A History of Lake City Bands

In 1871, the area around Lake City was discovered by a group of miners led by Harry Henson who found rich ore veins. However, at this time the land in the San Juans had been occupied by the Ute Indians and their ancestors for centuries so mining claims were not filed.

In 1874 the Utes ceded the land to the United States opening a mining frenzy. Enos Hotchkiss began the boom with his find of rich gold and silver ores. He built the first log cabin in Lake City.

By 1875 Lake City was established, the first newspaper was published, stagecoaches arrived in town, and the first wedding was held. A sizable town had sprung up by 1876 with a variety of stores, saloons, banks, a school, and two churches that are still in use today.

The town's need for music to enhance all this booming activity led to the forming of the first Lake City Brass and String bands about 1877.

In 1878 the Pitkin Guards was set up in town to help maintain peace. They remained in Lake City for many years. Their drum and bugle corps and brass band were entertaining additions to the town's active social life.

Photographs of early Lake City Bands demonstrate that these early ensembles had instrumentation consistent with thousands of American Brass Bands springing up across the United States in the Late 19th Century. After the Civil War, the 400 plus bands that had accompanied local military organizations to war returned to their communities to provide music for dances, civic celebrations, and town ceremonies.  It was common for one trained musician, usually a cornet player who could read music, to form these bands.  Members of the band were sometimes trained musicians but, as often as not, other players had little or no formal training and served as “oom-pah” accompaniments for the lead cornet player.  In the top photo C. W. Hirt, in the front row with a cornet, was the band’s leader.


Early Lake City Band






C. W. Hirt, band leader, center with cornet
Photo by Myrtle Maurer Hirt, ca 1877

Early Lake City Band taken in front of Ramsey Hall; tin siding with fake bricks painted on; photo by C. E. Wright




Lake City Band with loyal dog, at right
Photo by C. E. Wright, ca 1877

Photo by H. T. Hoffman, ca 1877

Lake City Band with instrumentations
Photo by H. T. Hoffman.

Band dogSeveral features of the early Lake City bands were characteristic of similar ensembles during the Golden Age of American Bands, from about 1890 until about 1920.  These are the inclusion of a single woodwind, the use of only two drummers, and the utilization of valve trombones, a common practice when bands lacked slide trombones.  Also typical of l9th century American brass bands is the uniformity of the brass instruments.  Often supplied through an installment purchase plan, identical looking horns would be provided by a single manufacturer, like the C. G. Conn Company. Finally, the inclusion of a dog, like the one shown beside the bass drum, was a common occurrence in town bands of that era.

Some critics of 19th Century American brass bands thought that they were overly loud, boisterous, and compared unfavorably with symphony orchestras and Sousa-type concert bands of the time. Whether or not the criticisms were always justified, those early bands cannot be faulted for their enthusiastic support of community, patriotism, and local culture.  At the same time that small community brass bands were playing with a strongly brass oriented sound, there were other bands, like those of Innes, Creatore, Liberati, Conway, Prince, and Sousa, who were performing transcriptions of the contemporary orchestra literature of the day.  Most of these bands were staffed by competent, paid musicians, and played with a degree of control and finesse not always found in the town brass bands.

The current incarnation of our Lake City band follows an instrumentation pattern established by John Philip Sousa and his immediate predecessor, Patrick Gilmore.  They subscribed to the belief that if a band contained a total woodwind percentage of over 50%, usually about 66%, a band should be able to play with musical tone color and expressive nuance equal to that of any symphony orchestra.  The goal of the current Lake City Stinger Band is to meld the spirit of those early bands with the kind of careful preparation and varied concert programming characteristic of fine concert bands everywhere.

The first newspaper published on the Western Slope of Colorado was the Silver World in Lake City. Begun on June 19, 1875, articles from it, and other newspapers, give us colorful glimpses of the bands' activities for the next 33 years (with thanks to Grant Houston's archives).

Silver World, Sat., April 28, 1877
"Al Wilson, a member of the Lake City string band, and fine violinist, commits suicide by taking a teaspoonful of morphine and then going to bed with his woman at the dance house. George Gardner is summoned and takes him for a walk about town but he dies a few hours later."

Colorado Weekly Chieftain, Pueblo, Colo., May 3, 1877
"Chieftain correspondent "Texano" describes on all-night promenade and ball hosted in Brockett's Block by the Lake City brass band."

Colorado Weekly Chieftain, Pueblo, Colo., June 14, 1877
"Mr. Hiram Davis, the popular proprietor of the saloon here, is doing a fine business. He has made arrangements with the Lake City band and now has weekly concerts in his place."

Silver World, Sat., November 11, 1882
"The ball given by the band last night was well attended, despite the storm. The members desire to extend their thanks to the public for their kindness."

"That our public school is one of the popular institutions of our town was shown on last Tuesday afternoon, it being the recipient of a fine serenade from the Lake City brass band. About four p.m. teachers and pupils were surprised by a beautiful air breaking in upon the quiet of their labors, from the band, at the front entrance. In a moment the pupils were signaled to cease work, take position, the doors were thrown open, dissmissal (sic) ordered and pupils were filed out on the steps of the entrance, where at the proper moment the principal, in behalf of the school, in an appropriate speech, thanked the band for this pleasure. Then, after another air, three cheers were given by the boys for the Lake City band. This treat will long be remembered by teachers and pupils as a pleasant ending for a laborious day."

