CYNTHIANA, Ky. (FOX 56) – If you need a clock fixed in Cynthiana, you go to Ewalt Jewelers. Steve Ewalt spends most afternoons trying to get pendulums to swing, bells to chime, and time pieces to tick.
But his biggest job is across the street at the top of the Harrison County courthouse.
“I just enjoy keeping it running,” Ewalt says.
He only makes the climb into the clock tower about four times a year to put a little oil on the gears or adjust for the time changes.
“I turned the clock on at the last time change in the spring and it’s still right on,” he said. “This thing is amazingly accurate.”
He got the job in 2015 when the former clock-keeper died. The only instructions are on a framed piece of paper on the wall.
“Essentially, all that says is use 10-weight oil. So the rest of it I’ve figured out on my own.”
The clock’s been here since the courthouse was built in 1851, although it used to be weight-driven. It’s now electric.
It tolled away the hours during the Civil War and survived a raid led by Confederate General John Hunt Morgan in 1864 when most of Cynthiana was burned to the ground.
“I’ve heard stories that soldiers hid out up here in one of Morgan’s raids,” Ewalt said.
Union soldiers used the courthouse as a hospital, and it’s believed they stored dead bodies in the clock tower. Some people believe one of the soldiers is still there, now knowing his time is up.
“I swear I heard it one night,” Ewalt said.
A few years ago, Ewalt was in the tower before midnight to make the clock spring forward, and he heard a door slam on the landing below.
“So I stopped to see if I could hear any footsteps and there weren’t any,” he said. “It’s like, ‘I know I locked the front door behind me, and I can’t imagine anyone else wanting to be in the building this time of day.’ That sure got my full attention when I heard that door slam.”
The next morning, he told clerks at the courthouse what had happened, and they said, “Oh, that’s just Luther. He moves things around all the time.”
But, as the story goes, a ghost hunter made contact with the spirit and learned the soldier’s real name was Frederick.
Previous timekeepers recorded their names and weather statistics dating back to 1862. It seems appropriate that Ewalt’s first night on the job was Halloween. He remembers looking through the vents on the exterior wall of the tower and watching children trick-or-treat on Main Street.
He’s not sure about the ghost stories but admits he now avoids working in the tower late at night by himself.
MORE SPIRIT OF THE BLUEGRASS:
- Historic railroad bridge is a jumping off place for thrill-seekers
- Looking like Colonel Sanders is something to crow about!
- Madison County man finds joy when he’s down in the dumps
- Lexington yo-yo pro has the world on a string
- See all Spirit of the Bluegrass stories here
“The time change happens about 12 hours too soon!” he said, laughing.
Ewalt and others believe if there is a restless spirit in the courthouse, it’s friendly—just an old soldier who didn’t move on with the times.