Zion UCC Evansville, outside view



Zion UCC Evansville, view of rear gallery with 1864 Ulbricht organ
1864 Organ by Ulbricht (?) of Tell City, Indiana

Zion UCC Evansville, view of chancel with 1917 Kilgen organ
1917 Organ by Kilgen of St. Louis

Zion UCC Evansville, current view of sanctuary
Current organ by Wolford, Woods and Hatfield Pipe Organs, Inc.
Completed in 1993
Includes some ranks of pipes from 1917 Kilgen organ.

Specs for current organ at Zion UCC Evansville

Canon, by Jacques Lemmens Moderato, by Cesar Franck

by The Rev. John Schroeder,
Pastor Emeritus/Choir Director, Zion United Church of Christ

The story begins when the congregation was worshipping in a small frame building built in 1850 one year after the church was founded. In October 1854 someone offered to sell the church an organ for $160 with a money-back guarantee if not satisfied.  I'm guessing this was a small reed organ. When the offer was presented to the congregation the seller "sweetened the deal" by promising a $10 rebate either to the pastor or the congregation.  The record does not indicate who got the $10.  Zion's school teacher, whose salary was $20 per month, agreed to be organist without pay.  His playing must have been OK because several months later he received a $25 per year salary as organist.  From then on the school teacher (with very frequent turnovers) was usually organist.  When there was a teacher without that skill, a member of the congregation took over. A year later in 1855 the congregation built the present brick sanctuary.  The organ together with the altar, candlesticks, pulpit Bible etc. were moved into the new building.

In December 1862 a proposal came from Mr. Ulbricht in Tell City, to build for Zion a new organ "for a very reasonable price."  At that time there was pastoral turmoil, and the organ project was a temporary casualty.  The proposed organ was again mentioned in October 1863 with no action taken.
The next actions sound like they got the cart before the horse.
May 1864 - Discussed painting the pews and the new organ.
June 1864 - Decided to varnish the walnut organ.
Sept. 1864 - Resolved to buy the new organ and sell old one.
It was reported in November 1864 that everyone was well-satisfied with the new organ and agreed to sell the old one to Zion Church in Newburgh for $150. I am attaching a picture (top picture above) of what I believe to be the Ulbricht organ installed in Zion's balcony.  I don't know when the picture was taken, but it was printed in the 50th Anniversary book in 1899.  There are occasional references about the hard job of an "orgel pumper", but that job was eliminated in 1911 by an electric motor.

Church records show that Evansville organ builder Edmund Giesecke made repairs to the organ.  (They also show that Giesecke married Louise Minch at Zion on May 11, 1886.)

In 1915 Zion contacted 11 organ companies about repairing the organ.  Estimates ranged from $1630 to $3500.  They decided to get a new organ at an estimated cost of $4000 to be installed in front on the main floor.  This organ was built by Kilgen in 1917 and was part of a major renovation which included building a new educational building.  I think this organ had 18-20 ranks but I can find nothing specific about the exact cost or specifications.  I am attaching a picture of the sanctuary which I believe was taken within a year or two of the organ's installation.

In 1950 that sanctuary was completely remodeled, and the organ was sent back to Kilgen to be rebuilt.  I have the stop list for this rebuilt organ but it does not indicate which ranks are borrowed or unified.  I would guess it is very similar to the original 1917 instrument. 

About 1975 the plaster in the organ chambers was damaged by a leaky roof.  The organ was not damaged, but had to be removed to repair the plaster.  So it was decided to rebuild the organ.  The contract was given to Paul Plog of Lenzburg, Illinois.  After two or three years of delays and countless malfunctions, the organ was playable but the action was always unpredictable.

In 1993 John Wolford agreed to work on our "box of whistles" if Zion would agree to getting all new Principal ranks and a new wind chest for the Great plus several other new ranks.  I am attaching these specifications.  It is now a very fine organ and we have been very pleased with it.  The organ was rededicated in honor of Emma K. Dreisch, organist at Zion from 1953 to 1985.

Information and historic images provided by The Rev. John Schroeder, February 13, 2009.
Current photo and sound clips by Neal Biggers, February 16, 2009.

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