THE WILLIAMS ORGAN COMPANY'S  EPWORTH PUMP ORGAN # 3676

A true family heirloom that was built in the 1892 – 1893 time frame, the organ’s history is documented in the following narrative.
   front after
A note from Aunt Margaret Christenberry, to her niece, Melissa (Williams) Rinehart.

10-5-99
Milissa, [sic]  Aunt Meg's Notes
    I want to give you the history of the “Old Pump Church Organ” that I am giving you.  It came out of the Good Hope Country Church that stood just east of the original Good Hope Cemetery or Walnut Hill Cemetery as it is now known just north of Odon, Ind.

First to give a little history of the church, the ground for the cemetery was given by the Boyd family and the ground for the church was given by the Shaffer family.  The Boyds and Shaffers came to Indiana from Tuscarawas County Ohio.

The organ was played by your great grand mother [Dovie Christenberry] up until it was discontinued for services by the Methodist Conference which was about 1926.

At that time Edna Boyd received the possession of it and she took it to Brown County Ind. where she lived at her death.  Rose and Walden Boyd, her brother and sister became the owners after her death.

Later they decided to move to Florida and Rose said if I would come to Brown County., and get it I could have it.  Which I did.  I have had it in my possession 40 years.  But now it is time to pass it on.

Please take good care of it and keep it in the family and don’t forget where it came from.

            Your Great Aunt,
        M . L. CHRISTENBERRY
              302 S. Spring
            Odon, In 47562
p.s. It has to be close to 100 years old

Dovie (Shaffer) Christenberry was the great grandmother of Melissa


As noted above, this organ was purchased, probably in 1893 and installed in the Good Hope Methodist Church, a small one room wooden country church located one mile north of Odon, Indiana and across the road from the Good Hope Cemetery.  Dovie (Shaffer) Christenberry was one of the young ladies who played the instrument for the church services.

When the Good Hope congregation disbanded and joined in with the larger congregation in the town of Odon, the organ went to the descendents of the Albert Boyd family, son of one of the two families who founded the church and cemetery.  It remained in that family first with daughter Edna until her death, them with daughter Rose and son Walden, siblings who maintained a household together in southern Indiana.

Upon their retirement and decision to move to Florida, the instrument was given to Margaret Christenberry, a great granddaughter of the Frederick Shaffer family that help start the church and who still lived in Odon.   In 1990 she transferred ownership of the instrument to her great niece, Melissa (Williams) Rinehart along with the brief history presented above.  The instrument continues to be in Melissa’s possession at her home in Bloomington, Illinois.  The instrument was registered in the Reed Organ Society database as entry # 4110,

In 2010, Melissa’s father, Roger Williams - a grandson of Dovie Christenberry, had the instrument professionally restored by Mr. Duaine Hechler of Hechler Piano and Organ Services, Florissant, Mo.  That process lead to an effort to verify the age of the instrument.  Known data bases of organ manufacturer’s serial numbers and the corresponding year of manufacturing were found to be  void of information from most manufacturers including the Williams Organ Company that made the Epworth Line. 

Internet searches for information produced one promising lead:  The Jacksonport, Wisconsin, Methodist Church website:  http://www.jacksonportmethodist.org.  The narrative on that website mentions that” Music from the original Epworth pump organ still fills the church” that was completed in 1892.  The pictures displayed an instrument which looked to the one from the Good Hope. 

SO  - - - What about a serial number???

The Jacksonport Methodist Church is located near Sturgeon Bay, WI. and is maintained by the Methodist Church in that town.  Contact with personnel in that church office and Jacksonport Historical Society failed to produce any information regarding serial numbers.

However, on August 10, 2011, representatives from both of the church and the historical society met with this writer at the lovely small, very well maintained, church in rural Door County Michigan.  They were eager to learn more about their historic instrument.

The Epworth organ was found to be in remarkably good condition  and it filled the church with a beautiful sound when played.  The initial search for a serial number or any other markings inside the instrument proved futile until this writer’s wife happened to raise up the music rack to reveal a storage area and EUREKA there is was:  2683 and 302 stamped into the leading edge of the single shelf in the storage area!! 

The Good Hope instrument’s serial number, stamped on the top of the wind chest inside the back of instrument, is 3697 so it is from the same period.  (We later realized that the 3697 and 302 are also stamped on the leading edge of the music shelf as well.)

There is general agreement literature that the Williams Organ Company was capable of producing about 1500 instruments per year.  So it can safely be say that the Good Hope Organ was manufactured sometime in late 1892 or early 1893.

The instrument is was registered with the Reed Organ Society and is included in their data base listed at the bottom of this page.  Aunt Margaret Christenberry went to her eternal rest February 17, 2012 knowing the complete history of the instrument and with the knowledge that the instrument was being properly maintained.

The Jacksonport instrument also displayed the words “CHICAGO and CENTERVILLE, IOWA” stenciled on the face plate between the two sets of stops – information not found on the Good Hope instrument.  An internet search of Epworth and Centerville, Iowa produced some useful information regarding the Williams Organ Company and the Epworth line.  The Williams family, members of the Methodist Church - and no relation to this writer, started the company in Centerville, Iowa and later expanded to Chicago.  Epworth is a town in England where John and Charles Wesley, founds of the Methodist.

Copies of the pocket size “catalog” used by those ministers, and a program from the North Nebraska of the Methodist Church Conference meeting held in September of 1892 were also found via the internet as well as some miscellaneous bits of advertisement information.  The conference program has three pages of Williams Organ Company advertisements including a “300 style” which looks to have an identical cabinet.

Several other Epworth instruments as well as are registered in the Reed Organ Society’s database with a few of them containing verified serial numbers and dates and reverse extrapolations of the year of manufacturing support the 1893 era production of both instruments.

                   Links to most of the information that was gleaned are listed below:

The JACKSONPORT METHODIST CHURCH
Follow the small link to look inside.

WILLIAMS ORGAN COMPANY FOUNDERS

1892 METHODIST
CONFERENCE ADVERTISEMENTS

KNOWN EPWORTH SERIAL NUMBER & AGES

MINISTERS CATALOG 1900
a very large pdf file

MINISTERS CATALOG 1917
a good size pdf file

The Reed Organ Society
data base link is on the side bar