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This is a very interesting little account of Knightstown’s very own Brass Band. Seems bands like this were very popular in the 1800s and many small towns all over America had one. Our little K-town band had a friendly rivalry going with the band from Greenfield, memorialized in J.W. Riley’s poem titled “The Old Band”.
This is the Silver Cornet Band in their first “Bandwagon” used from 1868 until 1871. The picture was taken in 1868 on Main St. in front of the Bank.
The Silver Cornet Band
by William M. Edwards – 1846-1936
An account, written many years ago, at the request of the Knightstown Banner, by William M Edwards (born 1846, died 1936) of the Knightstown Brass Band which existed before the Civil War, and of the Knightstown Band organized after the Civil War, of which he (W M Edwards) was a member and played the solo alto horn.
By Wm. M. Edwards – A Member of the Silver Cornet Band
Have I any recollections of the old band? Well, now! Yes, a few, now that you have asked me. I am carried back to the day when two barefoot boys, Joe Cameron and I, marched beside the real old band and with wonder and delight watched the old/young men puff their cheeks as they blew out from the old-style brass horns on the down beat and the after beat, They marched and played proudly heading a procession along west Brown Street. This Band was known as the “Wild Hoosier Band”. (I just have to comment here…… I think it’s a shame they decided to change the name to the rather benign “Silver Cornet Band”. I think the “Wild Hoosier Band” is a fantastic name for a hometown brass band,,;Ed.)
Memory! Ah. I see them yet—Earl Ried, the leader, Ed Niles, Bob Grubbs, Joel Edwards, Frank Elder, Jerry Mason, John Bell, John Charles, Curg Boblett and others, with John Cameron bringing up the rear with the big bass drum. This was the old band of Knightstown in the days before the Civil War.
But the war came, and the band instruments were laid aside as enlistments in the army disorganized the old band.
It fell to the lot of a few of the lads yet in school to gather up the leavings – the horns and the music books: and to set the town crazy. I was one of these boys; and we held rehearsals in the attic room of the old Haines Carriage Shop, on the corner of Washington and Brown Street. There were more enlistments in the Army as the youthful musical aspirants advanced in years, and the country’s call for volunteers gave a silencing blow to the efforts to produce a band at that time. I enlisted and became a bugler in Company A. Indiana’s 139th infantry regiment. Not until the war was over in 1865 was there any attempt to reorganize another Brass Band. Some, but not all, of the prewar members of the old band returned from the war. Those who came home joined with those who had remained home and formed a Band in the year 1866. They prepared to equip themselves with new instruments. This band became known as the “Silver Cornet Band”.
During the year 1866, six new instruments, known then as overshoulder instruments, were purchased, (I wonder if they bought the instruments from “Professor” Harold Hill…??) but these were not received until January 1867. To this purchase were added four more in about a year.
In October 1868 the Band was in proud possession of its first Band Wagon, photographs of which may now be seen with the members seated as they rode in it playing. A few of these photographs are still cherished in Knightstown homes. This “Wagon”, so called at that time, was built by Branson & Whittaker, whose shops were at the corner of Jefferson and Warrick Sts. (As Frank Edwards, son of W.M. re calls, it was on the south east corner, and was destroyed by the big cyclone which hit Knightstown in 1882.) The running gear was taken from an old bus obtained from Benjamin Elder; and the body was the elaborate handiwork of Charles Davenport. With what pride the members of this band, dressed in their First uniforms – velvet coats with brass buttons and caps with gold-braid trimmings – mounted to their seats in the new Band Wagon with instruments all shining and bright for a take-off around the town. Sure, no finer band on earth!
After three years use, this Wagon was sold in 1871 to the Dunreith Band: and through the salesmanship of Wm. Shekels a new Wagon—no, a chariot was purchased from Kauffman & Co. of Mechanicsburg, Ohio, The Knightstown Silver Comet Band had become famous!
Here’s the “New” Silver Cornet Bandwagon delivered in early 1872 and the band in their snazzy uniforms. Even the picture was hand colored and “jazzed” up.
This new “Chariot” arrived in Knightstown, February 23. 1872, and of course was given a proper “christening” at once by a trip around town. On April 26, 1872 this Chariot served in its first trip abroad when the Band played for a celebration held by the I.O.O.F. Lodge of New Castle.
The K.S.C. Band entertained the patrons of the first Fair held at Middletown, Ind., for two days, Aug. 14-15, 1872, and we were entertained at the best hotel, given the freedom of the town and passes to all shows.
