Organ & Tower Chimes

Part 1: Early Years

The first organ was brought to Wichita County by covered wagon in 1880. It was a sixth birthday present by J. H. Barwise for his daughter, Lula, who would become Mrs. A. H. Carrigan. It is now stored in the First Presbyterian Church of Wichita Falls. No records about the earliest organs in our church exist, but we believe that a small reed organ or other portable organ was used for church services until 1914, when the first pipe organ was installed in the second church building. However, the streetcars that passed the church affected the power for this new electric pipe organ. Because both used electric power from wires above the middle of the street, when a car rounded the corner at Tenth Street, the organ’s power would die out, sometimes in the middle of a solo or anthem or during a hymn. The power would return as soon as the streetcar had passed the corner. As a result, someone, usually a young man, had to be available at every service to pump the organ manually if necessary. The problem was probably solved when the new pipe organ, donated by J. M. Dodson, was installed in September of 1919.

Part 2: 1928 Reuter Organ

In February of 1928, the Reuter Organ Company of Lawrence, Kansas, completed the installation of a new organ in the third (current) church building. It had about 52 ranks of pipes and a 4-manual console and was installed in four large chambers across the west side of the Sanctuary with the Echo division placed in the Balcony. It was the largest organ in the state of Texas. In the same year, chimes were installed by J. C. Deagan of Chicago, Illinois, for $10,000, and first heard on May 20, 1928. There are fifteen tubular bells. The Reuter organ was donated by the Hamilton, Martin, Perkins, and Snider families, and the Deagan chimes (tower bells) were donated by the Perkins family.

Part 3: 1954 Aeolian-Skinner Organ

In January of 1952, the church, with a great effort by Nita Akin, began raising money for an organ renovation. In 1953, the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Massachusetts, began to rebuild the Reuter organ, utilizing some of the old Reuter main windchests, the old Reuter pedal stops and offset chests, and some of the old pipes. It was designed by G. Donald Harrison, president of Aeolian-Skinner, and installed by T. J. and Jimmy Williams of New Orleans. Roy Perry of Kilgore, Texas, representative of Aeolian-Skinner, installed the new console. This renovation was completed in 1954. The Echo division was retained, but the rest of the old organ chambers and pipes were moved into the chancel area, with the Swell and Choir divisions placed on the east side, and the Great, Solo, String, and Pedal division on the west side of the chancel. The old organ chambers were closed off, and new stained glass windows were installed to replace the old organ grills. (The space used for the old organ chambers would become our Heritage Room in 1975.) The cost of this project was $50,257; $5,000 was taken from the budget, and 53 different people gave the rest. The organ was valued at $100,000 when completed. This 81-rank organ had 5,242 organ pipes with a beautiful 4-maunal Aeolian-Skinner organ console. On February 20, 1955, Nita Akin gave the dedication concert.

Part 4: 1986 Renovation

In 1985, a Capital Funds Drive for the organ remodeling began. In January of 1986, the Range Organ Company of Mesquite, Texas, replaced the Reuter main windchests with new ones built by the Colby Company of Tennessee. The new solid state system was installed. The work was completed in September of 1986. On November 2, 1986, Casey Cantwell gave the rededication recital, following the special worship service. Meanwhile, in July of 1985, the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, installed the new electric keyboard for the Deagan chimes.

Part 5: 2003 Garland Organ

In June of 2002, a major organ renovation began, the largest organ project since 1954. Dan Garland Pipe Organ Company of Fort Worth worked on the overall project. A new 4-manual organ console was built by Robert Turner of California. Dr. George Baker of Dallas was our organ consultant. Facade pipes were built on both sides in the chancel area to add more elegance and beauty in the sanctuary. A new air-heating system was installed in order to stabilize the temperature in the organ loft area. The entire ceiling was also replaced to improve the acoustics in the sanctuary during the summer of 2002. The new organ was completed in September of 2003. Dr. George Baker gave the dedication organ concert on Friday, September 19, 7:00 p.m.