The choir was started by Miss Matilda Brown in 1856 with David Elder as the choir leader. By 1858, a choir had taken the place of the preceptor. A gallery for the choir was built over the vestibule on the eastern (porch) side of the church with stairs on the northeastern side. A melodeon (a reed organ) was also placed inside the second-floor gallery. A carpet was also placed in the aisles and on the pulpit platform. It was ingrain stripe with big figures in green, brown, and red. When President Lincoln was assassinated, the church was draped in black – paper muslin on the gallery, and around the pulpit, black wool. Soon afterward, someone broke into the church and stole the black wool and the carpet!By 1867, the congregation had gotten smaller and the young people, not wanting to sit with the adults, sat in the gallery. A box-like gallery was built for the choir on the ground floor against the eastern partition and a new melodeon was placed there. Other renovations included making two aisles rather than one running east to west, removing some of the “amen pews” and adding four coal stoves – one at each corner. (If you look at the picture of the church in the archives room outside the sanctuary, you can see the chimney of one). The church was again carpeted but within a month, it was stolen again! After that, cocoa matting was used and there it remained until 1887.
In 1887 and 1888, everything was torn out. The choir box was removed and the choir placed in a curtained nook in the southwest corner. The gallery and stairs to it were abandoned. The window openings were faced with oak and oak wainscoting was added. New pews replaced the “back breakers” and a pulpit of oak was installed. The walls were frescoed and tinted a soft gray with a red border. A small library was boarded off in the southern corner of the vestibule (porch side) and a cloakroom on the northern side. The renovations were paid for by the women of the church (the men didn’t want to spend the money). “They made preserves by the barrelful, baked cakes by the hundreds, and gave two big fairs.” Additionally, our first organ was donated by Mrs. Wilhelm.
In 1892 the church was first lighted on June 11, 1892, with two chandeliers for coal oil lamps over the center aisle and brackets for single lamps on the side walls (notice our current day electric lamps remind us of their predecessors).
In the next installment, we will see the changes the 20th century brought to the church complex including the renovation that changed our sanctuary to what we see today.