Isaac Jackson, 18th Century New Garden Clockmaker

by Peg Jones

Near the intersection of Route 41 and New Garden Road is a large white house which was once the home of one of Chester County's premier clock makers. Isaac Jackson, who made tall clocks during the latter half of the 1700's, built this house and lived here for over forty years. We remember him for his graceful yet simple unembellished clock cases and precision clockworks.

Born near West Grove in 1734, Isaac Jackson grew up in a family with mechanical skills; his father and grandfather were weavers as well as farmers. As a young teenager, Isaac was apprenticed to the master clockmaker John Wood, Sr. of Philadelphia. After acquiring the skills of his trade, he was bound over to Quaker clockmaker Benjamin Chandlee, Jr. of Nottingham as a fully trained journeyman sometime in the early 1750's. He worked in Chandlee's clockmaking shop for about four years and then, in 1757, returned to the family farm east of West Grove where he continued his clockmaking until 1762.

In 1762, William Jackson, Isaac's father, deeded him a 200 acre farm in New Garden Township. Here Isaac and his bride, a distant cousin named Hannah Jackson, built a home and lived for over forty years. The farm, located southeast of New Garden Meeting House, extended across the present Route 41 and includes the New Garden Elementary School property. Today, the northern part of this tract is still being farmed and producing crops.

In Isaac Jackson's day, it was not unusual for farmers to engage in some sort of industry during the winter months. However, because of his skill, the extent of his training and the number of his clocks which survive, Isaac was probably more clockmaker than farmer. Tax records list him as a silversmith, and he is known to have worked in both brass and pewter. The works of his clocks were brass and the dials were often of brass with silverplating. Not only was Isaac Jackson a clockmaker, but he was also a cabinetmaker who used walnut to make the cases of his tall clocks. Isaac's Jackson's clock cases are all similar in design and reflect the convictions of simplicity of both the Quaker clockmaker and his Quaker clients.

Three surviving early Jackson clocks have only one hand, showing the influence of his training with John Wood, Sr. These one-hand clocks, unique in Chester County, have only thirty-hour movements, meaning they will only run thirty hours after being wound, and therefore have to be wound every day. The remainder of the twenty-seven known Jackson clocks have eight-day movements which need winding only once a week. Isaac Jackson signed the faces of his clocks "Isaac Jackson, New Garden", but sometimes, due to lack of space, "Isc Jackson" or "New Gar".

Thirty Hour - One Handed Clock

Eight Day - Two Handed Clock

Isaac Jackson died in 1807. His house and 105 acres were willed to his daughter, Alice and her husband, Enoch Lewis. The Lewises enlarged the house to its present size and opened the New Garden Boarding School for Boys.

A number of Jackson clocks are still owned by Chester County families and, after two hundred years, continue to tell time. An Isaac Jackson clock is also among the tall clocks displayed at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester.


Patricia Harlan McClure of Beaverton, Oregon sent us a photo of her family's Isaac Jackson clock. It is thought to have been purchased by her great-great-great-great-grandfather David Harlan Sr who lived five miles from Isaac Jackson in London Grove Township in the mid 1700s. Over its 250 years it has become a well travelled clock having chimed day and night for seven generations of the family in houses in London Grove Twp, Hartford MD, Bel Aire MD, Cleveland OH, southern California, and now Oregon.


Inscription: "Improve Time Without Delay, For it Passeth Swiftly Away, Isaac Jackson, Newgarden"