The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 1, Page 20.


Bands and Band Music Have Always Had a Large Following in Valparaiso; First Band Organized Back In 1846

Bands and band music always have made a special appeal to the public and Valparaiso and Porter county have had as many such organizations varying in size and excellence that it is impossible to pick out which one excelled.

The first band to be organized in the county is said to have been a band organized in 1846. The director was Joseph Pierson, of South Bend, who had bands in LaPorte, Valparaiso and Crown Point, and traveled overland in a horse and buggy.

The band was headed by Judge William C. Tallcot, playing a Bb bugle. Other players were John Herr, piccolo; J. Whitemore; alto, J. N. Arvin, ophiclide; D. A. Salyer, Eb trombone; Lorenzo Russell, clarinet; William Chester, base drum; Aaron Parks, 2d B flat cornet; Rodney Dunning, base trombone, and Truman Freeman, clarinet.

The Union band is generally credited by many with being the first band organized in the county, while no reference is ever made to the band of 1846. In those days leading men of the community considered it a great honor to be members of the band. Today this honor is left to school children.

The Union band was organized during the '50s. Members comprising the organization were Reason Bell, the first white child born in Porter county; Mark L. DeMotte, later dean of the Valparaiso University School of Law, and also a congressman; Don Salyer, Octavious W. Benney, Newton Arvin, Aaron Parks, William Jewell, Isaac Cross and Marion Salisbury.

The band played at all important gatherings in town and serenaded the successful candidates after each election, a practice followed by later bands. This was a matter of great importance to the younger generation, to have been serenaded by the town band gave on a sanding in the junior community.

Several members of the old Union band enlisted in the army during the Civil war, first in the band and later in the firing line.

During the sixties new members took the places of the old Union band members who dropped out as the members grew older and took on the serious duties of life. Among them were Charles Talcott, Tom Jewell, Charles Skinner, Bill Jewell, Charles Dunham, Joseph Talcott, Benney Skinner, Bina Carr, William Christy, Dan Sayler and Winnie Brewer. There were others, but their names are not available.

It was a sad day for this organization when a circus came and carried away with them their star drummer. Winnie had acquired his knowledge of snare drumming in the civil war. He was the star drummer in his regiment and his fame spread far and wide. He won many contests as a drummer and his favorite stunt was to imitate the approach, passing and disappearance of a railroad train. Winnie served in the army with his father, Captain Jacob Brewer.

But time dissolved this organization, and in 1877 a new crop of young men took their places. In 1880 the Old City band was organized with Professor Peter Schuster as leader. Prof. Schuster was a noted musician, who came to Valparaiso shortly after the Chicago fire. He was induced to remain here by Father O'Reilly, pastor of St. Paul's church, who wanted a teacher for the St. Paul's school band. He had played for many years in Chicago as a member of the famous "Nevans band," an organization noted all over the country as one of the finest in the land. This band played in Valparaiso on the day of the laying of the cornerstone of the court house, Oct. 24, 1883. The Valparaiso band also furnished music on this occasion.

The old city band stirred people with their martial music at Fourth of July celebrations, political gatherings and aroused emotions of sorrow when they preceded funeral corteges, playing the solemn dirge of death. They filled an engagement at South Bend when James G. Blaine, republican candidate for president, spoke. Other engagements were at Warsaw, Fort Wayne, Plymouth and Michigan City.

Members of this band included: Peter Schuster, director; James Griswold and A. V. Bartholomew, drum majors; Theron H. Bell, E. Z. Cole, Fred McClung, H. N. Nichols, Prof. W. F. Strong, Peter Knight, Charles Sterett, Rowley Babcock, Prof. E. Ekbladt, Charles Sizler, H. Lentz, C. H. Dickover, Lewis Burkhart, Joseph Salisbury, Ben F. Smith, H. R. Bell, H. M. Hoyt, Fred Arvin, Taylor Chester, Edward G. Salisbury, Jacob Thune and Min A. Bell.

The band disbanded in 1889, but the following year held a reunion in this city at Memorial Opera House. Twelve of the old members attended. A concert was given by the band in the afternoon at Memorial, and then followed a banquet.

