Our daughter-in-law, Amy, is a descendant of this Miller family. Abraham Miller's brother, Henry, was her 3x-great-grandfather. They were descendants of Johannes Miller who bought a farm in 1783 near what is now Annville, Pa. He and his wife, Magdalena (Baum), are buried in the Miller family cemetery on the farm. Some of his descendants are also buried there and at the Gingrich Mennonite Church. The Miller line was firmly planted in Lebanon County until Amy's grandfather who lived across the line in western Berks County. Now you know why "Miller Organ Company" caught my eye.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
One day last fall when I was at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, someone brought in an old pump organ that was being donated to the society. Things were moved to make a place for it in the library. I finally remembered to take my camera along this week and get some pictures of it.
The thing that caught my eye was the name just above the keyboard, "Miller Organ Company." I knew something about these organs.
Miller organs were manufactured in Lebanon, Pa. The company was born out of necessity. Adam Miller wanted an organ but he was a farmer and could not afford to buy one. He put his woodworking skills to use and made the cabinet but did not know how to make the inner works. When he heard Abraham Miller (unrelated) had an organ that needed repairs, he offered to do the job so he could learn how organs were assembled. Adam was a quick learner and he was soon being called on to repair and build organs. He built a shop on Eighth and Maple Streets in Lebanon in 1872. Soon afterward Abraham became a partner in his business and the company expanded rapidly. At the height of productivity in 1901 the company employed sixty people and produced 1600 organs per year.
The company began to decline after Adam's death in 1904 and the death of Abraham in 1911. The organ business could not compete with the Victrola and went out of business in 1923, a victim of the changing times.