History of Saint James’: The Organ and Other Music

For many, music is at the heart of worship.  The Church’s great occasions and major feasts are enhanced by beautiful music, just as they have been throughout the ages.  God is glorified through the music in our worship, and worshipers may experience a touch of the holy when church music is done well.  Most of us have strong opinions about it, and usually rank it with preaching and ceremonial as important elements in our worship. The Living Church

The Organ – A History


  • 1853 – Saint James’, Culpeper Street – a reed organ           
  • 1870 – Purchase of Baptist Church’s pipe organ in Washington           
  • 1912 – New pipe organ            
  • 1922 – Rebuild of the 1912 organ            
  • 1970 – Overhaul the 1912 organ, expand, and replace console              
  • 1987 – Rebuild, revoicing, and expansion of the 1912 organ           
  • 2011-13 – Major organ renovation

19th Century

The following is the earliest reference to music in Saint James’ archives:

  • April 25, 1848 – “Ordered that Mr. Bartenstein be employed as organist at a salary of $50.00 per annum.”


Ferdinand Bartenstein
Ferdinand Bartenstein

Fauquier historian, John Toler, wrote recently that Johann Nicolaus Bartenstein (1815-1884), a young musician born into an old German family, changed his first name to Ferdinand, and in 1837 migrated to America, bringing with him his violin and piano.  By 1846 he was spending time in the Warrenton area and in 1847 married Elizabeth Cole Fitzhugh Gordon (1819-1878).  He soon became an American citizen. Ferdinand also served as organist at the Warrenton Presbyterian Church.  Ferdinand and Elizabeth raised seven children; he made a good living as a music teacher and composer.  Direct descendants of “Professor Bartenstein” are members of Saint James’ today!


  • June 1870 – Saint James’ purchased the pipe organ from the Baptist Church in Washington at a cost of $170.50, including installation.  Saint James’s reed organ was sold.
  • January 27, 1889 – Richard W. Hilleary, Vestryman 1888-1917, went to Philadelphia to select an organ.
  • Late 19th century – The organ was moved from a gallery over the front door and placed near the chancel. 

20th Century

  • October 29, 1910 – Fire destroyed the church.
  • January 17, 1911 – The Vestry asked Andrew Carnegie to donate a new organ for the reconstructed church
  • April 11, 1912 – The need for a large modern organ and choir director was discussed. 
  • June 3, 1912 – The Vestry thanked Anna Camden of Parkersburg, W. Va., (mother of Annie Camden Spilman, of Warrenton), for making it possible to have an organ.
  • July 5, 1916 – The Vestry decided that Kitty Bartenstein (a Presbyterian) could practice on the organ if she paid for the electricity used. 
  • October 1919 – A new motor for the organ was purchased. 
  • December 1921 – The Rector (Rev Paul Bowden) asked for improvement in the electrical current as lights dim when organ motor is on. 
  • July 28, 1922 – The Spilman family (Anne C. Barrett) provided funds to have the organ rebuilt by M. P.  Moller, Inc., organ builders of Hagerstown, Maryland.
  • February 8, 1970 – Mrs. Bowden gave funds to rebuild the organ and make tonal changes, the job given to the M. P. Moller Company of Hagerstown. 
  • April 26, 1970 – Approval was given to borrow additional funds to complete the rebuilding project – and to accept an antiphonal organ should such an offer be made. Chimes likely given in 1971 in memory of Nancy Anne Stephenson (1935-71).
  • November 1, 1970 – A new console funded by Mrs. Bowden to be dedicated.  Also, the organ was completely overhauled and several new ranks were added by the Moller Company. 
  • January 23, 1977 – Robert Muenster offered to install a cymbal stern in the organ in memory of his daughter, Vicki Muenster.
  • May 9, 1984 – Consideration was given to playing the organ before the service.  
  • October 10, 1984 – Mrs. Bowden offered to finance organ repair; offer accepted.
  • May 12, 1987 – A contract to rebuild, revoice, and expand the organ was signed with Randall Dyer and Associates, organbuilders of Jefferson City, Tennessee.
  • 1987-89 – An anonymous donor offered to complete positif and antiphonal organ work (later revealed to be gift of Glenn Sedam honoring his wife Charlotte, and children Glenn, Kathryn, Christina, and John). 
  • April 2, 1989 – At the dedication of the of the organ, the Rector, Prentice Kinser, III, acknowledged additional gifts and memorials which made the rebuilding of the organ a reality, adding in part, “… music is one of the best ways we have to keep our worship alive and filled with God’s life-giving and joyous spirit….”   

21st Century

  • 2011 – A major renovation of the organ was undertaken by Randall Dyer and Associates using modern components with a 50-70 year life span.  Plans included the antiphonal division at the back of the church, with festival trumpet. 
  • May 10, 2013 – The newly restored organ was dedicated at an evening concert with Eric Plutz, principal organist at Princeton University, at the console.
The Organ at Saint James'
The Organ at Saint James’

(to be continued with “Saint James’ Organists”)

Compiled: History Committee – Richard Gookin, at the request of Jesse Ratcliffe, organist, Saint James’ Church.

Sources: Church archives, The Living Church, 10/24/04, The Bartenstein Family of Fauquier by John T. Toler