My Hardy County, West Virginia Ancestors
The Barr Band

By Bettie Myers Wehland

For almost 50 years the Barr Band played for every occasion of note throughout the area; Fourth of July picnics, political rallies, tournament riding meets, and fairs. A number of the sons of the original band grew up and took their places in the band during that half century and the history of the group is important in local history, not only from an accounting of their musical activities, but from a revelation of values of those days.

My great grandfather, Hugh Barr was born on May 2, 1839 in Winchester, Frederick County Virginia. He was the son of Hugh Barr and Elizabeth Arnold. He was an accomplished musician and according to his military records, he was a member of Capt. Funk's volunteer militia regiment as a drummer. The militia was accepted into active service of the Confederate States. He enlisted into the Confederate Army April 18, 1861 at Winchester, Virginia. He became a musician in the 5th Virginia Regiment, Company A. At the reorganization of the 5th Virginia in April, 1862, a band was officially added to the regiment. It was destined to become the Famous Stonewall Brigade Band which still exists by that name today. The "Bloody Fifth" as it became know was involved in many battles; First Manassas, Second Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Second Winchester, and Gettysburg, where under Colonel John Henry Stover Funk of Winchester they were in the desperate fighting at Wolfe's Hill.

At the end of the war he returned home to his wife, Martha Sampsell Barr and four year old son Marion Beauregard, whom he had never seen. They settled in the town of Moorefield, Hardy County, West Virginia where he was a shoemaker. He was also a captain in the Hardy Guards which was formed in 1876-77.

Captain Barr did not wish to bring up his family, (now seven sons and two daughters), in a town with it's worldly influences, so he bought a farm in Frosty Hollow and built a home for his young family. Unfortunately, he died a few months later.

In 1882, one professor, James Nihiser, came to Moorefield and organized a band which broke up after a few years, and the instruments they used were stored in a room over Captain Barr's shoe shop. From time to time an instrument would be given to Captain Barr to settle a bill.

After Captain Barrs death, Mrs. Barr was left to bring up her family of nine. The eldest, Marion Beauregard, had become an accomplished and trained musician; taught the other boys to play, and welded them into a band. About 1886, the band began to play for local affairs. They were as poor as "Job's Turkey", and played for the love of music, never making any amount of money from it. In 1889, Isaac VanMeter uniformed the boys and took them to Keyser and Franklin where they played for an old soldiers reunion.

Their Mother, Mrs. Martha Barr, had never seen the boys in their new uniforms . When they came home that evening, they lined up and marched up to the house with the setting sun glinting from their bright red jackets and white pants and their instruments as they played "Home Sweet Home". Pride glowing in her face, Mrs. Barr said, as she welcomed them home, that she had never seen a more beautiful sight in her life.

In 1890, the band went to Winchester to play for a fair. The youngest, Oscar L. Barr, was only seven at the time and not as tall as his drum, so the band had placed a sign on it, "He's on the other side". Because of Oscar's small size and excellent performance Mr. Charles A. Rouse, a visiting merchant from New York City, gave him a ten dollar gold piece. A Winchester resident offered him the finest horse in his stable if he would go home with him and spend the night, but little Oscar would not go.

By 1906, the boys needed new uniforms, since they were growing out of the ones they had been wearing for ten years. Those who heard them at picnics, elections, and the like contributed money for new ones. They were dark green, trimmed with black and very good looking. Once when they needed a drum, F. N. Welton gave them ten dollars, quite a sum in those days.

In those days, one of the joys of life was informal competition. One incident concerning Captain Hugh Barr was recounted by a Moorefield resident named Fletcher. It seems that a band from Keyser had been invited to one celebration. They intended to show up the yokels from the little country town, getting off their wagon at the edge of town and marching in, mimicking the Moorefield Drum Corps. When Captain Barr heard them coming, he took off his cobbler's apron, picked up his snare drum and stepped out to join in. Mr. Fletcher said that in ten minutes the Keyserites were putting up their drums, for it was plain they had met their match and he remarked that it was the happiest day of his life to see those who came to make fun, put in their place.

Mr. Marion Barr had been for some time, walking from Frosty Hollow across Branch Mountain, about forty miles to Lost City to help them organize a band. One of the members of that band, Bill Teets, later a prominent resident of Moorefield, tells of another confrontation. The Lost City band had challenged a band from Winchester to come up and play against them and the Lost City band had asked Mr. Barr to come over. They had played piece after piece when Mr. Barr said, "let's giv 'em Dixie, boys!" Afterwards, the Captain of the Winchester band came up to say, "Mr. Barr, I have to hand it to you, you beat us". To this Mr. Barr replied, "Huh!, I knew that before I came over here.

One striking memento the Barr family has, is an oil painting about the size of a door. During the Civil War, Mr. Hugh Barr, who was a Mason, came upon two wounded Union Soldiers. Through a sign, known only to Masons, Mr Barr recognized them as Masonic brothers and arranged for their care. After the war, they sent him an oil painting, showing him administering aid to them on the battlefield. After that, they sent him a twenty dollar gold piece every year and to his widow, after his death.

The last performance of the Barr Band was in October, 1936, at a booster meeting for Jennings Randolph held at the Hardy County Court House. At that time, six original band members were joined by six of their sons: Beauregard with sons Richard, Victor, and Walter; Burns with sons Clifton and Harold; John with son Hugh; Richard, Fred, George and Oscar. They played their favorite song, "Dixie", last.

Personal note: George Barr was my maternal grandfather. My mother Lillie Barr Myers Smith was given granddad's French Horn and sheet music and she left it to my son when she died. It is lovingly, being preserved in Grandad's memory and in honor of The Barr Band.

Bettie Myers Wehland

Sources: Article, The Barr Band, in "The Country Roads", Petersburg, West Virginia.
Civil War Records, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
1920 Hardy County, West Virginia Census
5th Virginia Infantry by Lee A. Wallace
History of Hardy County of the Borderland by Commander Alvin Edward Moore
Family documents and oral history.
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