Charlestown’s Stephen Hasham

Much has been written about Stephen Hasham of Charlestown, N.H. But most of what has been written has been limited to clock books or trade magazines. Therefore he is not well known locally. Below I give a brief history.

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Stephen Hasham tower clock at South Parish Church in Charlestown from December 1994 NAWCC Bulletin. Photo provided

 

Stephen Hasham

Stephen Hasham (later spelled Hassam) was born in Boston about 1761. At 14 he witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill from the steeple of a nearby church. During the Revolutionary War his family moved to Grafton, Mass., then to Worcester, Mass. and then Charlestown, N.H.

Hasham was a mechanical genius, wood carver, land speculator, and builder of both brick and wood-frame buildings in Charlestown. I best know him as an early clockmaker. He built tower clocks for church steeples, at least two grandfather clocks and a handful of “in the wall” clocks.

There are six of his tower clocks that exist today. They are in Charlestown, Cornish Flat, Haverhill, N.H. and Springfield, Windsor, and Norwich, Vt.

I saw a clock in an early home in Charlestown over 40 years ago that was built right into an interior wall. Hasham is known to have made a few of these “in the wall” clocks. Some of these have two dials so the time could be seen in two opposite rooms, rather ingenious. I don’t remember now if the Charlestown clock is two-sided or just one side. Perhaps the current owners will invite me over to see it again. I would like to take photos for an upcoming program regarding Stephen Hasham.

Hasham was married twice and had ten children. His second wife was 23 and he was 80. Even at this elderly age, he continued making clocks and children. The second marriage resulted in five more children, the last when he was 87.

Hasham is known to have dabbled in scientific instruments. Taken from: “New Hampshire Clocks and Clockmakers” by Charles Parsons: “He was a very ingenious mechanic and had a chaise with an odometer of his own construction on the hub of the wheel which counted the miles he drove each time he used it.”

Hasham was an atheist and quite outspoken about his beliefs. It’s interesting that an atheist would build tower clocks for churches. When one of his daughters died, he put her in a box and placed the box in a wheelbarrow so he could take her to the family tomb. Here he became trapped inside the tomb when the door closed behind him. There was no inside doorknob so Hasham was stuck until discovered by a passerby. There was no funeral service for his daughter. He is reported to have said, “She was as dead as the devil anyway.”

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Lady playing the piano by Childe Hassam. Photo provided

  Childe Hassam

Childe Hassam is one of the world’s great impressionistic painters and Stephen Hasham’s grandson. Childe was born in Boston in 1859 and died in East Hampton, N.Y. in 1935.

With Mary Cassatt, John Twachtman, and other American impressionists a group was formed known as “The Ten.” These men and women were the most talented of the new impressionist painters.

Childe studied in Paris at the Académie Julian, the most prestigious art school of the day. Here he met other impressionists and his unique style had its beginning. He was influenced by other artists including Claude Monet, Degas, and Pissarro.

In Paris, Childe painted street scenes that were shipped back to America to be sold. These paintings were executed in brown tones. His more colorful paintings were yet to come. In 1887 he painted two versions of “Grand Prix Day.” In these paintings we see his vision of impressionism.

These paintings document his change in style and technique. They were strongly influenced by his Parisian friends. His brush strokes became softer and he began using more color. Auction records for Hassam’s paintings have reached over $2 million.

 

Heads up – at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 14, at the Charlestown Town Hall I will give an informal talk and slideshow. I will cover Mt. Ascutney history including the stone house. I will also discuss Stephen Hasham including slides of his tower clock in the Methodist Church in Springfield. Perhaps the Charlestown church that has one of his tower clocks will allow me to photograph their tower clock to include in this program. This program is sponsored by the Charlestown Historical Society who provided me with information for this article. It’s free and open to all. I hope to see you.

An appropriate old saying for this week I heard years ago when some old-timers were talking at the Post Office. They were discussing how they hoped to die. One old man said, “I want to be shot at the age of 92 by a jealous husband.”

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