When her health began to fail, her son. Tilghman. told me she wanted me to have the old organ. It didn’t seem right to just take it, so I offered to buy it. He didn’t want to take anything for it, but he finally agreed, if that was the only way I would take the organ.
We were putting up hay on her farm at the time and I had been helping. I offered to give him my wages in return for the organ. He smiled, probably realizing that was my total assets at the time, and said that would be fine. For nine dollars, I became the new owner of the organ.
When he delivered it to my house, his wife, Myrtle, included a hymn book from the old Lake Shore Church. The book would fall open to a couple of hymns, if given the opportunity. When I mentioned that fact to her years later, she responded with, “Back then, we sang what we knew.”
Mrs. Monroe’s pump organ provided music for my family members for more than 50years. A few pedal straps were worn out and replaced, but the bellows in the organ remained as reliable and sturdy as the lady who once owned it. It was often suggested the organ should be electrified, but that would have destroyed the character of the wonderful instrument.
A few weeks ago, two of her great-great-grandsons and their father picked up the organ. It is now back with Mrs. Monroe’s family, where there are several musicians. I think she would like that.
Donald Richter’s column appears every other week in the Commercial-News. He is a member of the Vermilion County Museum Board.