AN American university professor has been reunited with a clock made by his German ancestors thanks to a Lincolnshire antiques dealer.
Bruce Winterhalder, Associate Dean at the University of California, began exploring possible family links to a famous German clock making family of the same name ten years ago.
But in recent years his genealogical research has uncovered a direct connection with Winterhalder and Hofmeier Clocks, a Black forest company renowned for their precision engineering.
Bruce was keen to buy a piece of his family history and found the perfect clock at Hemswell Antique Centres.
Now the time piece has been shipped to the Winterhalder family home in California. Bruce, a professor of anthropology, who once spent a year with a Cree community in northern Canada studying hunting and gathering, hopes to purchase four clocks - one as legacy for each of his children.
“I started watching for opportunities to purchases these clocks about six months ago, scouring the internet,” said Bruce.
“The Hemswell clock was among about a dozen possibilities I located. I knew right away that it was right. The chimes are slowly working their way into the fibre of our lives.
“My wife, Sheryl Gerety, and I feel fortunate to have it. We appreciate Hemswell’s help with the purchase and their care with the shipping.”
Ironically the stories of Bruce and his great, great grandfather Joseph have come full circle from California to Oregon, North Carolina, and back.
Joseph and his brothers Karl and Theodor emigrated from Rotenbach, Baden, to the US in the late 1840s. They briefly settled in Ohio and then moved onto Santa Cruz in 1850.
Joseph set up a bakery and his son Henry, Bruce’s great grandfather, worked for the Sante Fe and Topeka railway until colour electric signals were introduced and it was discovered that he was red-green colour blind.
Unable to continue as a locomotive engineer, he moved the family north to a homestead just east of Medford, Oregon – where the family stayed and where Bruce and his father before him were born.
Ten years ago Bruce and his family, then living in North Carolina, accepted an opportunity to relocate in California – unaware he was returning to the area which his great, great grandfather and his brothers settled more than 160 earlier.
The Hemswell clock, with the inlaid flowers on the mahogany case, Westminster chime, now has pride of place on in the family’s dining room. It will be passed to Bruce and Sheryl’s youngest daughter Lucy.
“The clocks are within the financial reach of a Professor and they are a means of passing family knowledge on to the next generation.
“For me the clock represents not just a personal history but a symbol of both social and technological history.”
Robert Miller, owner of Hemswell Antiques Centre, said: “Antiques are not just items from the past – they are a doorway to our ancestors and the lives they led.
“The story of Bruce’s search for his family’s history is fascinating and we are honoured to have played a part in bringing his story to life.”
The sale is part of a growing foreign market for Hemswell Antique Centres. A recently launched phone app and a thriving website are attracting buyers from all over the world.
One in ten of the antiques sold from the centres are now shipped to dealers and buyers abroad.