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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 thin times.
       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 Americana.
       "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 inclined.
      "We've played some right hard pieces . . . when we want to," says Norris

This is taken from the notes of Richard Haynes, Director. (1993)

       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 director.
       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.
       In the 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.
       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 enjoyment.
       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

       We 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.
       The 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.

       The letter follows:
       Messrs. 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.
       The next 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.
       The 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.
       The 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.
       I had almost forgotten to mention the orchestra which I think deserves notice in my communication.
       It is 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 Rohrersville Fair.

Taken from a newspaper article dated March 15, 1909

Harry B. Rohrer Was Working in His Garden at Rohrersville at the Time

       Harry B. 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.
       After 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 his work.
       A 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.
       Dr. C. 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.
       Mr. 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.
       Funeral 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
    Shoes=60 cents
    Cook stove=$25
    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.