(Editor’s Note: A series of stories about history in Morrison County will be shared by the Morrison County Historical Society for printing in the Record. This piece was written by Jan Warner and was copyrighted in 2001 by the Morrison County Historical Society. We hope you enjoy reading about the history of the county).
Royalton was determined to have a band. There was the Royalton Cornet Band, the Royalton Fire Department Band, the Royalton Band and the Royalton Municipal Band. Though bands came and went, the musical spirit of the community carried on from generation to generation. Our limited amount of research does not tell us if any of the bands overlapped or if each discontinued and a new band was organized.
The Cornet band was organized Jan. 15, 1886. Professsor J. M. Van Camp was hired as the paid director. Officers of the band were: J. W. Bell, H. C. Wilson, J. H. Russell, C. M. Phillips and C. A. Johnson.
In 1895, the Royalton Fire Department Band was organized and its director was also Professor Van Camp. An 1898 account in the Royalton Banner states: “The phenomenal soul stirring and music making Fire Department Band will give a grand blow at the Muncy opera house Monday night, Feb. 21. Speaking of the band boys that will without superhuman force be there and take part, we will first mention with pleasure Prof. Van Camp, a strictly first-class all round band man, who never misses a chance to please.” Mention is made of all of the members of the band, including Fred McGonagle, sometimes known as “Dusty Diamond” and “Any Old Thing.”
In 1905, a band concert was given by the Royalton Band with Fred McGonagle as director. Featured were, a baritone solo by Carl Sjoberg, “The Old Home Down on the Farm,” and a cornet solo by Roy Boyd titled “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree.”
Another Royalton Band was organized in 1917, with a membership of 21 men, most of whom had no previous musical training. Appeals were made to the community to pay for instruments costing $32.00 each and for band uniforms to cost a total of $300 to outfit the band. A Royalton Band Concert was held at the Palace Theatre May 21, 1920. Dr. E. H. McGonagle was the trombone soloist who played “The Witch.” “A Little Bit of Pop,” a comedy giving each section’s version of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” was one of the band selections.
A Royalton Band Concert Program for May 21, 1926 states: “The band you hear tonight was organized Nov. 1, 1925 with most of the members beginners on their respective instruments and has progressed from the simplest of exercises. Wind instruments cannot be played in perfect musical tone and tune without years of constant practice and we ask that you bear this in mind when criticizing the concert – tonight.”
It’s 1927, and here we go again. A 24-piece band was organized by Dr. E. H. McGonagle.
And in 1930 the Royalton Municipal Band played under the direction of Dr. E. H. McGonagle.
The Royalton Band traveled to many communities and also played at the Minnesota State Fair in l937. Royalton had its own band stand and hosted many parades and community events. Minstrels, stage shows and outdoor movies were also part of the Royalton entertainment scene.
It’s obvious, Royalton likes to have fun.
This article was first published in the spring 2001 Morrison County Historical Society newsletter. Those interested in learning more Morrison County history can visit the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum, 2151 Lindbergh Dr. S., Little Falls or morrisoncountyhistory.org.