Rohrersville Band History
History . . .
Richard Haynes, Director (Retired) and Cornet player
Reginald Norris, President (Retired)
Two men keeping 'em marching in Rohrersville
(From a newspaper article 1977 by Paul Bertorelli)
Music for the masses, circa 1977, means stereophonic
sound systems, tape players in every other car and
performers with names like Kiss and Led Zeppelin.
A sort of commercial evolution has taken over what
used to be an art form. Today audio entertainment
comes in packaging that sometimes shows more artistic
flair than the music inside.
Before that happened - even before the
advent of the scratchy noisemakers that passed as
record players in the 1920's - there was but one way
to hear music. You went and sat in a hall in front of a
bandshell and listened to a live band.
In Rohrersville, it is still that way.
Although the tiny Washington County community has only
about 100 people, it still has its own band.
It has been that way for 140 years. (Now
160+) If Richard Haynes and Reginald Norris have
anything to do with it, it'll be that way for some
time to come.
Together, the two men have a total of nearly
80 (Now 125) years as members of the Rohrersville
Band. Haynes is now (still is) its director and Norris
is the president of the organization.
The band is somewhat of an anomoly in these
parts not because the town is so small but because the
band has endured for so long.
Many of Washington County's towns -
Boonsboro, Sharpsburg, Keedysville - had bands at one
time. But only the Rohrersville unit has survived.
The reason is that Norris and Haynes have
stuck around to provide a historical continuity that
has kept the musicians together through some pretty
You have to ask these two gentlemen three
times but eventually they will agree that, yes, they
do indeed have something to do with the remarkable
longevity of what is certainly a fading bit of local
"We've had our ups and downs. Sometimes we
wouldn't even take engagements because we didn't know
if we would have enough people to play," says Haynes.
In the heyday of live concerts, the
Rohrersville band might get called out three times a
week to entertain at church socials, carnivals and
even the opening of a new bridge or road.
Nowadays, those kinds of events draw less
attention than they used to, and if music is heard,
it's coming out a juke box or from a rock band.
"Now I don't think we even play six or
eight times a year," says Haynes, who joined the unit
as a cornet player in 1940.
The band has survived not only shortages
of musicians but changing tastes in music as well.
Rock and country might be the big sellers, but there's
room for pop and classical.
"People still want to hear Sousa and
Beethoven," says Haynes.
Norris adds that the Rohrersville Band can
shift into popular tunes if it and the audience is so
"We've played some right hard pieces . . .
when we want to," says Norris
This is taken from the notes of Richard Haynes,
Mr. McCoy, who was 20 years old when he organized
the band, continued to be active in the band and was
last elected director (or Captain) Dec. 6, 1890. Since
this date, only 6 men have served officially as
The earliest minutes now in possession of the band
date to 1865. At this time there were 16 names on the
roll. For many years members would "try" absentees of
previous meetings, and if excuse was considered
"lawful by the constitution", no fine was assessed,
otherwise a 10c fine was assessed. Sometimes the
members were taxed (or paid dues) to help defray the
expenses of the band. Some of these expenses were
uniforms, new music, coal, torches, instruments and
repairs, bandwagons, and hiring of a team and driver.
On a few rare occasions, for extended engagements,
money remaining after expenses was divided among the
members. One such occasion was the Morgan's Grove
Fair near Shepherdstown around 1900-1915 when the
band traveled to the fair on the band wagon and
would stay for 3 or 4 days. In the early years the
band would not perform on Sunday.
The membership in the band has varied from as few as
round 10 to as high as 45. At the present time the
membership is around 35.
spring of 1989 the band began an annual spring
concert and a Christmas concert in the band hall. The
concerts have been well received and the band has
worked hard to present a higher quality of program
for this series, which in turn has helped improved
the general quality of the band.
season, from late winter until the Christmas
season usually requires an average of 25-35
appearances in the near-by four state area, and forty
or more rehearsals!
The following is an article which I copied 30-40 years
ago from a source which I have forgotten. I believe
that, at this time, is one of the oldest known
reference to the Rohrersville Band. I am not sure that
this is the complete article. R. L. Haynes 10-28-93
From the Hagerstown "Herald & Torch," date not given
but must have been before 1855, as Susan Davis figures
in it; she was married in 1855 to Marlin Line.
Musical Concert at Bakersville
Messrs. Editors:--Saturday the 29th of August was a
day long to be remembered in the history of
Bakersville. A grand musical concert composed of
singers from the different choirs of the surrounding
country.(sic), and ladies and gentlemen from different
parts of the country under the leadership of Mr.
Samuel I. Piper was held on that occasion.
