Music Along the Creek

Over the years and through several generations, there’s been music along the Creek. In the days before radio and recordings, you had to make your own music and the homesteading family did that. But even in later years, people continued to make and enjoy music. That effort extended upstream to bring families together from two different neighborhoods.

When I was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, my mother sang solos at weddings and funerals. But, she also made music in our home; she played piano to accompany an old man who played a violin. He was my grandma’s cousin and he lived on the farm that his father homesteaded in the neighborhood of Civil War veterans located several miles north east of our farm. Another farm in that neighborhood was sold to Margaret’s great-grandparents and that set the stage for sharing more music and musical instruments.

The original piano from Lone Tree Farm.

In the 1920s, my aunt was a child recovering from an illness that kept her indoors. Her parents bought her this old piano to help pass the time. After she was grown and gone, the piano moved with grandma’s retirement into Ellsworth. After she died, it was sold to Margaret’s aunt who had married into a family in the Civil War veteran’s neighborhood. So it got moved back out to Kanaranzi Creek. The date stamp is from much later when we had the piano restored. That’s why the back is off in this photo. My brother and I used Mom’s old piano (not this one) for music lessons; eventually that piano was donated to a local charity. Meanwhile, piano lessons skipped a couple of generations in Margaret’s family and her grandmother’s piano (not this one) came to live with us in St. Cloud where our kids used it for lessons. But, that piano stayed behind with one of Margaret’s teacher friends when we moved back to the Farm more than twenty years ago.

The restored piano.

During that same time, the original Lone Tree Farm piano was being used for music lessons by several generations in another part of Margaret’s family. It had been moved away from Kanaranzi Creek during those years, but eventually it ended up stored out in our garage after we moved back. So, after about sixty or seventy years the piano was back where it started. But, not for long. We had it restored and moved to our daughter’s home in Vermillion, South Dakota. This is a photo of the “new” old piano in it’s current home where yet another generation took music lessons. Most of the many generations of kids who took piano lessons only lasted a few years on the instrument. I’m not sure that there are more than one or two people who still play! But after at least four generations spread over about a hundred years, who cares? This original piano is still in good shape and kids and adults in both extended families all enjoy music.

The fiddle from up the Creek.

There’s another musical connection between Lone Tree Farm and the enclave of Civil War veterans up the Creek. Charlie Barnes was the grand old man who played the fiddle back while my mother accompanied him on piano. (At least I thought he seemed really old, but he died at age 90 in the early 1960s. That means that he was about the same age as I am right now!) This is NOT a photo of Charlie’s fiddle. This fiddle is from Margaret’s family who were his neighbors about three generations before we were married. It’s really remarkable and fortunate that we weren’t related!

Fourth and fifth generations on the old piano.

This is our daughter and her “littles” back when the Lone Tree piano first arrived at their house more than a decade ago. These folks are some of the fifth and sixth generations beyond the homesteaders, but the interest in music continues on. The second, third, and fourth generations all had members of male gospel quartets. The fourth and fifth generations had participants in high school and college choirs. And, the most recent sixth generation includes a mandolin player in a high school orchestra and a voice in a high school show choir.

Last night we went to a concert in Sioux Falls that included a friend who is a singer-songwriter and there were several ties to music along Kanaranzi Creek. His wife is the archaeologist who did the geophysical study of the site where we’ve found artifacts; one of the songs that he did was about the 2017 flooding in northwest Iowa that eroded out those artifacts. But, wait….there’s another connection. He’s also working on a song inspired by the post on lilacs from several weeks ago. It’s great to know that there’s going to be some original music associated with stories from along the Creek.

Thanks to Margaret again for finding these photos in her archive and for the fiddle picture.

About Lone Tree Farm on Kanaranzi Creek

Recovering academic, earth scientist in phased retirement, farm manager by default, son, husband, father, grandfather.
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4 Responses to Music Along the Creek

  1. Lee Peterson says:

    Nice story George. Amazing connections. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jill Tyler says:

    Thanks so much for this post, George! I love learning about how instruments make their way across generations. And it seems violins, guitars, and pianos are especially long-lived and transient – at least here in the Midwest! Our friend Kurt Hackemer (USD historian and provost) has done a lot of research on communities settled by Civil War veterans – South Dakota has several, including Gettysburg. What was the name of the community near where you grew up?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for reading the post and making a comment, Jill. I’ve read that pianos were commonly brought with the homesteaders and have always been impressed at how much easier guitars and violins would be to transport! It takes commitment to move a piano! The cluster of 6-8 Civil War veterans upstream from us were on farms between the towns of Kanaranzi and Ellsworth, MN. Actually, Kurt Hackemer and I traded emails about his research and he shared a couple of his papers that helped me recognize the significance of our neighborhood enclave of veterans.

      Liked by 1 person

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