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Our Organ

pipe organ

The first pipe organ in Mineral Wells was donated to the First Presbyterian Church by Mrs. W. K. Wylie in 1911. Mrs. C.R. Williams recalls that the organ had to be pumped by hand to get the air into the pipes to produce any sound, so the boys of the church took turns pumping. This was done in a small cubbyhole wall behind the paneling and the only light came from a partially opened door. The boys had to follow the program carefully so they would know when to pump. “It was difficult work,” said Mrs. Williams, “and if they sang a hymn with five verses, those boys were exhausted.

Ellis White remembered when the organ was water-powered; there was no electricity in the church then. If there was a fire in Mineral Wells during the church service, there was no music because of the low water pressure.

During a hailstorm in 1980, the ceiling over the choir loft and organ collapsed. Mr. Ross King, a pipe organ builder in Fort Worth, was called to dismantle the organ, removing over 500 organ pipes, which were then stored in the basement of the Women’s Club.

In November of 1984, Mr. Dan Garland of Fort Worth was commissioned to restore the organ. When the work was complete, Mr. Garland noted that it was a new organ in an old case. During the reconstruction almost all the old mechanisms had to be replaced. The chimes, given by Dr. C.R. Williams in memory of his father, were also restored at this time.

The console has three sets of keys, two for the hands and one for the feet. The top row of keys, called the Swell, plays pipes housed in a chamber inside the case. The Swell chamber is fronted by shutters which operate, on signal from the console, like large venetian blinds to control the loudness. The Swell has some of the quietest as well as some of the most dramatic voices in the organ.

The second row of keys, the Great, plays pipes in another part of the case, separate from the Swell. The voices of the Great form the tonal backbone of the organ. They are used to accompany the congregation and to dialogue with the Swell.

The Pedal keys, played by the feet, ordinarily play the lowest bass notes, which require the longest pipes. The longest pipe in this instrument is 16 feet long. It is the wisdom and training of the organist to know which ranks blend well together, just as a chef knows which foods go well together.