The Bressler Band of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

by Rick Berkheiser
Sunday, July 3, 2005
Compiled from various sources.

The Bressler Band, "A Fine Looking Parade and a Real Concert Band," was THE band of the coal mining areas in Schuylkill County, Pennslyvania. It's band leader for much of the group's existence was Henry Washington Bressler, who was a Music Teacher in the public schools for 30 years.

According to a brochure from the 1930's advertising the band, the band members primarily lived in Schuylkill Haven with a few of them living in other parts of Schuylkill County. That same brochure lists the officers for the band on the front cover, and they are: Roy Staller, President; Vice-President and Business Manager, C. W. Sharadin; Norman A. Neuin, Secretary; and John Berger, Treasurer.

According to Lynn V., some of the other band members were her relatives. With the exception of one person, I have no idea which instruments they played. George Washington Kremer played the Clarinet, Harold Edwin Kremer, and David Kremer. David married my great-great-great grandmother Margaret (Bressler) Berkheiser's sister Catharine.

The same brochure also says the following:

"The famous Bressler Band which has earned for itself a most enviable position in the musical world has through its training and experience as a National Guard Band been proclaimed by National Guard Officers as well as Regular Army Officers one of the best National Guard Bands in the country. Recently one of the highest officers of the American Legion remarked that the Bressler Band was the best marching band he ever had the pleasure of marching behind."

"This popular musical organization always tries its utmost to please the immense crowds attracted by it and that it has been successful is attested to the fact that the band is invariably hired year after year, often two to three times the same season by the same people, same parks, etc., always getting a big hand wherever it goes and invariably drawing the largest crowds of the season. The band gives one of the most varied programs of any band in the state, comparing favorably with high-priced traveling bands. The band has frequently played at such parks as hire only the best of bands such as the U. S. Marine Band, Pat. Conway, Creatore and others and has always been re-engaged."

The band was well noted for playing marching band music and polkas. The brochure concludes with the following:

"It can be engaged for Parades, Concerts, Picnics, Parks, Fairs, Festivals, Carnivals, Vaudeville, Dances, etc., and will be glad to quote reasonable prices for any number of men up to 50. Where parties are willing to hire four additional men at same price per man the Band's famous and well-known male quartette and entertainers will be carried with the Band."

According to Elizabeth B., the Bressler Band was well-known as being the "life" of the party whenever they were all in attendance. They always had a good time at every engagement, and had a large following. Apparently they would receive "top billing" wherever they played.

In a picture of the Bressler Band that I located on the Internet this past winter in 2005, it shows 35 band members decked out in their band uniforms with their big bass drum with "BRESSLER SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, PA." printed on it. The picture was taken in August at the Kutztown, PA Fair. The exact date is very hard to make out on the banner in the background, but it looks like August 29, 1933.

The Director and Band Leader, Henry Washington Bressler, is distantly related to me. Henry would be my 1st Cousin, three times removed on the Bressler side of the family. He was born to Jonathan and Mary Ann (Luckenbill) Bressler in Wayne TWP, Schuylkill Co., PA on Feb. 13, 1868. In some of the research notes I've seen, there seems to be a discrepancy in the year of Henry's birth. One person has it as possibly being 1864. My research has not shown any siblings, but according to Ellen L.'s notes Henry had a sister. Her name was Lucy and she married a Moyer, and to this union were born eleven children. Henry passed away May 6, 1944 in Schuylkill Haven.

In the 1880's, Henry married Cora Elizabeth Warner, born June 27, 1873 to Abraham and Lucy (Fritz) Warner somewhere in Pennsylvania, and she passed away March 30, 1954 in Schuylkill Haven, Schuylkill Co., PA. They had four children: Sallie Rebecca (Bressler) Stump was born Nov. 23, 1889; Oscar Edward, who married Cora Zettlemoyer, born October 20, 1892; Lillian Viola (Bressler) Bubeck on July 29, 1901; and Raymond Henry on March 3, 1904.

Henry received his teaching certificate from the Kutztown Normal School, Kutztown, PA in between 1886 and 1888. During his growing up years, he was educated in the public schools of Wayne TWP, Schuylkill County from 1874-1886. He also did some post graduate work in 1890 at Interstate Methods School, Pottsville, Schuylkill Co., PA.

Ellen L. has the following information from Henry Bressler's teacher's records.

"I began teaching school in the year 1886 and taught for twenty nine (29) successive terms in six different ungraded schools in the township of Wayne, county of Schuylkill and state of Pa. Taught all branches in the elementary school curriculum including Physical Geography, Civil Government, Algebra and Music at a yearly salary of from $140 to $437.50. Am at present and have been for the past two and one-half years instructing and conducting the High School Band of Schuylkill Haven, Pa."

His records also show that he received $127.00 per year as a retired school teacher.

According to family legend, Ellen L. mentions that "he taught the Dorsey brothers at one point ... encouraged their father to find instruments any way he could as they were very talented."

Henry also belonged to the following organizations: Consistory at Reading; Blue Lodge of Schuylkill Haven; Tall Cedars of Lebanon; and the I.O.O.F. (International Order of Odd Fellows) Lodge.

He and his wife Cora were laid to rest in St. John's UCC Cemetery in Friedensburg, Schuylkill County. In September of 2004, my parents and I paid a very brief visit to this cemetery when we were out looking for another in that same general area. Unfortunately, I did not record anything from this place as we were pressed for time.

At Henry's funeral in St. John's Church, it was fitting that the Bressler Band should be asked to play. They played "Lead Kindly Light," "Abide with Me," and a funeral dirge at graveside.

As I wrap up in writing this brief story on this Independence Day Weekend, I cannot help but think that the Bressler Band would be out marching in some July 4th Parade playing all of the patriotic tunes with our Henry Washington Bressler leading the way. Even if we cannot see it, we can at least imagine it.


Last Modified Sunday, 08-Feb-2009 06:45:17 MST

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