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Town acquires antique ‘melody box’

Sept. 16, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

The Williston Historical Society, nearly one year after obtaining a Civil War-era grandfather clock made in town, now has

Williston Historical Society board member Ginger Isham shows off the insides of an antique music box recently donated to the society. The music box will be on display at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library on Saturday. (photo by Greg Duggan)

possession of a Victorian music box fashioned by the same Williston farmer and tinkerer.

Albert Haseloff, the great-grandson of clock and music box maker Russell D. Munson, recently gave the box to the Williston Historical Society. Haseloff said he had the music box for about 50 years.

“It went to my grandfather, and then he lived with me, and he left it for me,” said Haseloff, who lives in Essex. “I figure it’s time maybe it should join the clock.”

The Williston Historical Society purchased the grandfather clock last year from George Munson, another great-grandson of Russell Munson and cousin of Haseloff. Upon reading newspaper articles about the clock in the Observer, Haseloff decided to give the music box a new home. His donation returns the music box to the town in which it was built.

“It’s like it fell right out of the sky into our lap,” said Ginger Isham, a member of the Historical Society’s board of directors.

The Historical Society plans to present the clock this weekend at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library in Williston. The box is scheduled to be on display from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

“I love it, I just love it,” Isham said when showing the music box to an Observer staff member on Monday.

The box has a handle that rotates a revolving cylinder. On the cylinder are pins that pluck at the teeth of a metal comb to create music. The box itself features intricate woodwork, with inlaid designs of farm animals and farm equipment. Inlay on top of the box reads, “MADE BY R.D. MUNSON AGED 71” and “THE FARMERs MELODY BOX.”

Other designs adorn the box as well, including small drops of silver.

“Folklore is that the little silver spots are from a dime,” Haseloff said.

Isham called Munson “just a routine farmer … who spent his probably winter months building these (instruments). He had a real talent.”

The music box has yet to be appraised, but Isham said initial comments from people familiar with antiques indicate the box may be more valuable than the Civil War grandfather clock, which was valued at approximately $18,000.

“It is a unique, one of a kind (item) that was made over 100 years ago by an ordinary farmer who had to make his own tools without a college education or the technology of today,” Isham wrote in an e-mail to the Observer.

The music box made by Russell Munson is scheduled to be displayed at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 18.