Sutton Community Bands

Complied by Craig A. Smith for Journal of The Braxton Historical Society, December, 25, 1975

     Over the past hundred years Sutton has had several community bands. Today they are history as the last
band was active in 1954.
     Charles M. Byrne, who for many years directed the Sutton Citizens Band, compiled a history of Sutton’s
musical organizations. In it Byrne discloses the fact that, around 1880, John and Frank Jennings spent some
time in Sutton teaching the musicians. He also records that Al Jennings, a famous bandit of that time, visited his
brothers while they were located here.
     When the first band was organized in Sutton is not known but, the Sutton Cornet Band was functioning
about 1880. Houston B. Humphreys was director of the band which included such prominent citizens as J. T.
Frame, Charles Y. Byrne (founder of the Braxton Democrat), John A Grose (editor and owner of the Braxton
Democrat for many years), Steve Berry, Frank Bland, Ben Gillespie (later to become Postmaster at Sutton), Lee
Bland, Harry Bland, and T.G. “Peck” Berry, (father of Judge Thornton Berry of the State Supreme Court).
     According to history, “The band furnished music for any and all occasions and was the envy of every young
boy in town when they dressed up in their spic and span new gray uniforms with large white plumes on their
     The Sutton Cornet Band, according to J. Holt Byrne, is the organization at one tine directed by the Jennings
     All was not well within the ranks of the Cornet Band and, as a result, a new organization was formed. Known
as the Sutton Trombone Band, this group hired an Indiana band man, Professor Nixon, as instructor. Created
because of friction among member of the first band, the Trombone Band lasted until the 1884 presidential
     Grover Cleveland was elected president but Sutton at that time was isolated from the outside world and the
election news came in slow. The only means of getting news and mail was by horseback from Weston.
     The day after the election news first came through that Cleveland was elected, only to be followed by the
news next day that James G. Blaine had been elected. These conflicting reports alternated for about a week.
     A Mr. Kemp of Weston was carrying the mail at that time and was know to Sutton residents as “a jolly old
soul who liked his drink to some extent.” He brought the news that the Democrats had won the election and
within a short while the Sutton Cornet Band had formed a parade  to celebrate the occasion. A number of the
members of the Trombone Band were also democrats so they joined hand with their adversaries to make the
celebration a real one.
     Mrs. Katherine Berry, an ardent supporter of Blaine, was Sutton postmistress at that time, and the parade
eventually wound up in the front of the post office to serenade the popular postmistress. Mrs. Berry rose to the
occasion and made a speech congratulating the Democrats on their victory.
     For some reason the members of the two bands forgot their differences during the parade and concert and
the Trombone Band was disbanded and it members rejoined the Cornet Band.
     Members of the Trombone Band included P.J. Berry, (Sutton merchant), Thomas Cunningham, Marshall I.
Griffin, Clarke Waybright, T.G. Berry, Luther Pierson, Lon H. Kelley (later to become a prominent Charleston
attorney), J.H. Dunn (founder and publisher of the Braxton Central), Granville S. Berry, Thomas Ryan, (son)
Troxell and C. Armstrong.
     During the next several years there were a number of bands organized in Sutton, usually to help conduct a
political campaign.
     About 1917, the Sutton New Citizens Band was organized and this group thrived until the early thirties. This
band won the state band contest in Charleston in 1925.
     Members of this organization included Charles H. Bland, W.F. Morrison, W.L. Armstrong, Edward “Snoop”
Humphreys, William B. Morrison (who became a surgeon), Morrison Rider, Tom Rider, Byron Hall, Robert Hall,
Golden Keener, Emmett Arnold (who became a surgeon), Fred Hawkins, Donald “Bunk” Hawkins, Arch
Armstrong, Frank Pierson, Ivan H. Wayne, Jacob S. Hyer, Ernest Gibson, Allen Byrne, Charles M. Byrne, Dewey
Fleming and Jake Juergens (later a Richwood merchant).
     Other members of Sutton bands over the years include Jimmy Berry, Lester Williams, Kent Duffield and
Aaron Lawence “Jiggs” Rose.

Addendum:    from Lars O. Byrne, Feb. 17, 2007

     My father, Charles Allen (Al) Byrne, reminisced on occasion about how his band [Sutton Citizens Band] used
their upbeat, jazzy style of music to win over the folks who saw them perform in Charleston in 1925. I believe
there is a picture in my dad’s photo album of the band. I’ll dig it out of storage at first opportunity and post it

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