A Centennial Birthday!

One hundred years ago, on September 7, 1918, First Methodist Episcopal Church of Orion (as it was known back then) purchased its pipe organ. The Centennial Birthday Celebration of our pipe organ will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, September 9 with an organ concert. The public is invited to attend as Jed Poust and Karl Bodenbender take turns blessing us with their musical skills on our two-manual, twelve-rank pipe organ.

We purchased our organ for $2,000 from Hinners Organ Company of Pekin, Illinois; that would be comparable to $36,000 in 2018. However, our organ is valued at much more than that today. Our church was only able to purchase the organ with a grant of $750 gift from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. That grant would be worth $13,500 today and is likely the largest out-of-state grant we’ve ever received.

In order to receive the grant from the Carnegie Corporation, the congregation had to pay at least half the cost of the organ; the church’s portion came out to $1,250. Walker Kerr served as church treasurer at the time. The manufacturer reimbursed the church for the freight, which came out to $8.02 ($144 today).

Our Epworth Organ style 575, number 24445 arrived in Orion by rail and was installed by Williams Organ and Piano Co. for $200 ($3,600 today). Rev. Alvin E Loder was pastor.

Hinners Organ Co. was founded by John L. Hinners in 1879; he was the son of German Methodist Episcopals and originally a carpenter by trade. Hinners was one of the first American mail order catalogue companies. Its focus on standard models, mass production, and direct marketing meant that even small churches in Midwestern towns could afford a respectable pipe organ. Hinners was also notable for high-quality construction that could be serviced by local craftsmen in an era before reliable roads and electricity. By being among the first to make his products widely affordable to ordinary people across rural America, John Hinners has been compared to both Henry Ford and Aaron Montgomery Ward. The company closed in 1942.*

Our church has changed much over the years and our organ has changed with the times. It was originally located on the east wall of the sanctuary and at some point, the pipes were painted. It was renovated in 1960 at a cost of $1,250 by Harold Turner Organ Associates of Albuquerque, New Mexico ($10,500 today).

When our sanctuary was remodeled and rotated 90 degrees in 1979, our organ was moved to the north wall and, thanks to Jed Poust, the paint stripped from its pipes.

In 2009, puffs of smoke began coming out of the console; some of the mechanicals were simply wearing out. Our church contracted with Levsen Organ Company of Buffalo, Iowa to fully digitalize the organ at a cost of $47,270; most of that was paid thanks to an estate gift from June Coulter. That expense would be worth $55,230 today.

We have been blessed with a number of gifted organists over the past century, including Elta Bailey, Yvonne Palmgren, Leland Gustafson, Alma Anderson, Carol Hubbard, Jed Poust, Faith (Stevenson) Skirvin, Jane Meyer, Linda Wells and Karl Bodenbender. Incidentally, Mrs. Palmgren was Kurt Nelson’s grandmother.

Please join us for this centennial celebration. It will be followed by a Hot Dog Bar in the MAC served by our 2019 YouthWorks missions team. Only quality hot dogs will be served with all the trimmings, all for a free-will donation.

Yours for the mission,

Pastor Dave


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