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Talcott Mountain Boys
Musical bands have played a role in the history in Simsbury since the town militia's fife and drummers lead volunteers out of town to answer the Lexington Alarm at the onset of the Revolutionary War. The stirring sound of the drum and fife still recalls those marching off to fight for independence from New England towns. At various times formal and informal groups of musicians joined together and played in parades, at agricultural fairs and town-wide celebrations. They were called upon to welcome home the heroes who served in war and to bid good-bye to those who perished in those wars. Little exists to chronicle the efforts of these early groups except the occasional photograph. Deposited within the Simsbury Historical Society’s manuscript collections is the minute book and miscellaneous papers of a short-lived musical attempt that speaks to the social nature of such efforts. On November 24, 1908 four young men met in Simsbury in for the purpose of "organizing a drum corp." Jeffrey O. Phelps IV was elected chairman while Charles E. Curtiss 2nd acted as secretary and treasurer. Joining them were Joseph B. Shea and J. William Shea. By the second meeting in December it was decided that Phelps, who had previous experience as a drummer at school should contact his drum instructor and determine what would be needed for a drum corps. Writing by-laws was assigned to a committee and "The Talcott Mountain Boys" were born.
The initial response from the instructor suggested "4 fifes, 6 snare Drummers, 1 Bass Drummer and one cymbalist." And that he could supply the necessary drums for $15.00 each that appeared to be too expensive for the group since "Mr. Phelps will write again to ascertain what a cheaper drum will cost and to find out if we place an order now if he will send the sticks now and let the drums follow." This third meeting on December 8, 1908 took care of accepting the by-laws, electing officers and assigning other members to look into securing the other instruments. John C. Eno, James B. Johnstone, John Helm, Ed Kelly, Durham Floyd, Amos Shaw, A. B. Selby, Arthur Andrus, Ed Holcomb, George Hart and William Kane are listed in December minutes as prospective members of the fledgling drum corps. Membership age is set at eighteen.
By January 1909 the group begins to take a gastronomic turn and meets in East Weatogue at a cabin owned by Jeffrey Phelps' uncle, James Crofut, to enjoy pickles, ham, oysters, crackers, olives, cheese, coffee as well as macaroni and cheese supplied by Jim Johnstone while initiating new members and creating their own password and "grip." The neatly typed notice for this meeting included this post script, " The initiation will start at 7:30 P. M. Be sure and be there before this time. A spread will be served after the initiation. If you miss this meeting you will miss one of the best times of you (sic) life."
In April of 1909 Howard Stickles and Ralph Lattimer were elected members. A larger "spread" was planned for the May meeting featuring three dozen sausage rolls supplied by Wilcox & Co. A clambake was planned for August at the cost of $1.50 per member. Within the aging minute book are the receipts of the event. L. D Barbieri supplied a case of soda; from C. P Case they purchased one and one-half bushels of calms, 25 small lobsters, 10 pounds of blue fish and chicken, sweet potatoes, onions, corn, bread, butter, salt, vinegar, a box of cigars and the miscellaneous equipment. From A. E. Lathrop's Pharmacy came the paper goods.
The clambake was followed by a suggestion to have a "banquet" at a hotel. Other business covered the rejection of a prospective member due to his well-known "degradation." There was some concern that the business of the Talcott Mountain Boys was being discussed with non-members. Clarence J. Marks and Henry R Case were invited to join and a committee formed to prepare a banquet. In November 1909 the club purchased a pool table. More “spreads”, “banquets” and clambakes follow.
The minutes indicate that the organization continued through December 1910 with no mention of any musical activities taking place and the by-laws amended to exclude as a member qualification, "He must be musically inclined." Additional members included E. Cooley, Oliver D. Tuller, W. Griffen, Ernest Farren, Lewis Smith, Carl Gauss and Evert Sime.
Whether the drum corps was ever launched or performed is unclear from the recorded minutes. Those of the last meeting recorded in December 1910 do not refer to anything relating to music but rather end as follows: “Motion made and seconded that the Club buy a Pigeon Trap. Motion made and seconded that the Club get the required rules for a gun club the coming season. Meeting adjourned for lunch.”