It was a gathering which is seldom seen outside a
large city. Music was a magic wand which drew so many
bright and smiling faces, and in obedience to the
invitation, which has been given, hundreds of
scientific and practical vocalists met and joined
their harmonious voices in exhibiting the power and
beauty of that wonderful art, and in singing praises
to the Great Giver of all.
To add more to the interest of the day, six brass
bands, the Rohrersville, Keedysville, Sharpsburg,
Potomac, Fairplay and Buena Vista were present and
enlivened the proceedings with most excellent music.
A beautiful morning ushered in the day of the concert,
and long before the hour of assembling, carriages,
buggies, horses, et-cet., were seen from every side,
bringing the youth and beauty to witness and
participate in the grand musical jubilee. Nor were the
young the only representatives on that occasion; the
old patriarchs of the neighborhood, whose hair was
frosted with age, came, with their venerable
countenances, to sanction the event and add to the
At 9:00 A.M. the procession, made up of the various
choirs, bands, and promiscous crowds was formed at
Major Baker's house and under the chief marshalship of Mr. Joseph Showman, assisted by Messrs. B. F. Middlekauff, Wm. Reynolds, and Peter Long, marched to the Lutheran Church, and after being called to order by the President of the Day, Dr. Thomas Maddox, prayer was offered by Rev. Mr. Lunger.
The singing then commenced, led by Mr. Sam'l I.
Piper, assisted by Mr. Martin Eakle and Capt. McCoy,
leader of the Rohrersville Band. It is sufficient to
say that this was excellent, and could not have been
other wise when led by such accomplished musicians.
The various parts were sustained admirably and in
perfect time, and many voices blending in the richest
harmony. It was a rare sight to see so many singers
assembled together for the same purpose, and reminded
us of those grand vocal concerts which we read of as
having taken place under Mozart and Beethoven. This
portion of the exercise was continued for about two
hours to the great satisfaction of all!
This is a copy of a newspaper article dated
August 30, 1934
Fair At Rohrersville
December 24, 1858
reprint herewith an account of a "Ladies Fair,"
held at Rohrersville December, 1858, which was 76
years ago. The letter was sent to The Times by L. R.
Willman, who copied it from an old copy of the Herald
of Freedom, published in Hagerstown at that time.
affair was held for the benefit of McCoy's
Band, and the net proceeds were $102. The extravagant
language of the writer will be of interest, especially
in description of the ladies and the musicians.
Editors:--The Ladies' Fair, for the benefit of McCoy's
Cornet Band opened on Christmas Eve (1858), as had
been previously announced. Early had the throng
assembled, anxiously awaiting the salutatory, which
was displayed by Prof. McCoy's Band in soul-stirring
strains of Graffullar, which passed like a "magic
flash" over the countenances of the thronged
multitude. After having enjoyed the music I passed
along with eager gaze, when my attention was drawn
by the fascinating smiles of a fair damsel, who
presented the communication which was received and
perused with gratification. The Post Office was well
conducted and always had news to interest the reader.
object presented to my view was the grand display of
Mechanism and Art, schemed and exhibited by the
delicate hands of the fair contributors, for which
they deserve the highest praise.
articles were made of the finest material, which
required both time and labor in preparing them.
In connection with the contributions of fancy
articles, was a well selected assortment of
confectionaries. The sale of the various articles
were attended to with care and precision by the
ladies, whose beaming eyes and cheerful countenances
enchanted the young "Gents" to such a degree that
they could not refrain purchasing something from the
hands of such captivating creatures.
dining table was plentifully laden with choicest
luxuries obtainable where a repast could be procured
for the small portion of twenty-five cents. Near by
was an oyster apartment, which was strictly cared for
by two gentlemen who understood the "grab," for while
one paced the threshold crying aloud, "oysters,
Gentlemen, only twenty-five cents a plate," and
gathering up the hungry ones, the other was
vigorously engaged filling orders, accomodating all
who should be pleased to call on him. The ladies were
favored with a visit to the Keedysville Band on
Christmas day, which discoursed some choice music
enlivening the occasion and reflecting credit upon
the performers. The Keedysville Band is one of the
best in the county, and deserves praise for the
progress they have made in science of music. Also,
Hammond's Band of Buena Vista was in attendance on
the following evening, and entertained the audience
with some well selected music. This Band has made
considerable advancement in the science, for the
short time they have been practicing.
almost forgotten to mention the orchestra which I
think deserves notice in my communication.
composed of flutes, violins, guitar and violin-cello,
under the direction of Prof. McCoy, whose delight it
is to instruct all who desire a knowledge of music.
He is a gentleman who elicits the highest encomiums
for the position he has attained in the science. The
music was delightful. The plaintive sounds of the
flutes harmonizing with the shrill chords of the
violins, mingling with the vibrations of the guitar
and deep toned bass, forming one sublime strain of
melody. The Fair continued until New Year's night.