One of the engagements played by the band was at South Bend during the campaign of 1890. The band had just received new uniforms, and the drum major's suit was gorgeous. Leading more than a hundred of Valparaiso's valiant republicans in the parade down the principal streets of South Bend, all wearing uniforms, the Valparaiso delegation made a splendid appearance, and captured the admiration of Mrs. Clement Studebaker, who was host to the presidential nominee, James G. Blaine, then called "The Plumed Knight." She sent an invitation to the band and its loyal followers to come to her lawn and meet the distinguished guest. Mr. Griswold was selected to make the address.

The next great band in Valparaiso was the band of 1896. Walter Ridgon was its director. Comprising the personnel were: Arthur Kelso, Zebulon Collings, A. Rhinehart, Vernon L. Philley, Fred Talcott, George Marquardt, Joseph S. Bartholomew, Herman Miller, Abe Lowenstine, Roscoe Rogers, Wallace Philley, Bert Bell, C. L. Bartholomew, Ross A. Woodhull, Jacob Teetz, Charles Bell and Myron Bell. Like its predecessor band, this band had a similar experience when it filled an engagement at South Bend when William Jennings Bryan, the "silver tongued orator of the Platte" spoke. A special train was run from Valparaiso to South Bend, and hundreds of Bryan followers went on the excursion. The band was also a part of the local delegation. James Griswold, drum major of the old 1889 band was pressed into service to lead the local cohorts.

On the way over someone on the train concocted a plan to draft every person who got on between here and South Bend to become a member of the local delegation. Badges were brought into play, and a leader picked out of each group picked up at every stop.

When the train stopped at South Bend, the band formed at the head of the procession and the delegation marched up Main street. More than six hundred persons were on the train, and the size of the local delegation so took the South Bend committee by surprise, that this city was accorded the led in the parade, and the Valparaiso band marched in front of the crack Ebel band of South Bend, which honor had been reserved for that band.

The 1896 band was under the direction of Director Rigdon for two years, and then he left Valparaiso to accept a position at Indianapolis.

With Prof. Rigdon's departure, the band's organization became disorganized. In March, 1899, five members of the band became plaintiffs in an action against six of the other members in Porter circuit court to dissolve all the assets among the members.

The Valparaiso Independent band was formed in September, 1900, with the following members: Charles Whitehead, Herman F. Miller, Roscoe Rogers, Earl Barnes, Fred Dille, Edward Brewer, Thomas Thatcher, Edward Rainier and Myron Bell.

In 1903 a new Valparaiso city band was organized with O. Anderson as director. Members of the band comprised Charles Whitehead, Zebulon Collings, Harry Doyle, Roscoe Rogers,C. H. Dickover, Tom Polk, Herman Miller, M. Bell, Harry White, J. Jones, Warren Elam, Fred Dille, Clarence Bell, Ray Marine, E. Cotterman, M. Betz, M. Richards, Charles Bell, Roy Bartholomew, Peter Ueberhaus and Bert Bell.

L. O. Gordon, manager of the Valparaiso Lighting company, was in charge of band affairs in Valparaiso from 1906 to 1914. In the latter year the band threatened to disband because the city council met a $500 appropriation demand with a $50 donation. The band, however, played for the first homecoming celebration signed that year by Valparaiso citizens headed by John F. Sievers and also at the Porter county fair.

On June 23, 1919, the Valparaiso musicians met at Odd Fellows hall and formed a union. Roy Wells was named president; Edward Bell, secretary and treasurer, Joseph M. Salisbury, Edward Bell, Nelson Field, Mrs. Madge Lindall, William Johnston and Roy Wells were named directors. Membership in the American Federation of Musicians was obtained.

From 1920 to 1924 William Diercks, then a Valparaiso university student, had charge of local band affairs. Diercks is now in charge of the famous Hammond high school band which has won many laurels in national contests.

Members of the band directed by Diercks in 1922 were: Adam F. Lesinsky, Bernice Plette, Charles Whitehead, Alfred Cone, Richard Grou, Harley Bowsher, Robert Davidson, Arthur Harlan, Dale R. Clemens, Herbert Douglas, B. K. McLind, Howard Aylesworth, William M. Johnston, George Douglass, Henry Weed, George Ulch, George Fryburg, Richard Fabing, Ray Dean, Don Richards, Fred Cincone, Howard Sykes, Myron Bell, Edward Bell and Roy Chester.

