The Henry Pratt Organ and its Builder
The organ was built in 1799 by Henry Pratt of Winchester. Born in Wrentham, Massachusetts on 14 May 1771, the son of Noah and Hannah Pratt, Henry moved to Winchester in 1792, there practising the trade of house-joiner which he had learned from his father. In 1795, Henry married Rebeccah Jewell; they had at least nine children. They lived in a house on Warwick Road (still standing, the residence of the Geo. A. Thompson family); the carpentry shop was across the road.
As a young man, Henry seems to have examined a small church-organ, possibly one of English make, on some expedition with his father. A lover of music, he had already built other musical instruments, including fifes and violins; curious and inventive, he obtained drawings of the organ and planned to build one for himself. He was encouraged in this enterprise by a wealthy resident of Winchester, Capt. Samuel Smith, who offered Henry a bushel of rye per day during construction of the organ and a three hundred dollar bonus if it actually worked. The organ was finished in 1799, perhaps with some advice from Eli Bruce, a pioneer organ builder in Templeton, Massachusetts; it did work, and Captain Smith gave it to the town for use in the meetinghouse.
Inspired by his success, Henry Pratt promptly built another organ, and before his death on 28 August 1841 he completed at least forty more, of which only a few are known to survive. At one time he employed William M. Goodrich, who later became an important organbuilder in Boston. In 1811 Henry Pratt became the first Postmaster of Winchester. He died insolvent at the age of 70. A simple flat marble slab marks his final resting place in Evergreen Cemetery in Winchester.
In 1842, Henry Pratt's first organ, still owned by the town, was sold at auction to the Universalist Church of Winchester. Subsequently altered by Julius L. Pratt, one of Henry's sons, the organ sat idle from 1877 to 1903, when it was moved to the Conant Library. Unplayable for many years, it has now been completely restored by the Stuart Organ Company of Aldenville, Massachusetts. Richard S. Hedgebeth, head of the firm, has Pratt ancestors.
The organ has one manual or keyboard, and direct mechanical connections between the keys and the valves under the pipes. There are five ranks, or sets of pipes, disposed as follows: