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September - National Piano Month

Music Unites Morgan County

I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a part of our community. If someone in a household didn’t play an instrument or sing in harmony, there were neighbors who did. There was never a gathering of family and friends that didn’t include music.

Our Appalachian folk music developed its characteristic sounds over several centuries of those who settled here - the earliest settlers being Anglo-Celtic: English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh. As Morgan County’s population began to increase beyond the county’s first settlers, the colony of Wartburg reflected growth with German and Swiss immigrants between 1845 and 1855.

One business that was established in the colony was the "Wartburg Piano Company." The Gerding family had a son who had learned the fundamentals of piano making in New York. He set up a piano factory in Wartburg with the assistance of Fritz Beneike, an experienced piano builder from New York. The company employed Heinrich Waltersdorf, who had worked in this trade in New York before coming to Wartburg in 1850. They were able to actually produce several pianos in Wartburg.

In 1960, a professor from Indiana University came to Morgan County to record the stories and music of the mountain people. I remember when they visited the Deer Lodge area and the professor had his new fangled recording equipment with him. I miss the front porch gatherings he came to record that kept us entertained for hours at a time.

Madge Hawn-Miller, Ida Hall-Hawn, Abe Hawn, Howard Weaver in front

Fast forward to the 21st century and music is still “instrumental” in the life of its citizens. Our churches still sing out joyfully. You can’t hardly go to a community potluck or a local establishment without local musicians sharing their talents.

There is even a Tennessee Music Trails marker in Oakdale for jazz musician, Clarence Beeks.

Continuing with the Music Pathways events, check out the County Music Event, Aces & Eights, on September 24 at Papaw's Opry Barn in Oakdale, presented by the Morgan County Tourism Alliance. For more info: Aces & Eights.

Blue Grass in Sunbright

Our mountain life was hard. People relied heavily upon each other, and communities were close-knit and religious. They came together to worship, and to dance and sing. Let’s keep this valued tradition alive.

‘Til Next Time,

Emeline Bluestocking

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