Friday, November 4, 2011

The Lennox Municipal Band

When I first saw the prompt on this week's Sepia Saturday post my thoughts went immediately to Lennox, South Dakota, home of the much acclaimed Lennox Municipal Band!   Lennox is a small community of about 2,000 people situated in the midst of Lincoln County's pasture and farmland in the southeast corner of the state.   The village, originally known as "Ben Lennox" in honor of an official of the S.S. Merrill, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, began as a tiny isolated prairie community of less than 100 immigrants and adventurers in the Dakota Territory during the mid to late 1800s.  According to the city's website, "In 1885 Lennox boasted the following establishments: 4 general stores, 2 blacksmith shops, 3 saloons, 2 hotels, 1 harness shop, 2 boot and shoe shops, 1 livery barn, 2 hardware stores, 1 lumberyard, 1 clothing store, 2 millinery shops, 1 ball room, 1 drug store, 1 physician, 1 attorney, 3 churches, 1 school building, 1 butter packing house, and a cornet band!"

Lennox Band of 1887

The Lennox Band was organized in this little community in 1883.  A young farmer, Mr. A. B. Jacobs, also known as "Whiskers," (who curiously has no whiskers in this photo) took up the baton as band leader right away and was instrumental in its ongoing success and growth.   The original eight charter members of the band pooled their money to buy a set of second hand instruments from Garden City Music Company in Chicago for $60.   Jacobs is credited with teaching many members of this little community band to not only enjoy their band music, but to learn to play instruments with which they had little or no experience.  

My grandfather, Selmer Stubsten,  was one of those novice musicians whom Jacobs taught to play.  The son of Norwegian immigrants to the Dakota Territory, my grandfather had had no formal musical training.  He joined the band at the age of 30 and took up the tenor saxophone under Jacobs' tutelage.  The earliest photo of the band I could find that included my grandfather was in 1917.   He can be seen in the middle row on the left in the picture below:

Lennox Municipal Band 1917

In 1958 the Lennox Municipal Band held a big celebration for its "Diamond" anniversary denoting 75 years of continuous service to the community.   Included in the celebration was a tribute to my grandfather for his 50 years of continuous participation in the band.  (My grandfather was 80 years old by that time.)

My family was living in Oregon in 1958, and I was very young, so I have absolutely no memory of this event.   We did go on a train trip to South Dakota around that time, however, so I wonder if we were actually able to attend this concert that honored him.  (I would like to think that my mother, especially, was able to be there for him).  

Today The Lennox Municipal Band is still going strong, which means that it has now been in continuous formation for 128 years!  The band, of course, still holds the title as "the longest running municipal band in the state of South Dakota".  The city now supports the band financially, however, and in 1963 the community actually built a new Bandshell in the local park so the Municipal Band could perform concerts for this little community "in style"!    

Jacobs Bandshell of Lennox

Please check out the many other interesting Sepia Saturday blog posts this week.


Postcardy said...

Your grandfather's long service is amazing. I'm glad to see that the band is still there.

(Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

Hi Mary thanks for dropping by. That was a very informative post. I am looking to find me another violin and let my children get it for Christmas for me. If you could find a Suzuki piano program near you it is so easy to learn that way, even as an adult.

Bob Scotney said...

That tribute to you grandfather says it all about the man. An amazing post which I enjoyed tremendously.

Little Nell said...

This was a very enjoyble post Mary. It’s almost a rags to riches story with the band members buying their own set of instruments. The riches of course are in the hours of musical enjoyment since then.

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

Didn't they have wonderful uniforms in the early days!

barbara and nancy said...

I loved this post. I learned so much about lennox and your grandpa and the long life of the band. Wow - two hat shops in one little town!
Nancy Javier

Alan Burnett said...

It is a wonderful tour through history : based on your family, based on a specific locality, widening to take in a great sweep of social history. The essence of Sepia Saturday.

Caminante said...

I'm sure the band your grandfather played n would be a cohesive force in such a small community in what I assume was a fairly empty countryside.

Mike Brubaker said...

What a terrific essay on both the band and your grandfather. I find it astounding that such remote places could produce bands back then, and even more impressive that the Lennox Band is still performing. I have a great photo from nearby Vermillion SD that I hope to write about soon.

Rob From Amersfoort said...

It's nice to have ancestors from all over the country, each with their own background. Life must have been hard at the start of the 20th century, playing sax was probably one of the few distractions.