Again a trip in the old Band Wagon to Anderson in 1868, where we played for an old-time political rally during U.S. Grant’s race for the Presidency with Colfax running for Vice-President.
In order to make our arrival on time for the forenoon parade, we were compelled to leave Knightstown about 2 A.M. The going was good until within a few miles of our destination where we found the roads blocked with wagons holding representatives of each State -flags flying, banners of all kinds waving, marchers and horsemen. These men gave way for us and cheered lustily as we rode on. We led the parade; had a pitch-in country dinner on the grounds. We stayed until the meeting closed and started for home. Alas!, the skies darkened, rain descended and our troubles began! We lost our way before reaching Warrington and struck “one o” them thar ole mud and corduroy roads” of those days. We were fortunate in having a lantern, which by turns we carried ahead to watch for chuck-holes. We used fence-rails to lift us out of the depths. Wet and weary we arrived in Warrington, and by some forgotten method prevailed upon the sleeping family of William Trees to take us in for supper at about 8 or 9 P.M. But the supper was put on, and such a supper!
Then some band music for them; and we climbed in the old Band Wagon, arriving in Knightstown safe and sound a few hours later.
A memorable trip or outing was made when the Band, in August 1871, went to the Miami Reservoir in Ohio on a camping out stunt, stopping on our way to camp out at night. Heavy rain overtook us late in the afternoon, and we thought best to use a tavern for the night, the “Vonarele” at Berlin on the southern shore of the lake. The remainder of the trip we camped. By day we rehearsed new music, cooked our meals, had boat rides, swimming and fishing. By night we did nothing but swat “skeeters”.
Returning home by way of Piqua, Ohio, we camped the first night near Gettysburg, Ohio. Next night at Centerville, Indiana, and made our home flight next day, arriving late in the afternoon of the 10th of August, with a blare of music and greetings from home friends. All the boys were sick up to August 29th excepting W.M. Edwards.
August 24th we helped in an I.O.O.F. Celebration at Rushville, but left at home sick in bed John Cameron, Clung Cameron, and John Bell. August 30th to Sept 1st we played for the U.S. Society: and that ended the use of the old Band Wagon.
During the winter of 1871-72 the band gave a two-nights entertainment in Bell’s Hall, Knightstown, giving as a present in a blind-fold race, a turkey. James Tinney, George Ramsey and James Mills carried off the prize.
Concerts and Festivals were frequently given in those days to help pay for the Band Chariot and new uniforms. One of these affairs was the Cantata, “Winter Evenings Entertainment”: and I wonder how many in Knightstown remember taking part in this Cantata, wonder whether our friend L.C. Wink remembers his part in the “Hurrah for the Fight” chorus. One of these several Festivals proved remunerative to the extent of $432.26 net.
On August 27, 1872 P. T. Barnum was due to be in Indianapolis with his big circus and menagerie; so the Band, after some correspondence with the official, undertook management of a railway excursion to the circus over the Pan Handle (Pennsylvania) Railway, contracting for five coaches at a fixed rate, with the privilege of selling round-trip tickets from Dunreith, Ogden. Raysville, Knightstown and Charlottesville—all these towns being regular stops for passenger trains at that time. We solid round-trip tickets at $1.00 each (the regular fare being $1.25 for one way l; and sold enough tickets so that the patrons scattered throughout the train, much to the consternation of the train conductor, who threatened to refuse acceptance of the tickets. In the meanwhile, Mr. Barnum had been requested by mail to permit the band members to sell tickets to the circus on the train.
This he politely refused, in a letter which I still have in my possession. However, with his compliments, he gave the Band members free passage to his tents. This was indeed a gala day for the Band; and netted $400 which helped materially in the payment for the new Chariot.
The Silver Cornet Band was well known to be for prohibition throughout. The drinking of “booze” by its members would have surely caused the disruption of the Band. An instance of this: The Band had played in Cambridge City, August 15, 1873, playing for the Knights of Pythias. As we started home a young Knightstown man asked permission to ride home with us. His wish was granted. After a few miles on our way he offered refreshments to any in need. John Bell quickly manifested his desire to become acquainted with the contents of the bottle, but, to the amazement of the young man, John held the bottle over the side of the Chariot and allowed fall the contents to on the wheels and dropped the bottle. The crash told the tale. Not a word was spoken, and the incident closed in silence. Thus began the movement which resulted in the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the U.S. movement which resulted in the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the U.S.
