In the summer of 1895, during excavations at the Alvin Pescod residence in Cornwall, one of the workmen uncovered what he assumed was “an ordinary stone, and was going to throw if over the fence.” He paused, however, when he noticed figures written on the object, including the year 1794!
The item was an old octagonal sundial, made of burned clay and reinforced with an iron hoop. It was missing the gnomon (the upright part that casts the shadow). Its inscription, which maintained the long tradition of Latin mottos on sundials, was still legible:
The English translation is:
The Law of God
The Light of God
He made it.
At the time of the discovery, John Pescod Jr. was called upon for information. He related that the maker of the sundial was his father. As reported by the Cornwall Freeholder, Pescod the Younger noted that:
He remembered very well, as a boy and young man, that the dial… stood on a large flat stone in the garden, and that people used to come from far and wide to get the time. Later on clocks became more common, and the sun dial fell into disuse and was heaved over into the rubbish, where it lay until [it] turned up a few days ago.
The Freeholder also remarked that the sundial was “an interesting relic of old days, and is well worth preserving.” It is unknown whether the sundial has survived to this day, but it seems unlikely.
John Pescod (sometimes written Pescott or Prescott) was a sergeant in the first battalion of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, a loyalist regiment that settled in Cornwall and area in 1784. During the distribution of lands at that time, Pescod drew Lot 17 in the first concession of Cornwall Township, and later received a deed for that lot. He was a mason and a farmer. He was born in England, but later settled in the Mohawk Valley of New York prior to the American Revolutionary War. Alvin Pescod, mentioned above, was a subsequent owner of the land. The location is now the neighbourhood of Riverdale, near Pescod Avenue which honours the family.