During its progress the hall was crowded to
overflowing; the conduct extremely commendable, and
all appeared to enjoy themselves admirably well.
Notwithstanding the many disadvantages with which
they had to contend, they succeeded in making one
hundred and seventy-two dollars of which one hundred
and two dollars was net profit. It then closed with
an appropriate address by Mr. N. D. Toby, after which
all returned home in quietude, never to forget the
enjoyment they realized while attending the
Taken from a newspaper article dated March 15, 1909
INSTANTLY KILLED BY A FLYING ROCK
Harry B. Rohrer Was Working in His Garden at
Rohrersville at the Time
Rohrer, aged 35 years, leader of the Rohrersville Band
and formerly engaged in the merchandise business, was
instantly killed about 2 o'clock Monday afternoon,
near Rohrersville, while working in his garden, by a
stone, weighing about eight pounds and hurled a
distance of 700 feet, hitting him on the head.
Several weeks ago Mr. Rohrer moved to a small place he
purchased of John Smith and situated near the Abraham
Rohrer mill, on the road from Trego to Rohrersville.
This road is being macadamized and workmen are
quarrying stone, for the crusher, from a cliff in the
rear of Frank Mullendore's limekiln, across the creek
from Mr. Rohrer's place.
the match had been applied to the fuse some of the
quarry workmen went to Mr. Rohrer's place and told
him to look out as the fuse to a charge of dynamite
had been lighted. Mr. Rohrer looked about and,
believing himself safe, on account of the distance
from the quarry, did not seek shelter but continued
moment after the blast was discharged some persons
saw Mr. Rohrer fall and they ran to where he lay. A
stone about four inches in diameter was lying near.
It had struck Mr. Rohrer a glancing blow on the side
of the head, tearing away a portion of the skull, the
brains and blood coming through the opening.
D. Rohrer was summoned, also Mr. Rohrer's father,
Clay Rohrer, who lives a half mile from the scene.
The body was carried to Mr. Rohrer's home.
Rohrer was well known and had many friends. He
formerly conducted a general store, but had gone out
of business. He was an active member of the Lutheran
Church and superintendent of the Sunday school.
Surviving are his wife, two small children, parents
and a sister.
Wednesday 2 p.m.; services in the Lutheran Church,
Rohrersville, by Rev. L. A. Bush; interment in
Rohrersville Cemetery. Rohrersville Band will attend
in a body. Pallbearers: Elmer Stone, Charles Smith,
George Smith, Harry Eakle, Harvey Stine, T. H. Smith.
Copy of 1866 attendance record book
Polka No. 60 Arranged by W. McCoy (Founder and Director of Rohrersville Band)
If your computer is set up to play .midi files, click on the picture
of the manuscript and hear a more recent version of the tune.
Historical Pictures and Newspaper Clippings on Display in the Band Hall
Historical information thanks to Richard Haynes, Director Emeritus
Some Interesting Facts:
8th President Martin Van Buren was president from 1837-1841.
23rd President Grover Cleveland was born in March of 1837.
Daguerre created the first images on silver-plated copper, coated with silver iodide and "developed" in 1837. 1839, Robert Cornelius's self-portrait is the earliest American photographic portrait known as a daguerreotype. The first Kodak camera was 1888 - 51 years after the band was founded.
James Butler Hickok, known as Wild Bill Hickok was born in 1837. Union scout in the Civil War. Killed by James McCall in 1876.
John Deere [b. Rutland, Vermont, February 7, 1804, d. Moline, Illinois, May 17, 1886] of Grand Detour, Illinois, begins making plows of sawblade steel. They become the first popular horse-drawn plows.
The American Civil War started in 1861 - 24 years after the band was founded.
Taps, as we know it was first used in the Civil War at Harrison's Landing, Virginia in 1862 - 25 years after the band was founded.
1879 Edison demonstrated the incandescent lamp, Menlo Park, New Jersey - 42 years after the band was founded.
Alexander Graham Bell's notebook entry of 10 March 1876 describes his successful experiment with the telephone. Speaking through the instrument to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, in the next room, Bell utters these famous first words, "Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you." - 39 years after the band was founded.
Aspirin was patented by Bayer on March 6, 1889 - 52 years after the band was founded.
Cost in 1830s:
1 lb. Cheese=6 cents
Dozen eggs=10 cents
Build a house=$500
Earnings in 1830s:
Blacksmith=$1-$1.50 a day
Farm Laborer=60 cents a day
From 1820 to 1920, except for one temporary and brief price increase in the 1860s, there was 100 years without inflation. This represents an era of unmatched stability. Three generations worked their entire lives without receiving, or needing, a cost-of-living raise.