Charles "Charlie" Harris Congdon was born Dec. 16, 1856, in Nelson, Tioga
Co., PA; d. Mar. 23, 1928, in Stroudsburg, Monroe Co., PA. He married Apr.
29, 1887, to
Anna Rebecca McWilliams, b. 1858 in OH.
He was the youngest of 3 children of Sarah
Campbell, b. 1824, in Nelson, d. 1892 in Nelson; and Benjamin
Docray Congdon, b. 1820, on Shelter Island, Suffolk Co., NY, d.
1897. Charlie was a music teacher, music superintendent, and publisher of
He followed his older brother, Ed,
and his cousin, Herbert Hughey, to
Brainerd, Crow Wing Co., MN and taught music in the schools there. His
interest in methods of teaching singing led to his becoming director of
vocal music, first in St. Paul, MN, and then in Chicago.
Charlie was one of the most interesting of our Campbell Cousins, and in
his day the most famous. He was the first member of the family to appear
in Who's Who. He was also in Who's Who in American Music.
Here's the entry from Vol 14 of Who's
Who, p. 494:
CONGDON, Charles Harris, song leader, author; b. Nelson, Pa., Dec. 18, 1856; s. Benjamin D. and Sarah (Campbell) C.; grad. State Normal College, Mansfield, Pa., 1876; m. Anna R. McWilliams, Apr. 20, 1887. Teacher country schs, 1876-1878; introduced music in pub. schs., Brainerd, Minn., 1884; dir. music, pub schs., St. Paul, 1885-98; grouped 2,200 sch. children to represent the Stars and Stripes at Nat. Encampment, G.A.R., St. Paul, 1896; moved to Chicago, 1898; originated, with Robert Foresnan and Eleanor Smith, system of teaching music to children in pub. schs., discarding the "scale method" and substituting pure song material; official song leader of Progressive Party, and led singing at Progressive Conv. at Chicago, also at Roosevelt rallies, Madison Sq. Garden, New York; organized pageant at Jersey City, N.J., 1916 for Gen. War Fund. Unitarian. Author: Congdon Music Reader (series), 1908-1923, (with Charles B. Gilbert) Congdon Pamphlet Readers, 1910; also music charts, and materials for teaching word reading. Inventor ednl. equipment; teacher. Address: 200 5th Av., New York, N.Y."
He made the national news when in St. Paul, and later Chicago, he
had a chorus of children form an American flag for national conventions of
the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic).
He left teaching and established a publishing company in NYC that
published music for schools and textbooks for music educators. He patented
a pitch pipe, which his publishing company sold, along with other supplies
a music teacher might want, such as music stands, batons, etc. Many of the
songs he wrote had patriotic themes.
He traveled the country widely promoting his business. Whenever his train
traveled near a Campbell Cousin, he would stop for a day (or two or three)
and visit. He was very friendly and well liked and respected by his
One of the more interesting parts his career was his involvement in Theodore Roosevelt's 1912 "Bull Moose" presidential campaign. Charlie led music at TR's rallies and the Progressive Party's national convention.
By his time, our Campbell clan had diversified religiously. Although many
still were Presbyterians, by then some were Baptist, Methodist, etc. There
were even a few Catholics. Charlie switched from Presbyterian to
Congregationalist, and later was the first of our clan to become a
He must have been a dynamic and interesting person - perhaps charismatic. In addition to the above, early 1900s he was proprietor of a vacation hotel, the Titania House, on 15 acres next his summer home by Marshalls Falls, PA. It previously was called "Hygiene Park", because of the beneficial effects mountain air was believed to have in the 1800s. The name changed before Charlie took over. Smithfield Twp., Monroe Co., is turning the property into a park.
Charles H. and Anna McWilliams Congdon had 3 children, all born in St.
[wbt - 10/18/2000; last rev. 9/2/2018]