Alex Schneider Sr. Organized The First Brass Band

Alex Schneider Sr. Organized The First Brass Band In The Panhandle

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

Alex Schneider Sr., born at Biel , Switzerland in 1854, first came to America in 1874. Trained as a tanner by his father, he followed that trade in Chicago for two years. He was talented as a musician – playing cornet – and for the next three years he played with some of the largest bands in Chicago .

Homesick for his native land, he returned to Switzerland in 1879. Two years later he came to the Swiss Colony at Frankfort , Kentucky , to manage a brewery left by his father. At the Swiss Colony he met and married Lena Lang, a younger sister of Mrs. Henry Thut Sr. (formerly Anna Lang). Alex Sr. and Lena Schneider became the parents of Alex Jr., Lena and Otto while the family lived in Kentucky . Margaret was born later in Texas .

In 1886 the Schneiders followed the Thuts and Emma Lang (Anna’s sister who married Perry LeFors) to the area of present Lefors. The Schneiders traveled by rail to Kiowa, Kansas – the last stop on the line – and then rode the stagecoach for a three-day trip to Mobeetie. The stagecoach, which ran twice weekly, covered about thirty miles a day. Along the route were several “stands” where horses were changed and passengers could have something to eat.

The Schneiders stayed with the Thuts for a time, but Alex Sr. soon went to work for the Diamond F ranch operated by the Francklyn Land and Cattle Company. Then headquarters was a camp located on White Deer Creek in Hutchinson County a few miles south of the Canadian River . Men working for the Diamond F had to go to Adobe Walls to vote, and it took three days for them to cast their votes because of barbeque, whiskey and other reasons.

The voting place was changed to Mobeetie because headquarters of the Diamond F were being changed to a little camp southwest of the present town of White Deer in Carson County . This was at the time when bondholders foreclosed on the Francklyn Land and Cattle Company and a new company was organized to operate White Deer Lands with George Tyng as manager.

Knowing that the Southern Kansas Railroad was going to construct a line across White Deer Lands, Tyng had a well drilled and a farmhouse built at the southeastern edge of present White Deer to advertise the land to passengers on the train. For a few months the Schneiders were employed to live at the farmhouse to care for the premises and livestock and to prepare meals for passers-by who were expected to pay for them.

Mobeetie, sixty miles from the White Deer headquarters, was the trading place for most of the Panhandle. There were three companies of soldiers at nearby Fort Elliott and several hundred Comanches living along Sweetwater Creek.

In 1887 Alex Sr. organized and led the first brass band in the Panhandle. The band of 14 members was composed of seven soldiers and seven Mobeetie men. The band took part in many events: Fourth of July celebrations which included Indian war dances, rodeos, picnics and weddings. Alex Sr. organized a group at Panhandle and a small group at White Deer. His band played at the N-N Ranch, the Turkey Track Ranch and the opening of Jim East’s Hotel at Hartley , Texas . In later years Alex Sr, said, “The best time I ever had was out here in the early days.”

In addition to his work for the Diamond F and White Deer Lands and activities with his brass band, Alex Sr. helped his brother-in-law, Henry Thut Sr., in the raising of food crops.

The main crop was cabbage grown on a sub-irrigated plot of land. One year a cabbage weighed twenty-eight pounds and a wagon load of one hundred weighed sixteen hundred pounds. Most of the cabbage was made into sauerkraut, placed in molasses barrels, and then pulled by a four-mule wagon to Fort Elliott . Every quartermaster bought cabbage and Mobeetie overflowed with sauerkraut.

Fort Elliott was also a market for all the wine that could be made from the grapes that grew wild along the creeks. One fall Henry Sr. and Alex Sr. made thirteen barrels of wine from the grapes that grew along White Deer Creek. Some of the wine was sent to New York to show English stockholders what could be produced on White Deer Lands.

In 1890 the Schneiders went back to Switzerland for the education of the children. In Biel Alex Sr. managed a sixty-room hotel with a large restaurant and a garden which seated a thousand guests. Alex Sr. kept a large flag of the United States in the hotel lobby and catered to guests from America .

In 1900 Alex sold his hotel in Biel and brought his family back to America where he managed a hotel in Frankfort for several years before coming again to Gray County . In 1912 he purchased the Holland Hotel (116 West Atchison) which had been built as the boarding house of White Deer Lands, leased to the Matador Ranch for its headquarters and then sold to A.A. Holland. Alex Sr. added an annex of eight rooms, remodeled the structure and renamed it the Schneider Hotel. Later it would be known as the first, or old, Schneider Hotel.

Although Alex Sr. was very busy with hotel management, he assembled some of his friends to announce that they would form a band. He ordered a large assortment of musical instruments from Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. of Cincinnati. When the large carton containing the instruments arrived, it was hauled to the Hancock Tin Shop (119 South Cuyler). Each man grabbed an instrument and paid for it although some of the men wondered what they would do with the instruments. Alex Sr. assured them that they would learn to play – and they did. They practiced once or twice a week and finally played well enough to give free concerts at the Crescent Theatre (114 North Cuyler). Later the band gave concerts at the Pampa Auditorium. Among their favorites were Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and the Strauss waltzes.

About 1914 Pampa contracted a chautauqua from Myers Co. of Kansas City to bring its performance to town, pitching a tent on the present courthouse lawn. The city had to guarantee a certain amount, and in order to promote ticket sales, the Schneider Band went along with the chautauqua to nearby towns: Panhandle, White Deer, Wheeler and Mobeetie.

Members of the Schneider Band looked forward to their musical sessions and became good friends, often gathering for picnics, playing music and relaxing. When a member moved away, a new member was promptly recruited.

Sometimes the cornet of Alex Sr, was used for a different purpose than playing in a band. In an emergency or disaster, he would step outside the hotel, raise his cornet and fire away with a loud blast to summon volunteers.

Soon after the new Schneider Hotel (120 South Russell) opened on June 11, 1927, Alex Sr. and Lena with their young grandson, Alex Rainouard, went to Europe for a six-month tour and an extended visit with friends and relatives in Biel. Shortly after their return to Pampa, Alex Sr. died on February 21, 1929. Lena died on January 5, 1938.

After Alex Sr. died, his faithful collie dog tagged along behind the funeral procession. Soon the family noticed that the dog disappeared at the same time each day. Finally someone followed the dog and learned that the dog was going to the cemetery every day to lie for a time on his master’s grave.

Alex Schneider Jr. followed his father in managing the Schneider Hotel. He married Lottie Sills and they were the parents of Paul Schneider. Heidi Schneider Roupp, the daughter of Paul Schneider and Christine Campaigne, is to be inducted into the Harvester Hall of Fame on May 21, 1999.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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