Local music history — Augustus Sherman memorial organ

A plethora of activities in Glens Falls on May 19, 1887 did not prevent First Baptist Church from drawing a large crowd for a recital to show off its new organ, a gift from the children of Augustus Sherman to the community.

“Last night was eventful — full of happenings — and newspaper men had an active time. But the omnipresent reporters were equal to the task,” The Morning Star reported on May 20, 1887. “They were called upon to chronicle an organ concert at the Baptist church, a meeting of the engines of the fire department, a wedding, and a meeting of the village trustees. To this list might be added other occurrences such as a meeting of the Knights of Columbus, meeting of the Odd Fellows, an inspection of the Sandy Hill Electric light plant by citizens of Glens Falls, and a rehearsal by St. Cecelia’s brass band.”

The new organ had been used for church service for the first time the previous Sunday, with Mrs. John E. Potter, church organist, at the keyboard.

The Morning Star proclaimed the May 19 recital by guest organist Professor Story “a musical feast.”

“The seating capacity of the church could scarcely accommodate the large audience. The recital not only offered those who attended an opportunity to judge of the power and capacity of the new organ, but showed that Mr. Story is an accomplished organist.”

George S. Hutchings Co. of Boston built the two-manual organ that had 39 stops.

Hutchings, who lived from 1835 to 1913, was born in Salem, Mass. and orphaned as a child, according to “The History of the Organ in the United States,” by Orpha Ochse, published in 1975 by Indiana University Press.

He became an apprentice to his brother, a carpenter and builder, and later took up cabinet making.

In 1857, the Hook Organ factory in Boston hired Hutchings as a cabinet maker, and he worked his way up to become factory superintendent.

In 1869, he became a partner in J.H. Wilcox & Co., and in 1884 became the sole partner, changing the company name to George S. Hutchings Co.

In 1901, the company merged with the Votey Organ Co.

The children of Augustus Sherman donated the organ and also pulpit furniture in memory of their father to the First Baptist Church congregation, which had recently constructed a new building.

Sherman, who died on Dec. 3, 1884, was a lumber baron, banker and businessman who, at one time, was the wealthiest person in Warren County.

His long-time home is now the Glens Falls Senior Citizens Center, at the corner of Glen Street and Sherman Avenue.

The congregation accepted the donation at a meeting on April 17, 1887.

“We most gladly grant the permission sought and gratefully accept the noble instrument thus donated to the church,” the resolution of acceptance read. “In so doing, we appreciate, more highly than we can express, the generosity and rejoice in the privilege of accepting their magnificent gift. … In this the lovers of sacred music in all congregations in town will share.”

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Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY