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Band History



Heart Failure Takes Away Life of Leader of Famous
Band Organization Which Bears His Name


Had Lead Concert in Chesney Park Saturday and Appeared in Fair Health When Death Came

John B. Marshall, director of Marshall’s band, died at his home, 421 Quincy street, at 6:45 o’clock last night. The end came suddenly and was due to heart failure. Mr. Marshall and his wife were on the point of leaving for Vinewood park shortly after the evening meal. Mrs. Marshall left her husband sitting on the front porch while she stepped into the house for a moment and upon her return she found him dead.

Mr. Marshall has been in poor health since November, 1909, but during the last two months had seemed considerably improved. For the last three weeks Mr. Marshall has led his famous band in nearly all their concerts. Saturday night he directed his musicians at Chesney park while seated in a chair.


Last night at the dinner table he appeared to be in good spirits; in fact, if anything, was in a more jovial mood than usual. Last evening he remarked to his wife:

"I believe that I am getting stronger mother. I certainly feel better than I have for some time."

A few minutes later he was dead.

John R. Marshall was born February 2, 1850, in Cornwall, England. He was the second of a family of six children, four sons and two daughters. He received his education in a private school.

When 21 years old he went to Canada. This was in 1871. The next year he crossed over into the states and came to Topeka and this city has been his home continuously since that time. Upon arriving here Mr. Marshall took up his trade of carpenter and contractor. He had the contracts for erecting many buildings among them being the Jonathan Thomas residence, the county jail and the Grant and Garfield schools. Several years ago, however, poor health forced him to give up his trade.

In 1872 he was married to Miss Hilda Falk of this city. In 1884 he became leader of the band which bears his name. He was a Shriner, a member of the Scottish Rite and Knights Templar of the Masonic order. He was also a Workman and a member of the Knights and Ladies of Security. He was an Episcopalian and for many years was choirmaster of the Episcopal church in North Topeka.


For over a year Mr. Marshall acted as mayor of North Topeka during the absence of Mayer Metsker. Prior to this he had served three terms in the city council. Later he was elected to the office of register of deeds of Shawnee county. He also served as clerk for two terms and was superintendent of the city light plant for nine years.

The deceased is survived by his wife and two sons, John B., Jr., and A. H. Marshall, both druggists in Topeka. The funeral announcement will be made later.

The welfare of his band was always foremost in John Marshall’s thoughts. He was ever planning some new features for this organization, trying in some way to make it just a little better. John Sargent, a life-long friend, said that nothing could distract his mind from the band boys.

"Twenty years ago Mr. Marshall and I were at Liverpool when the band was in Indianapolis to accompany President Harrison’s regiment to Washington," said Mr. Sargent last night. All during that time he was thinking continually of his men.

"At another time when we were at sea a great storm came up and for a time threatened our destruction. When the seas rolled the highest, however, Mr. Marshall wondered how the boys at home were.

"When the band went to Boston a number of years ago, the composer of a waltz went up to Mr. Marshall after the concert and told him that the Topeka band had played his waltz music better than he had ever heard it played before. And at another time in Denver, the leader of the Fort Snelling band when informed that the Marshall band was an amateur organization, stepped up to the leader and said: ‘Mr. Marshall, if you can accomplish such wonders with amateurs, I should like very much to know what you could do with professionals.’

"The secret of his great success as a band leader," Mr. Sargent continued, "was him knowing how to get along with his men. He was a strict disciplinarian without being harsh. He demanded promptness and his concerts always commenced on time."


John B. Marshal contributed a great and lasting service to Topeka as the leader of Marshall’s band. He was the prime factor in the success of this organization which has attained the reputation of being the foremost amateur band in the country.

The band was organized for political purposes by the Flambeau Club in North Topeka in 1884, and it soon became the best known musical organization in the West.

It was during the days of the Blaine and Logan campaign that the people of the North side decided that a band was needed to make a success of their political meetings. The political situation at this time was tense, and the party without a musical organization of some kind was badly handicapped. However, noise was the main object sought, and it was suggested that the Flambeau club have martial music and the pieces consist of fifes, piccolos and drums. The members later agreed, though, that a band would suit their purposes better, and John Marshall was called into service to lead the new organization.

About twenty members volunteered to hold regular practice and aid in making the band a success, but only ten were chosen. But as the campaign waxed hotter the enthusiasm grew and more members were added. On the South side several of the musicians in the old Capital City band left this organization and cast their fortunes with the newer organization. At the close of the year John Marshall was the leader of thirty musicians.

Then followed the reorganization of the band. Marshall was again pressed into service as leader, and the organization named Marshall’s Military band. It now numbered thirty-five pieces.


Then, a little over a year later, the band commenced upon a series of successes that gave it an international reputation. First came the trip to the national G.A.R. encampment at San Francisco. Next in order trips were made to St. Louis, Denver and other distant towns to play for conventions and political gatherings.

When President Harrison was inaugurated the band went to Indianapolis and accompanied his regiment to Washington. On this occasion the members had their pictures taken on the white House steps. The band later visited Louisville when its membership had increased to fifty. But the organization scored its greatest triumph when it went to Boston to the national conclave of the Knights Templar. In speaking of this event later Mr. Marshall once said:

"As we neared Boston several representatives of music houses met us and rode in on the same train. They told us that they knew we had a reputation out West, but that we must remember that in Boston we would run up against the real thing in the way of bands.

"I told them that we didn’t expect to do much and that the people of the East must not expect too much of us. We were just a bunch of cornhuskers who liked to play out on the plains of Kansas. But I told them that no matter how we ranked they would always find us on hand and at work doing the best we could."

