At the time of Oregon’s statehood in 1859, our pioneers made their own entertainment. There was no television, no radio, no internet. And many of the early Polk County pioneers didn’t read much.
Oregon communities gave birth to their own culture. The church was an important part of life. Right behind it was the town band.
Monmouth, Independence and Dallas all had their own town bands.
The Monmouth Brass Band — later renamed the Monmouth Silver Cornet Band — had its beginnings in about 1860.
It had 12 to 15 members and was best known for playing at a week-long series of recruiting rallies throughout Polk County when volunteers were sought for the first Oregon Volunteer Infantry in 1864. They were a success at their work. Polk and Benton counties together recruited the first company of volunteers who were enlisted to keep the peace and fight the rebellious Native American Paiute tribes which threatened Eastern Oregon. (The company enlisted was — of course — Company A. It served past the end of the Civil War and until it was relieved by regular Army troops.)
The Monmouth Brass Band was paid $400 for its efforts. But because theirs was, after all, a patriotic effort, the band refunded one-half of what it was paid to the patriots who raised the funds to help recruit the troops. The refund was added to the enlistment bonus paid to those from Polk County who volunteered.
The Monmouth Silver Cornet Band was well-known in the Polk County area. About 1870, the members of the Masonic Lodge (which had many members from Monmouth) went by horse and wagon caravan to an evening meeting of the lodge at Dallas. The band played a brief concert before the Dallas lodge opened its meeting. There is a question as to what happened to the non-Masonic members of the band during the rest of the evening while the meeting went on behind closed doors. But there were several saloons in Dallas at the time. The non-Masonic band members found something to do.
Other bands existed at Independence, Dallas, Rickreall, Eola and Ballston. There probably were more. Bands were popular around the turn of the century. Seven community bands marched in the July 4 parade at Salem in 1902.
And today, the Reconstituted Monmouth-Independence Town Band plays —as it has for the last 35 years — its annual early July concert in Monmouth’s Main Street Park. Two rehearsals. One concert. And the season is over.
Information from this article is from the Library of the Polk County Historical Society at the Polk County Museum, located at the Polk County Fairgrounds in Rickreall. Hours are 1 to 5 p.m. every day except Tuesdays, Sundays and holidays. Admission is $5 for adults; $4 for seniors, $1 for children aged 6 to 17. Younger than 6 or older than 100 are free. Society members are free.