The History of the St. John's Pipe Organ

View the stoplist for the 1924 Möller pipe organ.

Not much is known about the organs of the previous church buildings of St. John's. However, according to William White’s “A History of the Organs of Rock Hill,” the organ in the 1897 sanctuary was a two-manual instrument built in 1911 by the M. P. Möller Company of Hagerstown, Maryland. It was the company’s Opus 1189 and consisted of 10 ranks and 18 stops.

On May 2, 1924, the same Möller Company was contracted to build a three-manual organ for the new sanctuary of St. John’s Methodist Church. This instrument was the company’s Opus 4008, and boasted 19 ranks and 32 stops. The cost of the new instrument was $7,900, with a $900 credit being given for the old organ.

The new organ was dedicated on January 13, 1925 as part of a weeklong opening celebration for the new building. The inaugural recital was played by Arthur Speisseger, former organist at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 1973, a new console was built for the instrument at a cost of $24,998. The entire organ was releathered at this time, and the choir loft was also reconfigured. Two stops (Krummhorn 8 and Trumpet 8) were to be added, but had to be cut before the installation in an effort to save money.

In 1974, a tonal refinishing occurred and a new principal chorus was added to the Great. Twelve bass pipes from the original Principal 8 were retained in the façade. The other forty-nine pipes were sold to members of the congregation to raise money for the project. Other stops were removed and/or moved to other divisions of the organ at this time. The total cost for the work was $13,880.

The new pipe work arrived on November 5, 1974 and was insured by Gill Insurance until the work could begin in January of 1975. When the new Great principal stops were installed, they were placed outside of the chambers. Until this point, the entire organ had been under expression.

The Möller Organ Company went out of business in 1992. Midlands Pipe Organ Company of Charlotte, North Carolina was then hired to care for the organ, and discussions were begun for other repairs and improvements to the instrument.

In August of 1994, the entire organ was once again releathered and new stops were added. These stops included a grand Trompette 8 on the Great, a new Bourdon 16 in the Pedal, a new reed chorus in the Swell (Bassoon 16, Trompete 8, Oboe 8, and Clarion 4), and a Zimbelstern. The total cost for the work was $73,220.

In 2001, a new electronic blower was added to the organ. Other repairs were also undertaken at that time. The total cost for the work was $11,518. The new organ blower was installed under the organ chamber. The previous organ blower was located in the church basement, accessible only through a small door in the ceiling.

By 2017, the organ was in need of significant repair. Problems included notes that did not sound, unreliable controls, constant ciphers, and air leaks. As part of the restoration, the organ was cleaned and rewired, portions of it revoiced, a new console installed, and new stops added. The work was done by the R.A. Colby Organ Company of Johnson City, Tennessee, a leader in the industry for restoring historic instruments. The total cost was $250,000. The renovated organ was rededicated on January 13, 2019.