Man traveling through Kingman gets hooked on museum pipe organ - will play Sunday

It was love at first sight when Paul Carson - traveling through Kingman to his home in Oklahoma City - stopped by the Mohave Museum of History and Arts.

The minute he saw the 76-year-old Austin pipe organ, donated to the museum in 1974, he was hooked.

"When I walked in and saw it, it knocked me over to see something of that age in such good condition," Carson, an organist said.

"I think it is one of the oldest pipe organs in the state of Arizona still in use."

Carson, who is somewhat of a Austin organ connoisseur (he also played a 1915 Austin pipe organ at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium) was so impressed with the organ that he asked to play it, and then volunteered to tune it.

Museum personnel were so impressed with his abilities they invited him to be the special guest organist at the annual Christmas concert Sunday - an invitation he gladly accepted.

"It is an absolutely wonderful organ.

It is a piece of history," Carson said.

"Kingman has a link with what is good in the world with that organ."

Built is 1926, the unique organ was originally purchased in 1926 by John Watson Thompson, a Mohave County pioneer was arrived in the county in 1875.

Known by his friends as 'Wat' or 'J.

Wat.' Thompson ran a ferry across the Colorado River and was a prosperous rancher.

In the early 1900s he left his ranch and took over the management of the Beale Hotel of which he was half owner.

In 1926 he purchased a pipe organ from the Austin Organ Co.

for the sum $3,650 for the Methodist Episcopal Church, Carson, who has seen the original purchase order, said.

"It was then shipped by rail to Kingman, and hauled by wagon from the train station to the church," he said.

"Someone from the factory came with the organ to install it.

It was the best organ you could buy at the time."

The vintage organ had a permanent home for a time, but in 1968 the church moved out of the building - which is now used by the county - to another location and the Austin ended up in storage until 1974 when it was donated to the museum.

The manual pipe organ - which would sell today for $35,000 or more - contains two chambers and 225 pipes, Carson said.

When the organist plays the organ keyboard, a motor turns, forcing air into a large pipe that feeds into the bottom chamber of the organ.

The compressed air is fed to the pipes, which produces the notes.

"The smaller the pipe, the higher the pitch.

The bigger the pipes the lower the pitch," he said.

Carson said he is a retired Dillard's merchandise manager, but has been playing piano since the age of seven and has a music degree.

"Now that I'm retired I can go where I want and do the things I want to do," he said.

"I want to get back to small town living.

Kingman is a great town with friendly people."

Carson lives in Tucson part of the year, but is so impressed with the organ, the museum and Kingman, that he is having a house built here.

He said he is looking forward to playing some old favorites and Christmas songs for the program Sunday.

"I have a chance to play on a jewel of an instrument," he said.