Organized in 1866, many of the Band members had served in the Civil War. The members, as of June 17, 1868 included John T. Charles, Ben Sortman, Noah Wagoner. I.N. Wright, W.M. Edwards, W. L. Loring, W. Mc Cameron, John F. Bell, Joe B. Cameron, Oliver Charles, J.B. Edwards, G.W. Hill, John D. Cameron. Walter Weaver (a drummer-boy during the war) and N.C. Welborne.
Our leader and teacher, at the time, was Prof. L. W. Eastman, formerly with the Greenfield Band. A number of changes in the membership came as the years passed, the vacancies being filled by Lone Moore, Thos Cosgrave, John Canby, Frank Butler, W.M. Hill and others. W.C. Welborn and W. M. Edwards are the only living members at the time this is written.
During the Band’s later years a splendid band-stand was erected on the Public Square (at the south end) in which the Band frequently gave concerts. On t h e ground floor of this stand, J. M. Woods, at one time, had a lemonade and peanut stand and later it was occupied by J.M. Wilson as a shoe repair shop. Finally, the stand was bought by Aaron Carroll and moved to the west end of town.
The following clipping from the Indianapolis Sentinel, in 1872, is a complimentary notice of the Band: “The Knightstown Band is magnificent in a new uniform, and gorgeous in a new Band Wagon. It has a campaign dress and a complete campaign outfit. For many years it has borne the reputation of being one of the best bands in the State; and for three or four years it has redoubled its efforts under the able leadership of Prof. Eastman. Doubtless it will sustain this summer its well-earned reputation and win fresh laurels for Itself by playing first class music at many different points in the State.”
Mr. James Whitcomb Riley. our Hoosier poet, was , at the time our Band was in its days of supremacy, a member of our friendly rival, the Greenfield Band. He was led to write his poem, “The Old Band,” from his pleasant memories after more than twenty years. Our Prof. Eastman is mentioned in the poem. I am happy to have a copy of one of Mr. Riley’s books, which he sent me, and in which he wrote, on the fly-leaf, a stanza of his poem, “The old Band,” which in this instance, he inscribed to me as “One of the old Band Boys” and signed and dated. I quote the inscription “To W. M. Edwards, Esq., With hale fraternal greetings of his friendly rival of the long-lost days of the Old Band, both of Knightstown and Greenfield.
James Whitcomb Riley – July 26, 1909
“I want to hear the Ole Ban play”, as Riley wrote; and Mr. Editor of the Banner, so do I!
W. M. Edwards
The following notes are added by Frank Elder Edwards, born 1876, son of W.M. Edwards, and at this date, January 1960 living in Ogden.
Much of the information which follows appeared in an interview with W. M. Edwards by William Herschell of the Indianapolis News which was published in that newspaper in 1933. According to the interview, the Band organized before the Civil War was known as the as the Wild Hoosier Band Reorganized after the Civil War and became known as the Knightstown Silver Cornet Band. (Trumpets and Saxophones were not used in bands of that day, and evidently they did not use clarinets.)
W. M. Edwards and his buddy, Joe Cameron learned all they knew about music and horns from Tara’s Harp School song books, and this enabled Joe Cameron to enlist in Gen. Lew Wallace’s 11th infantry Band.
W. M. Edwards became bugler in the 139th Infantry; and, since there was no band with this Regiment, he was honorably discharged at the end of the War as First Musician of the Regiment. The local Band Leader, Wm. E. Reid (Earl Reid) became Bandmaster of the 11th Indiana Regiment, known as Gen. Lew Wallace’s Zouaves,
Jerry B. Mason – uncle of the late Sam Mason of Knightstown – became Lieutenant in the 36th Infantry, and was the first Knightstown soldier killed in the War. It was in his memory that the Knightstown post of the Grand Army of the Republic,
organized at the close of the War, was named the Jerry B. Mason Post. Their Headquarters, as far back as I can recall, were in a room at the rear of the second floor of the building now occupied by Jolly’s Drug Store: and there they kept the old, army muskets used in firing the Salute, a regular part of the Memorial Day program. I knew most of these veterans and at least three of them fought at Gettysburg. Walter Weaver of the old band was a drummer-boy in the Army.
For many years W. M. Edwards and William Welborn were the sole survivors of the old band, and Welborn’s death left W. M. Edwards the last survivor of the Band, and, too, he was the last survivor of the Grand Army of the Republic in Knightstown.