The march of the band through the streets of Boston, however, proved a triumphal one. The "hub" of the universe was captured and the praise of the Kansas band was sung all over the city. The same men who had tried to discourage John Marshall were now the first to congratulate him and tell him what an excellent band he had.

The band visited the World’s fair in Chicago and has made a number of trips in later years. The highest number of musicians ever enrolled by the band was 168. There were that many in the band in February, 1909.

Topeka Daily Capital
Monday, August 29, 1910, pg. 1

John Marshall family graves in Topeka Cemetery
Photo by Rick Baker


Marshall’s Band Follows Leader to Last Resting Place

Funeral of J. B. Marshall Held This Afternoon


Judge of the District Court Delivers Touching Address

Modesty the Predominate Characteristic
of Veteran Musician.

The funeral of John B. Marshall, director of the renowned Marshall’s Military band, who died Sunday evening was held at 2 o’clock this afternoon. In recognition of this great public service, he was given a public service in the city Auditorium and the crowd of mourners convened there marked how deeply this loss was felt in Topeka.

Previous to the service in the Auditorium, the Episcopal ceremony was held at the late residence, 421 Quincy, where the body lay in state during the forenoon. Canon R. K. Pooley of Grace cathedral conducted the services.

From the residence Marshall’s band led by Mr. Marshall’s successor, D. G. Kline, escorted the funeral procession led by the Knights Templars to the Auditorium, where the brother Knights had charge of the services. The memorial address was delivered by Judge A. W. Dana.

Once more the band escorted the funeral procession. This time from the Auditorium to the approach of the Sixth street viaduct where extra street cars were waiting to convey the mourners to the interment service at Topeka cemetery. These services were conducted by lodge No. 90 of the Masonic order.

As the long procession marched the street, the band in mourning for its leader, played the Memorial march of Ripley "We Honor the Brave," the dirge "Delore" of Pattee and the march "Funebre" by Pettee. Fifty men marched at the head of the procession.

Judge Dana’s Address.

The address of Judge A. W. Dana in memory of one of Topeka’s greatest citizens follows:

"I am asked to say a few words in memory of our good friend – modest, unadorned, generous and wholesome John Marshall.

"One will examine the ‘Who is Who’ book of Topeka in vain for even a mention of his name. This is due to the extreme modesty of the man. John Marshall was more than a private individual; he was one of our most widely known citizens. In a very true sense he belonged to the public; the people of his city claimed him as their own, and they honor his memory. The figure of John Marshall, in uniform, is familiar to a greater number of men, women and children of Topeka than that of any other of its citizens, and as the leader of his band his reputation is not confined to the limits of his own state.

"John B. Marshall was born in Cornwall, England, February 2, 1850, and came to Topeka in about his twenty-second year, where he has ever since resided. In 1872 he married Miss Hilda Falk of this city who with their two sons, John B., Jr., and Albert H., survive to mourn his death. Mr. Marshall’s business was that of a building contractor which he followed for many years in this city with success. The fact that he was a member of the city council for several years of which body he was president, that he was elected to the office of register of deeds of Shawnee county, that he was superintendent of the city light plant for nine years, as well as other positions of trust and confidence which he held, attest to the esteem in which he was held by his fellow citizens.

He Shunned Publicity.

"John Marshall was one of the most delightful of men. He was plain, simple and modest; did not seek notoriety, rather avoided it. He was a charming companion, one out of a hundred to sit down and chat with, unaffected, kindly, interesting. He liked to be classed as one of the boys, and he liked a good story and liked to tell one, but his contributions on such occasions were always elevating and wholesome.

"But Mr. Marshall was best known to the public and will by it be longest remembered as the leader of the famous band which he organized and which bears his name. To this organization he gave his best efforts for a quarter century and succeed in establishing its reputation as the foremost amateur band in the country.

"He was unlike the traditional band leader. He cared nothing for pomp or display. As leader of the band he was the same unaffected, unassuming, kindly man. His marked success with that organization was, more than to any other one quality, due to his ability to get along with his men. The great professional bands work for pay. No so with Marshall’s. Its members worked for the town, for the good of the organization and because of their attachment to their leader. He was simply one of his men. To maintain such an organization, in a city of the size of Topeka, for more than 25 years sufficiently attests to his remarkable qualities of leadership. The good of the organization and the welfare of his men were always on his mind, and they in turn had for him an unbounded affection and love. Scores of boys of this city have grown to manhood, passed into middle age in the ranks of that organization and under his leadership, and they regarded him more as a father than as a comrade.

"It is unquestionably true that as an object of civic pride and as a medium of advertising Topeka and the state, Marshall’s band has been the one great asset we have had for twenty-five years, and he has contributed a great and lasting benefit to his city and to Kansas.

A Duty to Topeka.

"Mr. Marshall died suddenly on August 28. He had been in very poor health for nearly a year and realized that death was hovering near, but he was cheerful to the last. To a friend who called a few days before his death and who remarked upon how well he looked he said: ‘Yes, I feel better and seem to be getting stronger, but I may die before you go.’

"On the evening that he died his wife left him for a moment sitting on the porch to prepare to accompany him to Vinewood Park. On her return she found that he had quietly and peacefully passed away.

"There is one plain duty for the people of Topeka to perform and that is to support and maintain this band in the future in the high state of efficiency in which he left it. This we should do as a matter of civic pride and out of respect to his memory. This band represents his life work; let it be his monument, and let everyone who, in the future, helps to support and maintain it do so in the name of its founder and great leader, John Marshall."

Topeka State Journal
Wednesday, August 31, 1910



Obituaries of John B. Marshall from the Topeka Daily Capital and the Topeka State Journal, dated 1910.

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