Below is a brief history of the General Reynolds Cornet Band pieced together from a few, somewhat vague published accounts. The accounts are not footnoted, so the source of the some of the data is not known. Over time, this information will be expanded and verified as research comes available.
The General Reynolds Cornet Band seems to have been formed in the wake of the American Civil War. This was the era of the brass band and most communities had a brass band of some sort. Bands served as main entertainment at many local events in this era before the advent of recorded music. Though the Conestoga band existed prior to 1875, it is known that the band was formally organized in that year by David Kendig, Benjamin McLane, Benjamin Warfel and John B. Urban. The band was formed “in honor of four local men killed while serving in the Union Army” and was named in honor of Lancastrian Major General John F. Reynolds, one of the U.S. army’s most gifted generals, who was killed at the opening of the battle of Gettysburg in 1863.
A typical event at which the band would have been an integral part was described in 1879 by the Lancaster Daily New Era. The newspaper noted that the General Reynolds Cornet Band provided music for the Green Hills School Sunday School picnic held on the property of Henry Kurtz. Attendance at the event was quite high.
The band was officially chartered on April 30, 1880. The charter, signed by twenty men, stated that the members “agreed to associate themselves for the cultivation of instrumental music and are desirous of acquiring and enjoying the powers and immunities of a corporation of body politics at law for the furtherance of such purpose.” The following men signed the charter:
B[enjamin]. S. McLane
D[avid]. K. Kendig
M. H. Bendict
J. B. Lawrence
B. F. Warfel
B. K. Maynard
John M. Smith
A C. Maynard
J[ohn] B. Urban
J. M. Witmer
Wm. C. Smith
Albert W Guiles
H. H. Rhinier
In the same year, the band played in political parade in Lancaster. One critic stated that the band “…blared forth with full strength (and some lack of harmony)…” At least the band seemed to make up in vigor what it lacked in skill. During its history, the band practiced at a variety of locations, including the home of Martin Good, and then the Charles Kreider Confectionary Store, and later the Knights of the Mystic Chain lodge (the building across from that presently occupied by the “Duk On In” bar).
The Band in 1886
The earliest photo of the band, taken about six years after its being chartered, shows it having about fifteen members. The uniform, if it was one, seems to simply have been the bandsmens’ “Sunday best” dark suit. By 1903, an actual uniform seems to have been instituted. The uniform is similar to the uniform of members of the G.A.R. (Grand Armies of the Republic), an organization for Civil War veterans. The coat seems to be a short six button frock coat, white shirt and kepi. Again, at this time, the band seems to have about fifteen members and now had a band wagon.
This photo was taken while the band was still called
the "General Reynolds Cornet Band."
In the front row, from left to right are Grant gardner, B. Frank Zercher, David Caldwell,
Grant Warfel, Martin Markley, Abe Aston, ---- Pries. In the back row, from left to right, are
Maris Jones, unknown, Earl Pries, John Zercher, Charles Kreider, Amos Aston, Christie Smith, Edward Wade.
The gent sitting high above everyone else is not identified, but he is sitting on the seat of the band wagon,
which is behind the group. The photo was taken beside the former office of Dr. John Kendig in Conestoga.
The name of the band seems to have changed shortly after this date, abandoning the reference to General Reynolds. The next reference to the band appears in conjunction with the first celebration of “Gilmore Day” in Lancaster, honoring the great Irish-American bandmaster, Patrick Gilmore. The big celebration occurred on June 12, 1905 and centered on a parade featuring various county bands, including the “Conestoga Centre Band.” Following the parade, the thirteen bands in the parade, including the band from Conestoga, formed a single massed band on the steps of the Lancaster County Courthouse.
By 1913, it appears that the band name had changed to the even more generic “Conestoga Band.” A photo from this date also shows a change in uniform. This time it appears to be a dark, possibly blue, jacket, dark trousers, and a visored cap. Again, there appears to be about fifteen members at this time.
This photo shows the band when it operated under the
more generic name of the "Conestoga Band."
The photo was taken at the Colemanville Methodist Church. In the front row, left to right are
Amos Aston, Harvey Binkley, Ben Zercher, Ed gardner, Edgar Morrison, William Nagar, and Chester Aston.
In the back row, left to right, are Martin Markley, Charles Kreider, Raymond Aston, Chester Kreider,
lloyd Kline, Henry Aston, Howard Myers, Eugene Myers, and Paul Trissler.
It is stated that the band had its last performance in 1944 and that the band was disbanded at about that time. Its last performance was for Commencement at PALS Community Building in that year. However, some individuals remember attending practices possibly into the late 1940’s.
Caldwell, Harry - Reminiscences provided to author
Hess, Larry E, The Old Home Scene: Conestoga, 1976, 44-46. (text and photos)
Sigman, Michael and Ronald Walton, Reflections of a Country Village: A History of Conestoga 1805-1980. (Conestoga: 175th Annersary Committee, 1980) 54-55 (text and photos)
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