Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Molly Stark--the caregiver who inspired a watch and a hospital

At our event, "Spending Time with Dueber-Hampden," the one watch that was most prevalent was the Molly Stark.  This little watch was named for General John Stark's wife,  Elizabeth " Molly" Page Stark.  One of George Washington's generals, John Stark gives Stark County, Ohio its name in 1808, even though he never set foot here. 

Because there is such an interest in Molly Stark watches, I wanted to write about the watch that gets its name from a lady who inspired not only her husband, but many others. 

Molly was born February 16, 1737 to  Caleb and Elizabeth (Merrill) Page.  Her father was the first Postmaster of New Hampshire.  Together, Molly and John Stark had 11 children.  During her husband's war years, Molly opened her home as a hospital to nurse his soldiers suffering from small pox or other injuries.  The kindness and courage Molly Stark showed others inspired Stark County residents to build the Molly Stark Hospital to treat tuberculosis just off of Ravenna Road (SR-44).

Todd Clark, Historic Programming Educator for Stark Parks

On Saturday, September 11, 2010 the Stark Parks offered walking tours of the Molly Stark Hospital grounds.  Todd Clark, Historic Programming Educator, took groups of visitors around the structure that is destined to be demolished.  The Hospital opened its doors in 1929 to tuberculosis or TB patients.  Those poor souls who developed a cough with blood, lost weight, developed night sweats and paled in color, were diagnosed with the aliment often called the wasting disease, or consumption.  
Before Molly Stark Hospital was built, residents diagnosed with the illness were sent to Springfield Sanitarium also known as Edwin Shaw Hospital located in Lakemore township, near Akron, Ohio.  Mr. Clark said the most ill and bedridden patients at Molly Stark Hospital were located on the upper floors, where windows could be opened, or patients brought to porches to enjoy the sun.  As the patients regained strength and became more mobile they were moved to lower floors where they could walk outside and enjoy the park-like grounds surrounding the hospital.   

Mr. Clark said the hospital was to be built in the late 1920s at Faircrest Park in Canton Township, but the water wasn't very good, so a new location for the hospital was found. The hospital was expanded in 1952 after much debate about closing it.  The architect for the expansion was Charles Firestone, who also designed the Memorial Civic Center in downtown Canton.  At one time there were 25 TB hospitals throughout Ohio.  

The Molly Stark Hospital in disrepair, September 11, 2010
There are 1200 feet of tunnels underground that houses the steam pipes that warmed the hospital.  The tunnels were built as one of the work progress programs during the depression.  One visitor said he heard the doctors' children rode their bicycles in the tunnels. 

Although the building is expected to be torn down there is a group studying how to save some of the architecture, the doors, and the arch ways.  Mr. Clark said the cost of renovating the building is astronomical and that a figure of ten million was on the table some 10 years ago.  He said the building was constructed during the era of lead paint and asbestos, and that after years of neglect the building has considerable structural damage, molds, and broken glass. The cost of demolishing the building is projected to be about two million dollars. 

The  building inspires beauty, but also fear--fear of death.  But Todd Clark said it also inspires hope and courage, and the building shows a tie to the community.  

Balconies at Molly Stark Hospital where patients could enjoyed the sunshine
The building that saved so many at one time, was named for a woman who was also a kind caregiver.  In addition to a hospital, Dueber-Hampden Watch Works years earlier named a watch in honor of Molly Stark. 

 According to the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors website (NAWCC), the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works introduced the Molly Stark, a size-3/0, 7-jewel, gilt-finished watch in 1896.  When the Molly Stark (pendant watch to be worn around the neck, or pinned to the blouse)  was introduced it was the smallest watch made in America.  Because Dueber-Hampden was located in Stark County some feel this is the reason for naming the watch in Molly Stark's honor.

The NAWCC website added that a new Molly Stark Watch in a 14K solid gold Dueber case sold for $17.00, in 1902 from Sears, Roebuck and Co.,  and the same movement in a 14K gold-filled Dueber case was $11.50.  Molly Stark watches were also cased as boys' watches to carry in their pocket.  (see image right) 

To help understand the wage and cost of that time period, in 1914, Henry Ford astonished the industrial world when he doubled the wages of assembly line workers to $5.00 per day, thus making them the highest-paid hourly workers  (NAWCC).  When the pendent watch fell out of fashion, many were scrapped for the gold cases but other were re-cased into wrist watches. (see ad) The kit included a case, dial, crown and hands that your local jeweler could refashion for the customer.   

Mrs. Stark died in 1814 at the age of 78 from typhus.  Her husband was 86.  Stark was the last Continental general of the Revolution.  In his later years and nearly up to his death on May 8, 1822, the General  was nearly penniless, before the Congress voted him a small stipend (SeaCoast).

Thanks Todd and Stark Parks for an informative and enjoyable tour of the Molly Stark Hospital grounds. 


"Hampden/Molly Stark Ladies' pocket watch -." National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, 05-30-2005. Web. 11 Sep 2010. .

Lever Set Hampden Movement. advertisement. Edward Thouvenin, private collection, Canton.

Molly Stark. Print . Edward Thouvenin, private collection, Canton.

Moran, John. "Major General John Stark of New Hampshire, One of George Washington." Revolutionary War Archives. Sons of Liberty, California Society SAR, May 2006. Web. 11 Sep 2010.

"SeaCoast NH.com." Framers of Freedom, John Stark. SeaCoast NH.com, 1997-2003. Web. 11 Sep 2010. .

Molly Stark Hospital & Todd Clark. Photographs. Lee Horrisberger, Canton.