Jacob Wolf was born in 1795 (town and state unknown) and died in 1865 at the age of 70. He is interred at Green Hill Cemetery, Waynesboro alongside his wife. Wolf was not born in Waynesboro, or Waynesburg as it was known until about 1831. Information has been printed that Jacob Wolf bought one of the first lots (Lot 7, which would have been directly across the street from the current town hall) from John Wallace in 1798. An impossibility as Wolf would have been 3 years old at the time.
Jacob Wolf was known to be in the Westminster, MD area from 1815-1818, according to tax records. There is a tall-case clock in the Carroll County Historical Museum stating “Jacob Wolf Westminster” on the dial. Wolf migrated to Uniontown, MD and set up business from 1818 until the mid-1820’s according to advertisements in the Uniontown “Star of Federalism” newspaper. Uniontown is a small town near Taneytown, MD.
Jacob Wolf arrived in Waynesburg about 1824 and all records indicate he set up home and shop on Lot #41 (later the J.C. Penny location). There have been articles written that Wolf was an elusive clock maker and discussions as to why he moved so much in the early days.
I think this may be due to his seeking a larger market for his services. In Taneytown during the late 1700’s and into the early 1800’s, Eli Bentley was the main maker of tall-case clocks. Whether Wolf apprenticed under Bentley is unknown. Uniontown may have been the only stopping point on his way to Waynesburg which was a fast-growing town in population and personal income.
According to the first tax assessment in Waynesburg, in 1826, Wolf was listed as a watchmaker. Wolf did not make watches. He only repaired imported foreign watches. American made watches in this part of the country did not exist at this time.
As with most of the clockmakers in the early 19th century Wolf did not actually manufacture the timepiece entirely but simply assembled the gears and parts that were mostly made in England and imported into America. The dials on the clocks were painted by an artist, not the clockmaker, and the cases were made by a local cabinetmaker. Few, if any, were signed.
From 1827 until 1840 Wolf was listed on the Waynesboro tax roles and in local advertising as a clockmaker. In 1840 he was listed as a clockmaker. In 1846 he was listed as a silversmith only. Renfrew has some examples of Wolf’s silversmith work in the form of spoons with the “Jacob Wolf” stamp.
Renfrew owns the first example of Wolf’s work in the form of a fleam lancet used by physicians and veterinarians to cut open veins. From 1835-55 Wolf advertised as a watch maker and jeweler. In the mid-19th century demand and taste for tall case clocks declined as the cheaper “Yankee clocks” from New England infiltrated the American market as an alternative to the large case clock. Wolf’s health also declined during this period and on May 7, 1864 Wolf’s estate at Lot #41 was sold at public auction including his watch and clock tools. In the auction he was listed as “Jacob Wolf lunatic.”
Renfrew has added a fifth tall-case clock made by Jacob Wolf bequeathed to us by Judge John Keller, a former Board member. The walnut clock, has an alarm, a unique feature.
In 2012, Renfrew purchased a Peter Grumbine tall-case clock. Grumbine made clocks in the mid 1800’s in Waynesboro.