Windsor Military Band, Carlan Goslee, center, drum major, c. early 1910s. WHS collections 2009.13.2, gift of Charles Elliott. Photo by William S. Leek.

Seventy-six trombones led the big parade. Well, perhaps not quite seventy-six, but Windsor’s first band, formed in 1859, boasted of at least two. Records in the Windsor Historical Society archives include two books of meeting minutes and wonderfully preserved, handwritten scores for “Auld Land Syne” and “Home Again.”

Cornet music played by the Windsor Band. WHS collections 2013.25.10.1

One hundred years of Windsor band tradition began on August 13, 1859, at the home of Timothy Phelps. Officers were selected:

Timothy Phelps, President
Albert F. Waterhouse, Vice President
Alfred W. Hills, Secretary
Edward Brown, Treasurer

Their Preamble stated that “the object of this association is the mutual improvement of its members in the art of musick [sic] and we the subscribers unite ourselves together under the name of the Windsor Cornet Band.” By-laws (twelve articles) were soon written and the eleventh article stood out: “Any member being guilty of impropper [sic], disgraceful conduct repeatedly when on duty shall be expelled by two thirds of the members present.”

The first members included many familiar Windsor names:

Timothy Phelps                            Horace W. Bower
Edward Brown                             George G. Loomis
William Waterman                      J. M. Baker
William H. Drake                         Anson H. Ellsworth
Edward D. Phelps                        Timothy Loomis
Albert F. Waterhouse                  Henry E. Phelps
Alfred W. Mills                             Edward J. Phelps
Arthur M. Mills                            Joel Palmer
James Capen                                Hiram Cobb
Osbert H. Palmer                        Edward Smith

The first “teacher” was J. P. King, and rehearsals were held twice a week at Windsor’s Union Hall. As these were the days before the advent of electricity, a man had to be “engaged to light and warm the hall.” The band also paid for oil and chimneys for lamps.

By March of 1860, the band played their first gig for the Democrats at Poquonnock [sic] where the earned $30 for the band’s coffers. Many more engagements were to follow which included several trips to play for the “Wide Awakes,” the “Boys in Blue” and numerous excursions accompanying Sabbath School picnics. A trip with the Simsbury Sabbath School to Saving Rock was perhaps the farthest engagement away from home.

In addition to fees collected for playing, monthly dues were collected from band members and fines were levied for non-attendance. The group also held many fundraisers which included an Oyster Festival at Union Hall, a Concert Dance at Brown’s Hall in Bloomfield, a dance at Elm Grove Hall in Poquonock, and a fish fry in Shelton’s Grove on Cook Hill.

At times membership lagged, and in 1860 they voted that “as long as five members remain, the band shall be considered a society for which it was formed.” In August 1861 a committee was appointed to purchase a pair of symbols [sic], a new instrument added.

Windsor Military Band on Broad Street Green, then called Bowfield Green, c1870-1890. The old Methodist Church and the Hotel Windsor are in the background. WHS collections 2008.1.15.

In the 1880s there were many visits and return visits with other bands. A typical scenario finds the Windsor Band meeting the 6 p.m. train where they welcomed the Hazardville Band of Enfield, CT. After a short street parade, the two bands gave a few selections on the Green after which they would go on to play a concert at the Town Hall. At 9:30 p.m. the Windsor Band marched their guests back to the depot.

The last minutes, recorded on October 13, 1882, find the band planning a big band gathering for Oct. 2. Other bands invited to participate were Martin’s Band of Thompsonville, Elmwood Band, Simsbury Band, and Suffield Band.

Windsor Military Band and St. Casimir’s Lithuanian Society marchers walk past Windsor Cash Grocery and other stores on Broad Street during this parade, c.1916. WHS collections 2017.1.59.

Around the turn of the century, the Windsor Military Band was formed which found Carlan Goslee as drum major. This band evolved into the Windsor Band which finally folded in the early 1950s. One of the few remaining band members, Roger Martindale, fondly recalls his brief stint with the band. With his grandfather, uncle, father as long-time band members, Roger wanted to join in. Although Roger didn’t play an instrument he was a sturdy teenager. As such he was assigned to be the “front man,” carrying the bass drum. An opening soon came along as cymbal player, and Roger had his big chance to play an instrument. His career was brief, however, as an untimely clash of cymbals was heard at an inopportune moment. Alas, Roger was back to carrying the drum. Within a few years the band went out of existence soon to be replaced by the Windsor High School Band which continues today.

By Kathy Martindale, volunteer, 2002