A. B. Harkin, of the Allied Music House, now operated by Harry Buc--?--, directed the city band following Diercks. In 1927 he organized a band of 42 members, 40 percent of which were farmers. The band competed in a farm bureau contest held at Monticello, Ind., in 1929 and won third prize among a dozen ontestants, W. H. Dittman was secretary of the band organization. Of late years Valparaiso has maintained no independent band organization. August Bucci, who was killed in May, 1935, in an auto-train crash at Boswell, Ind., while returning home from the state high school band and orchestra contest at Evansville, placed Valparaiso on the band map when his high school bands captured district, state and national meets in Class C and Class B competitions.

Mr. Buccis great work was carried on by Prof. Harold Rogers, of Valparaiso university, who directing the Boone Grove band, won district, state and scored high in the recent national contest held at Cleveland. At Hebron, Rush Hughes has had signal success with a band that promises to attain high ranking.

Chesterton has had band as far back as fifty-two years ago when Albert Koch, of Chicago, directed the musicians. Prof. Koch was a master musician. Later a Mr. Reid, of LaPorte, was director. This was during the period from 1884 to 1886. Among those who played in the band at that time were Richard Taylor, Elmer DeMass, William LaHayne, August LaHayne, Mr. Hunter and Edward Way.

Arthur J. Bowser was head of the Chesterton band in 1894. He was a cornetist. Among those who played in his band were Edward Johnson, Albert Swanson, Charles Youngman, John W. Carlson, H. F. Carlson, Victor Carlson and John G. Johnson.

Gust Johnson, present trustee, also conducted an orchestra, which was in existence from 1907 to 1921. Playing with Mr. Johnson were Mrs. May Swanson, Rolla McKellips, Arthur Young, and Michigan City and Gary musicians. Mr. Johnson and his orchestra played the first dance conducted in Gary at the Binzenhoff and later played at the Gary hotel.

Porter had a band fifteen years ago under the direction of Mr. Johnson. Harry Salisbury, of Gary, a member of the famous Salisbury family orchestra of Valparaiso, directed the famous Porter Dunes band for a number of years.

Kouts has possessed a number of bands, but the cream of them all was the band established in 1933 by Edward Landgrebe, of Valparaiso, now Porter county assessor. Mr. Landgrebe put on summer concerts for two years backed by Kouts business men. The concerts attracted large crowds to Kouts and provided high class entertainment.

Back in 1906 Boone Grove had a band that was of a top-notch character. Coached by Prof. August Wolf, one of the proficient musicians Valparaiso university ever developed, the band was much in demand at county fairs, picnics, patriotic celebrations, political gatherings and log rollings. The lute William Hildreth was chairman of the band and A. J. Wittenberg, secretary and treasurer. Prof. Austin, of Valparaiso university took the band over in 1909 and as director of the organization when it disbanded in 1911. Previous to 1906 Boone Grove also maintained a band with some of the 1906 members as players. The personnel of the band was as follows: Clarence Brody, Virgil Johnson, Roe Eaton, Ross Baker, Arthur Paddock, Loren Hildreth, Earl Brody, Frank Foltz, William Hildreth, Allan White, Carl Dye, Edgar Dye, Hale Merriman, Herman Wittenberg, Arthur Berrier, Henry Eaton and A. J. Wittenberg. Boone Grove also had a band previous to 1906, but a history of the organization could not be obtained.

In 1933 the Valparaiso Elks' band was established with August Bucci as director. The band was composed entirely of members of the Elks' lodge. A number of engagements were played by the band both here and away from home.

Other bands maintained here were at Valparaiso university and the Valparaiso high school band which was organized by August Bucci and coasted to both state and national fame, winning a first place in the national band contest at Evanston in June, 1933. Another fine high school band was the Boone Grove high school band, Class C champions, and winner of third place in the national high school band contest at Cleveland in May, 1936. Other bands of note among high schools have been the ones at Chesterton and Hebron.

Hebron has had a band organization for many years. Weekly concerts were given during the summer months at Hebron and large crowds were attracted. A. R. McAlpin and Claude Commeaux were directors of the band during recent years.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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