Grant County Courthouse Clock – Striking Since 1910

By Jim Lancaster

BONG-BONG-BONG…….strikes the courthouse clock in Sheridan every hour.

Jeweler Jimmy Koon of Sheridan was only 12 years old when he assumed the maintenance and hand winding of the “town clock” of the 
Grant County Courthouse. Koon is now 76 years old, and the 93-year old clock is still striking every hour of every day, with the 
reassuring sound that all is well in Sheridan.

County Judge Kemp Nall was only 12 years old in 1964 when the old courthouse was torn down and a new one built. “The whole town 
and county wanted to make sure the clock of the old courthouse was preserved and would be installed in the proposed new building.” 
said Judge Nall. “But what they didn’t know was that while the mechanism would be saved, the 3-sided clock was to get three new 
faces in the new clock tower.”

Judge Nall tells how he watched the demolition of the old building and when they started tearing down the clock faces, he tried to 
save them.

“A bunch of kids gathered to watch them tear out the first clock face which was made wooden planks and was about 6 feet in diameter. 
I got upset seeing them take a sledgehammer and break them apart. So I went to the contractor and asked him to sell me one of the 
clocks faces and he asked me what I’d give,” said the Judge.

“I told him I’d pay $5 and he said okay – so I ran to the post office where my father worked and told him to give me $5 to pay for 
the clock face. My father, Dan Nall, went with me and paid the man – we kept the clock face in our garage until we gave it to the 
Grant County Museum about 10 years ago,” remembered Judge Nall.

The current attractive colonial style courthouse, built in 1964, replaced a square red brick courthouse that was built in 1909/1910. 
It was very similar to those built on courthouse squares of many counties of Arkansas in the early 1900’s.

The 1909 courthouse featured the huge three-sided clock and a tower with a bell that could be heard all over town and as far as 8-10 
miles out in the country on a still day or night. The people loved the clock so much that when the new structure was planned in the 
’60’s, the only way the public would approve the tax for the new construction was with the assurance that the old clock be saved and 
incorporated into the new courthouse.

“The clock mechanism was originally weight driven and had to be hand-wound every few days until about 1950,” recalled Jimmy Koon. 
“I worked with a contractor to put one electric motor on the mechanism and another electric motor on the striking device. Since then, 
the clock has been a lot less trouble to keep running.”

“Now, once a year Clock Service Company from Dunnellon, Florida sends a man through here to clean and oil it – it costs about $300,” 
said Judge Nall. “When the electricity goes off or when daylight savings time changes, Mr. Baker, our maintenance man, resets it.”

“The reason I started winding it when I was only 12 years old, was an old man they called ‘Uncle Doc’ Shepherd had wound it from the 
time it was installed in 1910 until he became ill in the early ’40’s. There was no one else to do it and my father had a jewelry store 
right across the street, so when I told them I could do it, it became my job,” said Koon.

The bell of the clock is four and a half feet tall, measures 40 inches across and weighs 975 pounds, according to material at the Grant 
County Museum. Cast into the bell is “Seth Thomas Clock Works – New York and Chicago – 1910.” The three new faces that were installed 
in the 1964 building are made of weather resistant plastic and are about 4 feet in diameter.

Historian Elwin Goolsby said of the clock, “We grew up hearing the clock every hour, so we got to where we didn’t hear it when it 
struck. When you think that it has been running since 1910, it is amazing – it was running during WWI, the Great Depression, WWII and 
it will probably run another hundred years if folks appreciate and preserve it.”

The Court Room where historic trials of Grant County have been held is right under the clock tower, and when the town clock strikes, it 
vibrates the whole room and is so loud that it somewhat disrupts a trial in session.

Photos: (not included but in newspaper article)
        (1) Jeweler Jimmy Koon, with the Courthouse clock in the background, holds the old hand-winding mechanism that was replaced 
about 1950 with an electric motor.

        (2) County Judge Kemp Nall stands in cramped space beside the bell inside of the tower of the Courthouse clock.

        (3) Preserved clockface from the 1910 courthouse now at the Grant County Museum.