The Cursed Clock


on Wednesday, April, 21 2010 @ 12:31:00 am (574 words)
In Uncategorized [ 106474 views ]

 

 

Gonzales is one of the oldest towns of Texas, established in 1825 as the capital of the colony of empresario Green DeWitt and named by surveyor James Kerr for Rafael Gonzales, the governor of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Texas. Resultant to two Indian attacks, the settlement was briefly abandoned in the summer of 1826 and rebuilt in 1827.  For defense against future attacks the town was given a small, six-pound, cannon. With relations eventually strained between the colonists and the Mexican government, a contingent of 100 Mexican dragoons under the command of Francisco de Castañeda was dispatched from San Antonio de Béxar to retrieve the cannon.  Under a flag which read "Come and Take It" the Texans attacked the Mexican encampment on October 2, 1835, winning the opening skirmish of the Texas Revolution.

Gonzales is the seat of Gonzales County, the latter having been established by the Congress of the Republic of Texas in 1836 (and organized in 1837) as one of the original counties of the republic.

Since its creation, Gonzales County has had four courthouses. Its current one is a beautiful, ornate, limestone-and-red-brick structure of Second Empire style. Designed by renowned Texas architect James Riely Gordon, it was built at a cost of $64,450 from 1894 to 1896. (It was restored in 1996 at a cost of three-million dollars.) Otto Kroeger of San Antonio was the contractor.

The three-story building is adorned with an impressive array of architectural features, such as columns of varied sizes and styles, dormers, arches, cupolas, turrets, and colonnaded-balconies. The most distictive feature, however, is the three story observation tower which houses a four-faced clock. And therewith lies a tale.

The courthouse clock became an obsession of one Albert Howard, and for good reason, because for him it was the instrument of measure of the remainder of his life.  Found guilty of a capital offense and, in January 1921, condemned to die, Albert spent the weeks before his execution incarcerated in the county jail (built from 1885 to 1887) near the courthouse. Albert had had at least one prior scrape with the law before this one. The Gonzales Inquirer of October 27, 1920, reported Albert's escape from jail, as well as his recapture and re-confinement (in the issues of November 2 and 24). Howard bided his time denying his guilt and obsessing on the courthouse clock, vowing that if he were executed it would be the clock that would indicate his innocence.

The fateful day, March 18, 1921, arrived, and Albert was led up the steps of the gallows inside the jail. Before he trod the thirteenth step to his destiny Albert shook his fists at the towering timepiece vowing that it would never again count down the remainder of another's life. Albert's was the last execution in the county, and for years subsequent to it, legend holds, the faces of the old Seth Thomas clock rarely gave the same time, and several times over the years the tower has been struck by lightning, damaging the clock. In the 1990's, a resident of Gonzales, Henry Christian, contributed time and money ($11,000) for the repair of the clock. Later, that same decade the clock was removed and given a complete renovation before reinstallation. The legend persists, however, that the faces are still to this day frequently out of synchronization. Has the spirit of Albert Howard afflicted the courthouse clock? Does his curse continue?

 

Upper photo: A post card, circa 1910, showing the jail on the left and the courthouse on the right. Bottom photo: A recent image of the courthouse.

 

 

 

 


4 comments

Comment from: Princess Leah K [Visitor]
Princess Leah KI LOVE Texas history! I've been visiting several different museums and towns a lot this year. I've lived in Texas my whole life and have always enjoyed the unique history of our state. Great site!!!
04/21/10 @ 10:04
Comment from: Melanie [Visitor]
MelanieHi, Ron, another great ghost story, and to learn about the history side as well is great, I will have to write a few ghost stories from my town, Marlow Bucks, England, that's if I can find any. I know there are a few ghostly goings on, but I need to check them out. thanks again nell
05/21/10 @ 17:51
Comment from: Gramarye [Visitor]
GramaryeHi Ron, Thanks for telling me about this story. I have read it with great delight! Thanks.
08/26/10 @ 22:59
Comment from: resident of Gonzales [Visitor]
resident of GonzalesI have also heard that he cursed the judge the sheriff and the people at his trial and their children and their children's children I was wondering if you knew this to be true. I actually am a decedent of one of them. I have been told of this part of the story all my life. I was actually hoping I'm not cursed lol.
01/30/12 @ 22:03

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