"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe

Lawrence Bands

Drawing of open gazebo, an old-fashioned bandstand

     "To THE CITIZENS OF Lawrence; Buch's Military Band wishes to state that on account of the electric light plant being out of order, that the band will have to discontinue the band concerts for an indefinite length of time, until the lights are in the park."

     This article appeared in the Gazette on June 10, 1903, and had reference to the disastrous flood of that month and year. Buch's Military Band, and those before it, gave many residents a delightful evening's entertainment every summer for those who were "compelled to stay at home during the summer months". The first concert of each summer started in South Park on a Friday evening, usually around the first of June, and the concerts were alternated between South Park and Central Park.

     Homeowners living near the parks always had friends sitting on their porches, steps, and porch railings, to listen to the concerts. On particularly hot nights, the women would fan themselves with fans made of cardboard with a wooden handle, advertising some merchant's wares, or those made of basket weave straw. Sometimes the hostess would serve lemonade to her guests. Many horsedrawn carriages would park along the curbing near the band, and listen to the concert.

     Men, women and children strolled around the bandstand, disregarding the attacks of mosquitoes, chiggers, and June bugs with their clutching claws. You could always count on three popular pieces to be played at every concert -- "Listen to the Mocking Bird"; "The Whistler and His Dog"; and John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever".

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     Lawrence almost always had a band; the first one was formed in August of 1854. There were such names as Alford; F. Savage; N. Hazen; A. H. Hazen; James Sawyer; Joseph Savage; O. Wilmarth; and Harlow. When these men met in Boston to start on their journey to Kansas, they had their musical instruments with them. At the station, John Greenleaf Whittier had distributed large cards on which were printed the verse of his poem, "The Kansas Emigrants", written especially for the occasion. Someone in the group discovered that the meter of the Poem corresponded

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     to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne", and the men immediately began to play--

"We cross the prairies as of old
"The Pilgrims crossed the sea,
"To make the West as they the East
"The homestead of the free."

     After arriving in Lawrence, these men became the nucleus of the first musical organization in Kansas. They played national airs, hymns and Sunday School songs. The first festive celebration in Lawrence was July 4, 1855, and the band played in a grove about a mile northwest of town. By the spring of 1856, the pioneer band was well organized and some of the names that were added to the list were, Samuel Kimball and Fred Kimball. Gen. James Lane had the band play frequently to provide martial music to stimulate enlistment in the volunteer militia for the protection of the town. They also played at funerals.

     The band grew in numbers and prospered until 1863. In March of that year, the Kansas Conference of the Methodist Church was held in Lawrence. In honor of the event, the Methodist Sunday School arranged for a concert in which the band took a prominent part. A movement then was started to secure new instruments for the band. Gov. Charles Robinson headed a subscription list to raise the necessary funds. A new set of silver instruments was the result. After diligent practice, the bandsmen assembled the evening of August 20, 1863, and gave a concert from a platform that had been erected near the bridge, (where the Shunganunga boulder now stands). The next day Lawrence was destroyed by Quantrill.

     "For more than a year the survivors had but little time or heart for music, but at the time of the Price raid in October, 1864, they went to the front as a militia band and served on the border for two weeks", one account said.

     June, 1867, the band assisted in the exercises of the first commencement at Kansas University. On September 15, 1879, the remaining members of the band assembled for the last time. It was the 25th anniversary of the arrival at Lawrence of that New England party which left Boston in 1854 singing Whittier's, "Kansas Emigrants", and they had been called together to furnish music for the old settler's meeting at Bismarck Grove. Some of the members came back to Lawrence just to play that day. The last survivor of the band was Forrest Savage.

     Soon after, John H. Bell came to Lawrence in 1884, and he organized Bell's Military Band. Mr. Bell had a music store in the 700 block on Massachusetts street. He played the trumpet, an instrument which up to that time was rare in a band. His horn was of French make and gave out a beautiful tone. Mr. Bell was the father of Bonnie Bell Houston and Walter Bell. He wrote many marches for his band, some of which were arranged for

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the piano and were published. The titles of some of these are: "Intrepid Leader"; "Chicago Land Festival"; "Old Knickerbocher Jr."; and "Euphoria" which featured the tuba. They were all peppy marches. One called "Old Napper's Hick Nut Dance", was inspired by the music that was played on a banjo by an old Lawrence Negro who used to drive down the street in his wagon singing and playing his banjo. They called him "Old Napper". The Bell band eventually disbanded, due probably to the stress of business interests.

     Buch's Military Band followed. Mr. John Buch taught wagon- making at Haskell Institute. He organized a brass band in 1878 with 10 friends, all Germans, who were among the early settlers. These 10 men played together until 1884. The original ones were Buch; Schneider; two Lesch brothers, two Griggs; Yeager; Biebush; Rhinehammer; and Bell. The band consisted of two drums and eight brass instruments.

     By 1900, the band had grown to 28 and the members were: Leader, solo clarinet -- John Buch; piccolos -- Ed James, Paul Dinsmoor; clarinets -- Roy Cooper, Walt Brannin, Ben Keiser, G. Leis, Al Bromelsick; cornets -- Gerhert Planz, Will Dick, J. R. Topping, Will Harris, Ed Leis, Ben McFarlane, Ed Riling; altos -- Harry Lander, Dick Booth, Frank Iliff, Clarence Hanscom; tenors -- J. F. Davis, C. Stow, R. E. Everett; baritone -- Hugo Ketels; basses - - A. Planz, R. Swartz; drums -- Fred Easter, O. E. Bryan, Fred Soxman.

     Buch's band and the Haskell band played at the Santa Fe station, June 29, 1900, when Gov. Theodore Roosevelt of New York, vice-presidential candidate, had a 10-minute train stop here.

     John Buch also had a very popular orchestra. His three sons played in it with him. John Jr. played the violin and also made violins; Louis played the violin; and Bert played the cello. Walter Bell also played in this orchestra. Every summer Bert and Walter Bell played in an orchestra at Elitch's Garden in Denver. Once Bert was an accompanist for Ignace Paderewski, famous pianist. Paderewski reportedly told him he was one of the finest accompanists he had ever had.

     Walter Bell played string bass. He could arrange most any music. Walt and Bert practiced every morning in Denver with the orchestra to get ready for the concert. A young teenager used to hang around and listen to them. One day a lady called Bert and told him her son was the boy who was there every day, and she asked Bert to give him music lessons. The boy was at a difficult age and this was the only thing he seemed to be interested in. Bert taught him the violin and viola. The boy's name was Paul Whiteman.

     Walter Bell left Lawrence and played in Kansas City at the Schubert Theatre and then on to San Francisco to play in the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Paul Whiteman formed his

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orchestra and when he was in San Francisco he contacted Walter Bell and persuaded him to join him and arrange all of his music for him. They toured the United States and Europe, and his orchestra played in Lawrence.

     After Buch's Band broke up, there were the Haskell band, the Kansas University band and the Lawrence High School band to take its place.

Published in Journal-World May 5, 1965

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