Henry Clay Wilber (1846-1919) was the youngest of nine children born to Benjamin Wilber, a long-time Pine Plains doctor, and the former Deborah Haight. Henry graduated from New York University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College, and began his practice in Pine Plains in 1867, which lasted for 52 years. He never married, but he loved children. He was the town health officer for 33 years; coroner for 15 years; past president of the Dutchess County Medical Society; member of the New York State Medical Society; member of the Stissing Lodge of Freemasons; president of Evergreen Cemetery Association; and with two other physicians he organized the Northern Dutchess and Southern Columbia Medico- Philosophical Society.
Dr. Wilber died of heart trouble and kidney failure at the Brooklyn home of his friend, Dr. John H. Cotter, 2nd, aged 73 years. He left virtually no estate. The public school was dismissed for his funeral in Pine Plains and a special memorial service was held in Memorial Hall.
After he died, a committee was formed to decide on a fitting memorial to recognize him for his many years of service to the community. Henry had always wanted to see a chapel erected at Evergreen Cemetery, and the committee was enthusiastic about that idea. Funds began to be immediately collected towards this end. However, for unknown reasons, within a month plans changed and in 1920 the clock tower was erected instead.
Clock towers served a purpose in small rural towns like Pine Plains, where many people even into the 20th century did not have pocket watches or wristwatches.
The spot chosen for the clock tower had been the location of a watering trough. The land was donated by Edward Schrowang, owner of the Stissing House from 1913-1947.
The beautiful masonry work for the clock tower was done by William Lehrmann of Orange, MA. William's brother, Eugene, helped finish it by putting the clock in. They were originally from Germany (thanks to Vangie Jones of Stanfordville, NY for the information on the masonry work. Eugene was her grandfather's brother-in-law).
In recent years, memorial plaques were added to the tower to honor two other long-time Pine Plains doctors: Dr. Walter W. Wicks, who practiced medicine in town from 1928 until 1983, and Dr. Vincent Russo, who practiced medicine in Pine Plains between 1948 and 1987.
Additionally, two “Roll of Honor” monuments have been added on the north and south of the tower green for Pine Plains veterans from the Spanish American War to the Persian Gulf War. The first one was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1948 (inset).
Have you ever wondered what the inside of the clock tower looks like or how the clock works? Click on the photo below and watch the video, "The Man Who Made Pine Plains Tick", from Stan Hirson's Pine Plains Views: