OSTKarn_cutout_sm.pngThe 1889 D.W. Karn from the Old St. Thomas Church


In August of 2022, my wife and I were in St. Thomas, Ontario and just happened to stop in at an old church, the doors were open and we were warmly welcomed in for a tour.  Of course, being a reed organ enthusiast, the first thing on my mind is ‘I wonder if there is a reed organ?’, and I was not disappointed.  There were two reed organs, a Chicago Cottage organ at the front of the church and a larger action D.W. Karn (made in Woodstock, Ontario) in the balcony.  I tried to play the Karn, but it took plenty of effort with severe air leakage and there were many dead reeds.  The organ was well used and in terrible need of a restoration.

After we left, I had already made up my mind that I would one day volunteer to restore that organ for them if they were ever interested in that.

In January of 2024, I saw a news article on the church, mentioning that the Christmas Eve service was almost a silent night with the church organ silenced and unplayable, but they had a very successful night regardless.  Shortly after I read that, I sent an email to Rev. Cannon Nick Wells with an offer to restore the organ at no cost to the church, a gift to celebrate the 200th anniversary this year.  The offer was accepted by the church board and on February 10, 2024, the organ was in my workshop and the restoration began.

So far, at the time of this writing, the reed pan is in relatively good condition with no signs that mice were ever in this instrument.  There is a significant build up of black coal dust on the reed pan, and the felts are badly moth eaten.

However, this should be a fun restoration, and I am looking forward to hearing it in the church when complete, as the acoustics in this building are amazing.

OSTKarn_0005.JPGHistory of the Church

Old St. Thomas Church was founded on land donated by Captain Daniel Rapelje, the founder of St. Thomas.  The building is considered an early example of North American pioneer architecture.  After the construction was completed in 1824, a tower was added in 1825 with the aid of Col. Thomas Talbot.  Being one of the earliest churches in the Talbot Settlement, the building is an example of Gothic Revival architecture.

The first incumbent, the Rev. Alexander Mackintosh served the congregation from 1824 to 1829, he was also the village’s schoolmaster.  The congregation began with only 12 parishioners in 1825 but quickly grew to 41 by 1827.  In 1833 the church was consecrated.  By 1840 the church was enlarged.  In 1877 the church congregation moved to the Trinity Anglican church in St. Thomas.  Trinty Anglican Church has amalgamated with St. John's Anglican Church and the combined congregations are now known as The New St. Thomas Church.  By 1982 the church site was made an Ontario heritage site and in 1986 the church was restored and renovated.

The church reed organ was donated to the church in 1968 by Edith Topfner, in memory of her husband Josef Topfner who died a year earlier, who was the former caretaker of the church.

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Restoration Photos

Click the images below to see the details and progress of this restoration.  New chapters will be added as the restoration progresses.