- "Looking across the grass plot of the square, Marty noticed that the clock atop the beige courthouse building was actually running. When had it been struck by lightning and immobilized? He tried to recall what the lady with the pamphlets had said earlier that day... / Earlier that day? More like thirty years in the future, Marty thought. At any rate, he remembered that the clock had stopped sometime in 1955. "Right about now," he mused. Maybe I arrived here just in time." / He smiled. The great historical events of other cities were battles or memorable natural disasters; Hill Valley's claim to fame was nothing more exciting than a clock stopping. Well, at least he would be able to tell his grandchildren, assuming they didn't question him too carefully about how he happened to be here on the memorable occasion thirteen years before his birth."
- —From Back to the Future by George Gipe (quote, pages 83 and 84)
On September 4, 1885, the clock was delivered to Hill Valley on Locomotive 131. At exactly 8 p.m. the next day at the Hill Valley festival, Mayor Hubert started the clock with the proclamation "May it stand for all time".
When the construction of the courthouse was completed, the clock was moved up to the front of the building's peak, where it continued to function for 70 years. On November 12, 1955, the courthouse was struck by lightning at exactly 10:04 p.m., causing the mechanism to break and for the clock to remain at 10:04.In the Citizen Brown timeline, the clock was replaced with a larger glass version as part of renovations to the courthouse in the 1970s. Now partially transparent, it also served as the window for Citizen Brown's office.
By 1985, the clock was still non-functional. Mayor Goldie Wilson intended to restore the clock to working order, which the Hill Valley Preservation Society was strongly against, as its members believed that it should remain exactly as it was as part of the town's history and heritage.
In 2015, the clock was still broken, 60 years after being struck by lightning.
- In the animated series episode 'My Pop's an Alien', the clock is erroneously shown moving in 1967, when it should still have been non-functional following the lightning strike 12 years earlier.