Music in Montour County

Everyone loves music and the citizens of Montour County are no exception.  Through the years, Danville has been blessed with many bands and musical organizations. The area’s smaller communities, such as Washingtonville, Exchange and Mechanicsville had bands as well as organizations such as the Washington Fire Company, the Stove Works and Kennedy Van Saun. The Boys and Girls Band, organized in 1935 and sponsored by the Elks and American Legion had as many as 1,000 members throughout its lifetime. Dr. Harold Foss organized the Danville Symphony Orchestra which played on Danville’s Opera House stage. In 1969 several local musicians formed a local community band which was sponsored by the American Legion and as a result became known as “The American Legion Band”. In 1999 the name of the band was changed to “The Danville Community Band”. This band is an outstanding example of Danville’s long-standing musical tradition.  

How did this long-standing tradition begin? Local lore tells of a gentleman standing on the old bridge near what became the Canal on Mill Street blowing a horn, entertaining the citizens in town. Many walked after their evening meals, just to hear the remarkable sounds of this amateur musician.  Among those enraptured by the music was Abraham Sechler. This young man had a quick ear and taught himself to play, urged on by his inspiration and the resolved to excel. Soon his four brothers joined him in an amateur band where they earned a reputation as very proficient musicians. At times the brothers would practice on the same bridge as the wandering minstrel had to the delight of the people of Danville.

The first regular cornet band was organized in early 1838 and was called ‘The Danville Independent Band’. Abraham Sechler was chosen president and leader at the organization meeting April 25, 1838. Also at the meeting were Jesse F. Sholes, George S. Sanders, Oscar Moore, Jacob R. Sechler, Michael Rissel, George W. Hall, Joseph Hiles, Charles Sechler and Jesse Clark. Their uniforms were blue with yellow lace trim and brass buttons. The collars were required to be ‘stand-up collars’. A constitution and by-laws were adopted by the members. One rule  imposed a fine of two dollars in case of intoxication during the hours of duty. According to sources this rule was never violated but this was before the time of ‘lager beer and poisoned whiskey’.

With the passing of time the name of the band was changed to “The Danville Cornet Band”. In 1855 Charles H. Stoes became its leader and in 1857 through the aid of the local townspeople a complete set of new instruments were purchased. The instruments were made of German silver and Stoes was presented with a solid silver E flat cornet, the band then became known as “Stoes Silver Cornet Band”.

For years the Band traveled around the country where they became a very distinguished and honored band. In 1881, now known as “Stoes’ Twelfth Regiment Band”  membership in the band grew and H.L. Shick became the drum major with Charles Stoes continuing as leader. In 1856 a new cornet band was organized under the leadership and instruction of Abraham Sechler. It’s membership included a number of those who had been trained in the original band.  This band was known as “Sechler’s Cornet Band” and soon attained a high degree of proficiency and rivaled the old organization. Many of the members of Sechler’s Cornet Band volunteered in the army and served through the long years of the Civil War. Due to this the band was dispersed and Mr. Sechler played with the Stoes’ band.  In 1872 a number of musicians joined together to organize a new band known as “The Independent Band of Danville” with Mr. Gibbons as leader and Abraham Sechler as instructor. This band lasted for some time but by 1881 there was only one cornet band left, “Stoes Silver Cornet Band”. Mr. Brower, author of “Danville Past and Present” written in 1881 states, “While we acknowledge and admire the rare talents of Charles H. Stoes, justice demands recognition of Abraham Sechler as the ‘Nestor’ of musical science of Danville”.

As the years pass the Danville School District encourages our youth to continue the custom of music in Montour County with instruction in chorus and band. Our ancestors would be proud that Montour County is continuing the musical tradition.

Sources: Danville Past & Present 1881, D.B.H. Brower

                  History of Montour Co. 1769-1969, Fred W. Diehl 1969

                  My Danville, Arthur T. Foulke 1969