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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

THE PIPE ORGAN at the Grahamsville Reformed Church is celebrating its 130th birthday.

After 130 Years, She
Could Use a Retuning

By Jeanne Sager
GRAHAMSVILLE — November 11, 2003 – A member of the Grahamsville community is in a state that not even Vioxx and a heating pad can cure.
After nearly 100 years of filling the Grahamsville historic district with the sounds of music, the pipe organ at the hamlet’s reformed church is striking its last chords.
The instrument, actually commissioned in 1872 or 1873, is closing in on its 130th birthday, and a recent inspection by an expert showed that its pedal boards, trundles, pipes and keys are all very worn.
As a letter from the organ to the community (actually penned by church member Spencer Quick) states, “He . . . said that moisture, mold and mice have been ravaging my inner structure for a long time, and that not even a heating pad, mouse traps and 50 milligrams of Vioxx would provide a cure.”
But the church isn’t ready to say goodbye to the organ that heralded marriages and babies into the world.
They’re looking to restore the historic instrument to its old glory and bring it back into their church to once again lead the choir at services and provide the songs for funerals.
“If you repair it, our future generations will be able to enjoy it the same way we have,” Quick explained.
There is some money in the church coffers for the job – about $44,000 will be provided by the Irene and Kathryn Moore Memorial Fund. But the rest, about $21,000, will have to come from donations, hopefully from the community.
“We’re not financially strapped, but we’re just staying in the black,” Quick explained. “It’s a big expenditure, but because of its historical significance, it’s worth the money, worth the effort.”
According to church history, the pipe organ was built in the early 1870s by Hall and Lebach for the Clinton Avenue Reformed Church of Newark, NJ. The pipemaker was Wd. White, and the pipe voicer was James Paine, who inscribed one of the pipes with his name as well as the date on which he completed his work in May 1873.
The organ made its way to Grahamsville in 1904. With the help of an organist from that Newark church, the Rev. Hauser of Grahamsville purchased the pipe organ from Louis F. Mohr and Co. in New York City. That company continued to service the organ for the church up through the 1940s.
That seemed to be an auspicious time in the church history.
In 1904, the Ladies Aid also purchased a reed organ, and new windows were installed in the church building located across from the Tri-Valley school.
For a church that has existed since the early 1840s, the pipe organ is one of the most significant pieces of church history.
It’s still played each Sunday at 10 a.m. services by organists Jeanette Erath, JoAnn Reed or Kevin Giroux.
The church is looking to have it moved out in January and repaired by Gary Ferguson, a restorer from Livingston Manor.
The organ will be returned in the spring, fully restored, if the monies can be found to complete the job.
A restoration committee, which includes Quick, Carolyn Coombe, Cathy Coombe Bender, Warren Geyer and the Rev. Paul Ruter, has been formed to oversee the project.
And they’re actively looking to see it through.
“To me, it’s a centerpiece of our church,” Quick said. “And this is preservation of a historical musical instrument.”
To get involved, checks can be sent to the the Grahamsville Reformed Church, Abt/Moore Organ Fund, P.O. Box 238, Grahamsville, NY 12740.
For more information, call the Rev. Paul Ruter at 985-7480.

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