Once Upon a Time
'Bruce County's Big Ben'
by Bob Johnston

November 22, 2016


Once Upon a Time

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The following story has been adapted it for todayís reader.

Unusual innovations and contrivances have always been legion on Western Ontario farms. None has been more unique than the famous clock tower which for years surmounted the barn on the old Bartleman farm near Maple Hill, between Hanover and Walkerton. During the years it was standing, hundreds of people visited the place and climbed up into the tower to see the clock mechanism and look over the surrounding countryside.

Peter Bartleman was born in Haddington, Scotland, in 1795. In Edinburgh he learned the trade of building waterwheels for mills. In 1822 he sailed for Canada, bringing with him a set of bagpipes made of walnut with bone furls, that he had made. After a six-week voyage in a sailing vessel, the family first arrived in Bytown (Ottawa) and later, in 1855, moved to about two miles from Walkerton.

Even yet, Mr. Bartleman is remembered in the Walkerton area for his mechanical ability. The furniture for his own home and the homes of his children was made by him. The bureaus were of cherry wood, inlaid with sumac. His masterpiece, however, was the huge clock he designed, created and had installed in the tower of his barn. It was known as Haddington Tower in memory of his Scottish birthplace, was of considerable height and eight or ten feet square. It was painted white and surmounted by a weathervane. The dial of this clock was five or six feet in diameter and faced the Durham Road, now a Provincial highway. The minute hand was painted red while the hour hand was black.

 The clock was operated by a sixty pound weight and was wound up every night. It did not strike the hours but kept excellent time. The massive clock was reached by three ladders. In the room which contained the tower, Mr. Bartleman placed some furniture, including a couch where he could rest after mounting the ladders each day. Great was the delight of his grandchildren when they were allowed to accompany him to his private domain.

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The clock remained one of the districtís best-known landmarks for 40 years, long after its builder passed away in 1881. During that long period it told the time to countless passers-by. The supports of the tower gradually became weakened and during a terrific wind and rain storm in 1912 it crashed to the ground.

Adapted by Bob Johnston from a story by Mrs. Marion McGillivray in 1968 for the Bruce County Hostorical yearbook

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016