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Drum and fife corps helped keep Civil War memories alive


emporary Arch of the Grand Army of the Republic, constructed at Twelfth and Olive Streets in St. Louis for a grand encampment, attended by representatives of the O.H. Wood GAR chapter of Brookfield, Mo. ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, AUG. 27, 1887


Kidney disease plagued Civil War veteran Charlie Lowary for much of his adult life. After trying many doctor-prescribed remedies, he found relief from Doan’s Kidney Pills. Or so he said in a testimonial for the product, which was published in the King City Times, King City, Mo., on May 11, 1917.

“I was a wreck from kidney trouble. My back was so bad, I could hardly walk and sharp pains darted through me,” he said. “The kidney secretions were too frequent and painful in passage. I was treated by a doctor and used any number of remedies, but didn’t get relief until I took Doan’s Kidney Pills. They drove kidney trouble out of my system and I have had no further need of a kidney medicine for years.”

(Doan’s pills continue to be used for treating minor backache pain. It is a salicylate and works by blocking certain chemicals in the body that cause pain, inflammation and fever.)

Finding relief was important for Lowary, who served with Company G., 137th Infantry Regiment, and later Company D., during the Civil War, from June to September 1864.

He was a long-time resident of Brookfield, Linn County, Mo., and was 68 at the time of the testimonial. The pills gave him comfort during the final three months of his life. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on Aug. 24, 1917, at the age of 69. At his death, he and his wife Maria were living at 723 Snow Street in Brookfield. She followed him in death in 1925. His death certificate, accessed via the Missouri Secretary of State’s website, notes that Mr. Lowary was a retired street commissioner.

Brookfield drum corps

Charles H. Lowary gained some degree of fame during the first decade of the 1900s as the youngest member of the Brookfield drum corps, associated with the O.H. Wood Post No. 57, Grand Army of the Republic. He played the tenor drum in the five-member squad. The squad performed at many GAR reunions and was considered to be among the best drum corps in the state of Missouri.

Corps members

Other members of the drum and fife troupe were: John B. Fridley, base drum; William Bagley, who played the snare drum; David C. Brakey, the oldest member of the group, on the fife; and John Marshall, snare drum. While it is not known how tall each man stood, it was described in the Macon-Times Democrat on Sept. 17, 1908, that one drum corps member was less than five feet tall, and another about six-foot-three.

The Big Reunion

Stephens’ Park in Macon was typically the site for the annual Old Soldiers reunion, which drew thousands to this small, mid-Missouri town each fall. Merchants set up booths along the parade route, rows and rows of tents were set up for the comfort of overnight visitors, and an ample supply of ice and water were available to quench festival-goes’ thirst. Politicians and orators addressed the crowds, and music filled the air. Visitors arrived by train, and carload after carload of old soldiers dressed in their Union uniforms gathered together to retell and listen to old war stories.

A special treat was the drum and fife corps performance. The Linn County men took the train to Macon for the annual event.

The five men formed the drum corps in 1892. “They play well together and never grow tired of making music at a reunion of the Grand Army soldiers, the Macon newspaper reported.

David C. Brakey

David Cooley Brakey was the oldest member of the drum corps, born circa 1836. He played the fife.

He contracted enterocolitis (an inflammation of both the small intestine and colon caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites) while serving in the Army during the Civil War. This condition continued to plague him for the remainder of his life. He was a long-time farmer in Yellow Creek Township, Linn County. On March 18, 1896, David C. Brakey purchased land in the SE quarter NW quarter Section 29 and SW quarter NE Quarter 29-57-16, from Morris M. Southwick for $200. Deed was paid off July 21, 1899.

Brakey died Dec. 30, 1912, and is buried beside his wife, Emily, at Linhard Chapel Cemetery. Also buried nearby are two sons, Frank, who died in 1948, and Harlow, who died in 1934.

John B. Fridley

The drum corps’ base drum player was the first of the group to die. John B. Fridley died Dec. 24, 1907, just three months after performing with his colleagues at the Macon reunion. Born in 1847, he is buried beside his wife, Samantha Jane Fridley at Rose Hill Cemetery in Linn County, Mo. She died in 1923 at the age of 76. In later years, they made their home at 529 S. Main, Brookfield, Mo. Their son, Guy Shepherd Fridley, was born in 1891 and died in 1950 in Arizona.

After Fridley’s death, Frank Trower, another Civil War veteran, took his place in the drum corps lineup.

William Bagley

The snare drum player for the group, William Walter Bagley, was born in 1847 in Manhattan, New York. Married to Nellie Bagley, he lived in Sugar Creek Township, Linn County, Mo., in 1890, and the 1900 census listed the couple living in Brookfield. Bagley was a day laborer. Bagley died March 26, 1910, and his wife died Aug. 9, 1913. They are buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Brookfield.

John Marshall

John Marshall, the snare drum player, was born in 1839 in Butler County, Ohio. He married Elizabeth Baker on March 11, 1859, and they had four children, Isaac Marshall born about 1860; Phoebe Marshall, born about 1868; Sarah E. Marshall, born about 1870; and John Marshall, born about 1871, Washington Territory.

In 1880, the Marshall family was living in North Salem Township, Linn County. In 1912, they were living at 460 Hunt Street in Brookfield, and their son Isaac was a carpenter and lived with them. Elizabeth Marshall died March 4, 1918, of chronic bright’s disease. It is unclear when John Marshall died.

Their daughter, Phoebe (Mae) Marshall married Elijah Perry Steele in 1890. She died ten years later, leaving two young children, Grace (Inez) Steel, 5, and Theadore Steele, 3.

O.H. Woodson

The GAR unit was named in honor of Dr. O.H. Wood, who served as a surgeon in the 23d regiment of Wisconsin Infantry, during the “Rebellion,” or Civil War. At the close of the war, he settled in Linn County. First, he was associated with J.S. Cooper, MD, located upstairs in the bank building, and later he partnered with N.J. Pettijohn.

Dr. Wood endeared himself to the residents of Linn County by aggressively treating their maladies. One surgery that proved successful was performed on Jane Miller, wife of Isaac Miller, who was new 50 years old when Dr. Wood performed a “herniotomy” on a strangulated hernia.

The Brookfield Gazette, in its Oct. 29, 1874 edition, reported: “Dr. Wood, assisted by Drs. Cooper, Bryan, Huffaker and Shotwell, performed the operation for her relief, and notwithstanding the danger usually attending such operations it has proven entirely successful. This was on the 19th inst., and Mrs. Miller has been slowly and steadily improving since, and is now considered out of danger.”

Dr. Wood tragically lost his life in March 1881, during a train accident near Brookfield.

In a story re-told earlier in 2016 in this column, a St. Joseph Railroad train left Macon early in the morning, and near Bevier, it encountered a broken rail. The engine, tender, baggage car and two coaches were thrown from the track and down an embankment 10 feet in height.

Help was summoned from Brookfield, to the west of Bevier. A number of people from Brookfield boarded the east bound train in hopes of helping the injured. Dr. Wood was among the care givers aboard the train.

Thirteen miles east of Brookfield, the engine and two flat cars crossed Brushcreek safely, but the wrecking car, the caboose and a passenger coach, broke through the bridge and fell 30 feet below.

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