Hello again! I haven’t been able to bring myself to post in a very long time. I apologize for the long hiatus. The last year and half has been very rough , but I’m going to try to get back in the habit of regularly posting and sharing what I know regarding the Motter family history.
The last time that I went to Mansfield to take my Mom, Arlene Motter, to her chemo treatments, she sent me home with a box of “family history” artifacts that she wanted me to look through and do some research on. I am finally getting around to posting some of what I have found.
One of the artifacts in the box was a pocket watch along with a note written in my Mom’s handwriting. The note reads, “Key wind watch. This key wind watch was given to Hazel I. Kimble Motter by her Great Aunt Juliette who lived in Connecticut. It is supposed to have been made by the watchmaker to the King of England. Only 50 were made by this watch maker.” Obviously, this note had me intrigued. I’ve been able to trace parts of the Kimble line back to England, but how in the heck did they pass down a watch supposedly made by the watchmaker for the King?
Time to start my research! I opened the back cover of the watch and found the following inscribed: Cylinder Escapement, Four Holes Jewelled, Hands, Tobias, Liverpool”.
After a great deal of searching, I found that the Tobias family of Liverpool was known for making watches from about 1790-1860. Nowhere in the history was any mention that Tobias was the official watchmaker for the King of England. Tobias watches were imported to the United States until about the time of the Civil War. According to the July 2012 issue of Horological Times, (I never knew the study of time was called horology!), because Tobias watches were so popular, imitation watches began springing up everywhere. These watches were usually signed, “M.J. Tobias”. By using the Tobias name, the imitation watches were sure to sell. I guess these imitations were like the fake Rolex watches you see today.
The article goes on to say that most of the imitation watches were Swiss made so the real way to tell if you have an original is to look into the inner workings of the watch. Very carefully, I opened up the back of the watch to reveal the workings and hopefully the origin of this watch.
Unfortunately, according to a watch identification forum, the inner working seen in this photograph and inside this watch is the typical Swiss bar movement. What does this mean? Well, it means this is a Swiss knock off! I have visions of one of my ancestors being hit up by a salesman telling them that this is a genuine Tobias watch made by the watchmaker of the King!
Even though it is not a genuine Tobias watch, it was probably made around 1850, which is still pretty cool. Now to figure out who Juliette was….Hazel’s Great Aunt that gave her this watch. I’m still trying to confirm my theory on this. Juliette had to have been either Joseph Kimble or Jessie Brown’s Aunt. I can’t find a Juliette or a connection to Connecticut on the Kimble side. When I look at the Brown side, Jessie’s mother was Annette Willoughby. Annette’s grandfather, Jonathan Hills (father of Sarah Ann Hills who married George W.J. Willoughby) was from Connecticut, he could have helped to find Juliette a husband and maybe she moved back east. When you start researching before 1850, finding all of the family members becomes very difficult. The 1850 census was the first census when all members of the household are listed. Prior to 1850, only the head of the household is listed by name making research a bit more tricky. Because of this, I have not yet been able to confirm all of the family members in Annette’s family. I believe that Annette most likely had a sister by the name of Juliette and that is who gave Hazel this watch.
I have solved part of the mystery behind this watch. While I now know that it is not a true Tobias watch, I still don’t know who it originally belonged to. Perhaps it belonged to Annette and Juliette’s father or grandfather…..unfortunately, that piece of history may be lost! If only our family history artifacts could talk to us!