Animas Forks Pioneer, Sat., November 11, 1882
"Chas. H. Bloom, of Lake City, leader of the brass band and one of the best violinists in the country, came over last Tuesday evening and furnished music for the dance. From here he went to Silverton."

Lake City Times, April 21, 1892
"A brass band with a membership of sixteen was organized at the Armory Sunday last, with I. P. Buckles leader. The band is composed of several expert musicians and Lake City will, in short time, be treated to some first class music."

Lake City Times, January 11, 1894
"The Lake City drum corps are expecting their new uniforms to
arrive this week. The suits will consist of coat, pants and cap, and a heavy plume in the cap. The coats are nicely trimmed with braid and heavy brass buttons, and altogether make very pretty uniforms."

Lake City Times, November 3, 1898
"Henson is going to have a band. It is to consist of 22 pieces. The
musical instruments are ordered and will be here by the 10th of this month."

Lake City Phonograph, Sat., May 2, 1903
"The Lake City Band plays a funeral dirge in the funeral procession
for the late William Wilson, killed in a fall at the Black Crook mine."

Lake City Times, Thurs., November 4, 1909
"The Lake City Band plays in the funeral procession of the late
Eugene Atkins."

Lake City Times, February 17, 1910
"The Lake City band will give a concert on the street next Tuesday
afternoon, at 2 o'clock, for the benefit of the fireman's masquerade ball to be given that night."

"The band is building a stage in Hough hall for its use in the play to be given the 17th of March. It is being made in sections so that it can be removed and restored at will."

Lake City Times, March 31, 1910
"Miss Lillie Baker celebrated the formal opening of the ice cream season last Sunday by giving it away to all comers, and the "comers" were numerous. The band added pleasure to the occasion by furnishing some excellent music."

Lake City Times, April 7, 1910
"The Lake City band got out last evening and serenaded John F. Maurer, the newly re-elected mayor, who is also a member of the band. Mr. Maurer was very much surprised when he heard the band playing when he had had no notice to turn out. His wife, however, was alive to the occasion and treated the members to ice cream, and cake, besides giving them a most sociable evening."

"We are pleased to note that the Lake City Band is doing such excellent work. There is no friction within its ranks and the entire membership is moving along as one, undisturbed by any storms that may be raging outside the harbor. Two additions of active and experienced players have been made in the persons of Ray Mendenhall as cornetist, and Wm. Dutton on the snare drum. It is quite probable that the band will buy another drum and have two snares. Besides these two, five additional ones have made application for membership and are busy practicing and qualifying for full membership."

Lake City Times, April 28, 1910
"The band gave another nice outdoor concert last Sunday afternoon, using Mr. Ramsey's combination awning and band stand for the purpose. Weather permitting the band will give another concert next Sunday afternoon."

Lake City Times, May 19, 1910 - "A Mistaken Report"
"The report that the Lake City band had forced its lady members out is a false one. They are not out and, moreover, they are not going to be forced out. The other report to the effect that they had been broken up is also a lie. Some changes in its personnel have taken place, but if anybody asks you, you tell 'em the band's here to stay."

Lake City Times, June 2, 1910
"The G.A.R., Odd Fellows, Rebekahs and Redmen formed in line last
Monday morning at 10 o'clock and marched and rode to the cemeteries, headed by the Lake City Band, to decorate the graves of comrades and members of these orders. The music by the band was good and greatly appreciated by everyone."

Lake City Times, June 9, 1910 - "Band Election"
"At the regular meeting of the Lake City band, held last Monday
night, was held the regular election of officers, and the following were re-elected for the ensuing year:
President, CV. Kinney; Vice-President, A.R. McKinnon; Secretary/Treasurer, J.F. Maurer
The two other member of the board of directors, B.N. Ramsey and Miss Minnie Hunt. The report of the Treasurer showed that the organization from April 1, 1909 to June 1, 1910, has collected and spent over $500."

Lake City Times, June 16, 1910
"The Lake City band, fifteen strong, got out last Saturday evening
and gave one of its old-time pleasing concerts in the square at the bank corner. All differences in this organization have been amicably adjusted and it is stronger than ever before."

Lake City Times, June 23, 1910
"The band gave another of its pleasing out-door concerts last
Saturday evening. Sunday afternoon seven of the boys got out on short notice and marched to the ball grounds and gave a concert in the grand stand."

Lake City Times, November 24, 1910
"A number of the members of the Lake City Band met in the new
quarters in the Hough Hall Tuesday night to talk over the situation and to plan for the future. It was unanimously decided to get busy and begin regular practice Friday night, Nov. 25, at 7 o'clock. Those interested are asked to meet at that time and place and those who have instruments or other band property who do not care to use them as members of the organization are requested to turn them over to the manager, at the Times office. We are glad that the band has decided to get busy, as an organization of this kind is a great help to a town."

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