By Claire Goldsmith
Both historians and music lovers in San Diego County will find much of interest in the old pipe organ, which has been in continuous use in the First Congregational Church in National City since 1888. Not only was it brought “around the Horn”, but it is reputed to be the first pipe organ in the county.
The organ was built by Johnson & Sons, in Massachusetts. Levi N. Stevens, pioneer resident and grandfather of Mrs. Paul Mizony, was instrumental in securing the organ, and was the first organist to use it.
The organ was installed in an alcove, built onto the church for that purpose, and the addition to the building, the organ itself, and its installation cost a total of $1,500, which was quite a venture for a small, pioneer church. The First Congregational Church, which was organized in November of 1869, was the first church in National City, and is believed to be the oldest Congregational church in San Diego County.
The organ case is built of cherry wood, and it has one manual and one keyboard and pedalboard. The base pedals are only one and one half octaves, and the pipes number approximately 50. At first it was hand pumped, and a boy was paid ten cents a Sunday and five cents for a week-day practice, to pump the organ. On more than one occasion the pumper dropped off to sleep, and the closing hymn was delayed until he could be awakened.
When the congregation moved from the old church building at Eighth Street and A Avenue, to the new building at Sixteenth and I, DeWitt Mytinger, son-in-law of an old time member, Mrs. Sara Spofford, assisted by Luther Harris, dismantled the organ and reassembled it in the new structure. It is checked once a month and is in an excellent state of repair, despite its three quarters of a century of service.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Claire Goldsmith, recently retired Reference Librarian at National City, brings us the story of San Diego’s oldest organ.