van Buren County, Iowa. [2]


[1] Rebecca M. Rogers, Trumbull County Clock Industry, 1812-1825 (Dayton, OH : Sterling Graphics, [1991?]), p. 24.
[2] Information contributed by Bruce Paulson, relative.

Updated dates of clock factory operation contributed by Rebecca Rogers, September 2017.