By Joe Barker
In 1908 members of the Leslie United Methodist Church decided to buy a pipe organ.
More than 60 members donated funds toward the purchase of the organ. On Dec. 15, 1908, the organ was installed by Hinners Organ Company out of Pekin, Ill.
A certificate given to the church by Hinners stated the organ was covered by warranty for up to five years.
It’s 2019, more than 110 years after installation, and the pipe organ is still around and working. It’s the centerpiece of the old church.
Tim Lindemeyer, a current church member recently began digging up some documents on the purchase of the organ to celebrate its 110th year of use. Lindemeyer found the original warranty and a list of donors.
He couldn’t find the exact price, but he saw references to around $175 dollars being raised. It was money well spent, he said.
“I went through all the books from 1908 listing all the purchases, so I can’t tell you the dollar amount,” he said. “Some of the (documents) are in German. The oldest date I found was 1842, but I can’t tell you what the exact purchase price was.”
Lindemeyer is a lifelong member of the church. His family has been members for years.
“Henry Lindemeyer, one of the donors, was my great-grandfather,” he said.
For Lindemeyer, the organ provided the soundtrack for much of his life.
“There’s a lot of memories,” he said. “There’s a lot of history with this.”
For the most part, save for maybe a new coat of paint in the 1990s, the organ looks pretty much the same as it would have a century ago, Lindemeyer said.
The organ is regularly maintained by a St. Louis company. Lindemeyer said it was removed from the church in the mid-1990s for renovations. It was refurbished and updated.
After all the improvements were made, Lindemeyer said the church was told it would cost about $75,000 to replace the organ. There aren’t many organs like it around anymore.
“You really can’t replace it,” he said.
The organ has slider chests and mechanical key action. It has one manual, six stops and three ranks, Lindemeyer said. The organ used to require someone to actually pump the organ to provide air. Now the process is done electronically. That change was made in the 1950s, Lindemeyer said.
The church has had nine full-time organists. The first was Robert Roehrs more than 110 years ago. Other organists were Marshall Mauer, Charlie Brandhorst, Ella Strehlmann, Henry Dreinhoefer, Alice Dreinhoefer Brandhorst, Jane Click, Helen Krudop and currently Geraline Ellerbrake.
Some spent a lot of time behind the organ.
“Jane Click, she probably played it for like 30 years,” he said.
The pipe organ doesn’t get played much regularly anymore, Lindemeyer said.
“We used it in December,” he said. “We didn’t use it in January because our organist, her arthritis is so bad, she doesn’t feel comfortable playing it.”
The church doesn’t have a new organist lined up when Ellerbrake decides to step down. He said it’s such a specialized instrument that it’s hard to find someone who can play the organ.
“It’s very difficult instrument to play,” he said.
When the organ is played now, Lindemeyer said it’s special.
“Whenever we have someone play it, we enjoy it,” he said.