Steele Creek Band

The Steele Creek Historical and Genealogical Society
Of the Old Steele Creek Township
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

The Steele Creek Band

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STEELE CREEK BAND (DIXIE)
(Following was taken from an article published in the Charlotte Observer on September 4, 1938 on the day Mr. R. C. Freeman died. Much of the information was quotations from Mr. Freeman that he had made in prior times)

Mr. Robert Collins Freeman, the man who gave the community of Dixie it's name, was one of the organizers of the Steel Creek band. (Note: Steele Creek was spelled "Steel" until after about 1940 when "Steele" became the norm.) Mr. Freeman was the director of the band for 42 years. He used the name Dixie because that was a song that the band always played. Mr. Freeman's uncle, R. D. Collins, opened the store at Dixie. R. C. Freeman, worked in the store along with being band director, conducting singing schools and teaching music on instruments.

The band was organized in 1883. Mr. C. B. Campbell had attended a picnic in Pineville, NC and was so entertained by the Sharon Band he was determined that Steele Creek should have a brass band. Capt. H. D. Stowe, J. S. Collins, G. C. Neel, R. D. Collins and Robert A. Freeman and others were in favor of it. Mr. Freeman told the following story:

"After several meetings the property support was assured and I was told to consult with some manufacturing houses in regard to musical instruments. There was much consultation and finally I was instructed to order 17 instruments; three E flat and three B flat cornets, 3 B flat and E flat altos, 3 B flat tenors, 1 B flat baritone, 2 E flat tubas, 1 Bass and 1 snare drum. The instruments came and not one of us knew how to play them.

1. So, we invited the Sharon band to come to a picnic dinner and test the instruments. They brought a number of their friends, everybody had a good time and the instruments were purchased. The original organization included 17 members: C. A. Collins, W. A. and I. W. McGinn, R. S. Cooper, W. E. Neel, C. F. Brown, J. H. Wilson, C. B. Campbell, David H. Cowan, J. R. Hayes, Dr. A. M. Herron, S. T. Stowe, S. S. Herron, John and Joe Freeman, R. C. Freeman, Sr. and myself. In a few months four others members were added; R. M. and Calvin Frzaier, W. R. Wearn and Thomas Stewart.

First Concert at Square

Our first public appearance was in a concert on the Independence Square of Charlotte and we certainly seemed to win the favor of the people, for whom that time on we were constantly asked to play on various occasions throughout the entire State. I believe I can safely say we did more playing for Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and North Carolina than any other band and probably hold the record for the longest continuous existence.

No affair of consequence took place in Charlotte that we did not furnish music. We always played in the twentieth of May parades. On May 20, 1898, we played at the unveiling of the monument to the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which was erected on the court house lawn at the corner of S. Tryon and Third streets. Twenty-three years later, we again played on that lawn when a table honoring Mecklenburg soldiers in the Word War was unveiled by the Liberty Hall Chapter, D.A.R. at the memorable Democratic state convention when W. W. Kitchin was nominated for governor, held in the city auditorium at the corner of N. College and E. Fifth streets, June, 1908, we played over and over again during the deadlock of four days. The heat was intolerable and we got about as wringing wet in the heavy uniforms worn then as we did in the Taft flood of the May 20th parade a few years later. Mr. Hariot Clarkson, who managed the mayoralty campaigns for the drys, always had us play for them. A certain man offered me a good sum for the band and when I asked what he represented he replied the Whiskey League. I told him he was talking to the wrong man, that we played for the drys. He said, 'They can't pay anything as much-- as we have the money. I had a hard time convincing him that with us it was principle and not money.

Many Times At State Fair

We played many times at the State Fair at Raleigh and at Davidson college. During 40 or more years, we had four uniforms, the last one being blue and white trimmings. As the original members died or resigned, others who filled their places were R. M. Beaty, J. M. Davenport, G. M. Neal, H. L. and A. M. Cathey, A. H. Pegram, A. T. Bryan, B. B. Wilson, J. Frank Collins, J. H., D. R. and Edgar Freeman. Of the 36 men who have been members of the band, 16 are living. (1938) None were ever known to be in trouble or arrested for a violation of the law. We endeavored to exert a wholesome influence at all times. Our last public engagement was when a new court was dedicated at Wadesboro in 1925."

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