It was in 1868 that the Band obtained the services of Prof. L. D. Eastman, as Conductor—the same, Eastman who conducted the Greenfield Band in which James Whitcomb Riley played and later memorialized in Riley’s famous poem, The Old Band.
W. M. Edwards was the band Treasurer, and kept notes of their expenses and the engagements of the band. Among the small purchases: lamps, coal-oil, washing chariot, horse feed, wood for the stove, repairs on horns, drum heads, cleaning the rehearsal hall, hauling Crariot to the Fair, lamp flues, music books, sponges for washing chariot, Matches, music paper, ink, and — caster oil! The oil was used in the valves of the horns. There was a bill for “express on plumes”.
In 1909 W. M. Edwards invited the survivors of the Greenfield Band to a reunion with those of the Knightstown Band. Mr. Edwards received the following letter from James Whitcomb Riley:
“Your letter is certainly an inspiration, and I thank you for it as I would Providence for a new-found juicy poem. What dear refreshing memories of our simple past it brings back to the aging man, once as it seemed eternally young and blithe and blossom-hearted in the old days that were ours by the magic of youth and music and the simple soul reposing glad belief in everything.”
Joe Cameron, W. M. Edward’s boyhood pal, later became well known as Conductor of the famous When Band of Indianapolis, sponsored by the When Clothing Store; and George Mills of the old K-town band played tuba in that organization.
My last memory of anything connected with the Old Band was the famous old Chariot parked on a vacant lot where the Alhambra Theatre now stands. The plumed horses had evidently been unhitched and taken to the big barn on the rear of that lot, the barn where the relay horses for the Stage Coaches had been kept when they traveled the National Road through Knightstown.
In the gay nineties we had a new Knightstown Boys’ Band, – gay uniforms and a tall Drum Major, who could throw his long baton as high as the telegraph wire and catch it whirling as it came down. The Drum Major was Gus Cameron. The Leader was Frank Butler, a cornetest famous throughout Central Indiana. Me? – I play B-flat Clarinet, which I later tooted in the Indiana University Band, the fore-runner of the Marching Hundred.
I think that most of the boys in this band were sons of members of the old Silver Cornet Band. Band Music was not taught in the Public Schools at that time and the band boys for the most part just tooted until they could play.
The “Adelphians”, The Greenfield Boy’s Band in their Bandwagon.
They were the arch rivals of the Silver Cornets.
James Whitcomb Riley, “the Hoosier Poet” was once a member of the Greenfield Adelphians and they were the inspiration for his poem “The Old Band”.
THE OLD BAND
It’s mighty good to git back to the old town, shore,
Considerin’ I’ve be’n away twenty year and more.
Since I moved then to Kansas, of course I see a change,
A comin’ back, and notice things that’s new to me and strange;
Especially at evening when yer new band-fellers meet,
In fancy uniforms and all, and play out on the street
What’s come of old Bill Lindsey and the Saxhorn fellers say?
I want to hear the old band play.
What’s come of Eastman, and Nat Snow?
And where’s War Barnett at? And Nate and Bony Meek;
Bill Hart; Tom Richa’son
and that Air brother of him played the drum as twic’t
as big as Jim;
And old Hi Kerns, the carpenter—say, what’s become o’ him?
I make no doubt yer new band now’s a competenter band,
And plays their music more by note than what they play by hand,
And stylisher and grander tunes; but somehow—anyway,
I want to hear the old band play.
Such tunes as “John Brown’s Body” and “Sweet Alice,” don’t you know;
And “The Camels Is A-Comin” and “John Anderson, My Jo”;
And a dozens others of ‘em—”Number Nine” and “Number ‘Leven”
Was favo-rites that fairly made a feller dream o’ Heaven.
And when the boys ‘u’d saranade,
I’ve laid so still in bed I’ve even heerd the locus’-blossoms droppin’ on the shed
When “Lily Dale,” er “Hazel Dell,” had sobbed and died away
I want to hear the old band play.
Yer new band ma’by beats it, but the old band’s what I said
It allus ‘geared to kind o’ chord with somepin’ in my head;
And, whilse I’m no musicianer, when my blame’ eyes is es’
Nigh drownded out, and Mem’ry squares her jaws and sort o’ says
She won’t ner never will fergit, I want to j es’ turn in
And take and light right out o’ here and git back West ag’in
And stay there, when I git there, where I never haf’ to say
I want to hear the old band play.
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