The history of the hymn boards
A few weeks ago, we learned about the dedication of two hymn boards in memory of William Leland Lord by the Women of the Church in 1962. Since then, we've learned more about this dedication.
While cleaning out the desk of the oldest member of our congregation, her son found papers that belonged to Orange Presbyterian Church and passed them on to us. They shed more light on the design and fabrication of the two hymn boards that hang in the church today.
On July 28, 1961, Rev. Richard F. Taylor wrote three letters regarding the building of two memorial hymn boards built. The first letter was written to Mr. J. E. Seay of Louisa, VA. Mr. Seay was a furniture builder who had met with Rev. Taylor previously about the project. What follows are parts of the letter from Rev. Taylor:
Dear Mr. Seay,
This letter is to confirm that we are proceeding with the contract to build two hymn boards for the “W. L. Lord Memorial” here in the Orange Presbyterian Church, in accordance with the drawings which I brought to you during the past week.
It is my understanding that you will build and finish these two (2) boards complete... furnishing all materials and finishing for the sum of $125.00. The exception to this price is that the two curved pieces which have to be made will be cut out in the rough by Biggs Antique Company, Richmond, VA.
You will furnish the dressed walnut (18” x 36” x 13/16”) from which these two pieces will be cut. You will note that the two pieces in Richmond will be delivered to you unfinished and will require sandpaper and finishing in accord with the rest of the boards and this will be a part of your contract.
The two brass crosses and the two brass memorial plaques will be furnished to you separately by ourselves. I hope that you will install them on the boards as a part of your work.
I would urge that you take all the time that is necessary as we wish the very finest work possible and the best materials available. Thank you for your kindness and attention.
Richard F. Taylor, Pastor
The second letter Richard Taylor wrote that day was to Mr. S. D. Huxley, Treasurer of Biggs Antique Company in Richmond, VA. Following are parts of that letter from Rev. Taylor:
Dear Mr. Huxley,
I appreciate the very courteous reception which you and your people gave to me the other day when I brought the drawings of these two memorial hymn boards which we are seeking to have built for this church.
Confirming the conversations which I had with you, it was my understanding that we would furnish the material, which is walnut.... that Mr. Dorset, foreman of the Machine Room, would see that the special curves and cutouts were made on this board for each of the two hymn boards; that Mr. Stenning would carve out by hand the five pieces on each board, according to the drawing. It was my understanding that Mr. Dorset would charge from $15 to $25 for the work done in the Machine Room and that Mr. Stenning would charge $10, personally, for his work. No finish of any kind was to be rendered by you folks, this work being done by Mr. J. E. Seay in Louisa.
I am writing to Mr. Seay and am asking him to go ahead and make up a piece... out of dressed walnut... this piece will be brought to you for you to cut out the two boards. A set of drawings will be furnished to you at this time. You may then let us know when we can take them back to Louisa for finishing.
I appreciate this personal attention from such a busy firm.
Richards F. Taylor, Pastor
The third letter written that day was to Mr. W. E. Stenning at Biggs Antique Co. in Richmond, Va. Mr, Stenning was to hand carve the tops of the 2 hymn boards being built. Following is part of that letter from Rev. Taylor:
Dear Mr. Stenning,
Attached is a letter to Biggs which confirms the order for the work on the two hymn boards as per our conversation the other day. Please let Mrs. J. P. Maddex, Orange, VA, know when your handwork is completed…..Thank you for your great help and courteous attention to our needs,
Richard F. Taylor, Pastor
We are excited to learn more about these hymn boards. We now know that they are solid walnut, portions are hand carved and that the total cost of was about $160.00 (about $1,429.00 in 2021 dollars).
These copies were in one envelope and mailed to Mrs. Rowland F. Hill, Jr. Handwritten on the bottom of the envelope is: “Mrs. H….keep these, I have no file copy.” Thank goodness that not only did she keep the letters, but so did her daughter. Fortunately, Rev. Taylor had the knowledge to help with the design process and make this happen. Thank you to the Women of the Church for such a beautiful gift to our church.
- Jennie Hill Robinson
OPC History Team