1917 Organ by Kilgen of St. Louis
by Wolford, Woods and Hatfield Pipe Organs, Inc.
A HISTORY OF THE PIPE ORGANS AT ZION:
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
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
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.