Last month’s History Mystery was about the Leonard Destin house fire. After that column ran, a Destin family member on the Leonard Destin Jr. side of the family contacted me with some additional family information. I also received photos of some of the original Leonard Destin Jr. and his wife, Mary Ellen (Parrish) Destin’s furniture … and it is beautiful.
One item that stood out to me was their 1800s Ansonia Teardrop Parlor Clock. This clock stood on a small table as in the photo below. It was an eight-day clock that has two winding mechanisms on its face. One winds the clock for eight days of operation and the second winds the spring for the bell that strikes on the hour.
The Ansonia Clock Company was one of the major 19th-century American clock manufacturers. It produced millions of clocks in the period between 1850, its year of incorporation, and 1929, the year the company went into receivership and sold its remaining assets to Soviet Russia.
The company was formed by Anson Green Philips in an area in New Haven County that became Ansonia, Connecticut. In the mid-1800s, inexpensive clock movements made of rolled brass had largely replaced wooden movements in America. At its height, the Ansonia Clock Company manufactured 225 different clock models.
So how did this clock made in Connecticut make its way to the small fishing village of East Pass (now known as Destin) in the late 1800s? Ansonia Clocks were very popular in America and they were sold all over the world in the early 1900s. Maybe Leonard Jr. bought the clock in Pensacola where the local fishermen went each week to sell the fish they caught.
Or maybe…just maybe…one of Leonard Destin Sr.’s relatives from New London, Connecticut, brought the clock from Connecticut to Leonard Sr., as a gift. In Chapter 16 of my book, “DESTIN’S Founding Father…The Untold Story of Leonard Destin,” I mention a visit by Leonard’s younger sister, Ellen (Destin) Hempstead. She and her husband, Elias Hempstead, who was a whaler, came to visit Leonard Sr. and his family for at least three months in the summer of 1881. They taught Leonard and Martha Destin’s children lessons in reading and writing. Their 11-year old daughter, Martha Fannie Destin, wrote a diary that describes each day’s activities. That diary exists today. It describes the family’s daily activities in the area that was then known as East Pass and had less than a dozen families living at what would become Destin, known as “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” today.
This mystery may never be solved and we may never really know how Leonard Destin Jr. acquired this clock that was made in Connecticut. However, it surely is a beautiful antique clock that 100-plus years later still runs and graces the home of one of his relatives.
H. C. “Hank” Klein is a Destin historian, author, and speaker on local history. He visits often and lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas with his wife (the former Muriel Marler of Destin). Klein recently published two Destin history books - DESTIN’S Founding Father…The Untold Story of Leonard Destin and DESTIN Pioneer Settlers...A Land History of Destin, Florida from 1819-1940. Both can be obtained from Amazon.com, The Destin History & Fishing Museum in Destin, Henderson Beach Resort in Destin, The Indian Temple Mound in Fort Walton Beach, and Sundog Books in Seaside. Klein can be contacted directly at email@example.com.