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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Harveysburg Settlers Whistled A New Tune

Dallas Bogan on 4 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

On a frosty, snowy, February morning in 1883, one can only imagine what the residents of Harveysburg were contemplating. As one strolls down the barren streets, or at least it seemed the streets were barren, Dr. George Hatton stepped out from his shelter and was overheard saying: "If skill and practice have not gifted thee with the art of producing melody on instruments, or if nature has withheld the gift of song and only endowed thee with a susceptible ear, let thy heart be glad in praising her that through the avenues of music are opened up to the chords of the soul attuned to the inspiring notes of the whistle, the only musical inheritance bequeathed to all, both high and low."
Mr. Robert Wilson, hearing the Dr's remark, said: "I tell you there is more true melody in a tin whistle than there is in the chaos of philharmonic recitals called modern music, but which is nothing but a jingling and discordant cataclysm of noise." His strides toward the old mill produced a slight rhythmic walk and he was unconscientiously overheard whistling "Amazing Grace."
Just a few steps down the street found Mr. Cal Edwards, local stable owner, with his shovel, broom and hay-fork on display, whistling a commendable version of "Nip and Tuck."
Hon. T.M. Wales appeared to see what the commotion was all about. Unknowingly, he was whistling and singing, "The Camels are Coming."
And so, a quartet? Ah yes! Silas Hawk, John Cleaver, Joseph Compton and Henry Oyler were rendering very nicely, "Marching Through Georgia." So much talent in so small a town as Harveysburg!
Assuming that Mr. Daniel Stump was in his blacksmith shop, a call was given out. Upon entering he was found breaking up some kindling to start his fire and whistling "Fisher's Hornpipe."
On up the stairs Frank Mills was meticulously eye-balling his newly-varnished buggy. What was he whistling? A simple little tune called "Wait for the Wagon."
Upon entering the alley, one could instantly hear Mr. I.H. Antram whistling "Hea Shep, Hea Shep," and if one was to listen closely, he was intermittently whistling "Pop Goes the Weasel."
Mr. Chris Smith was found on his door step, with bell in hand, having just finished ringing it for breakfast, whistling "Every Hour I Need Thee."
Adam Stoops was found in a very retrospective position, his lips transfigured into a whistle that blew out in pleasant notes, "The Cows are in the Corn."
Mr. Nathan Macy responded to the question, "are you fond of whistling?" "Yes," he said, "it chimes merrily with the voice of the birds, and besides a man can whistle when he can't do anything else." Mr. Louis Dakin added, "And when he can't get anything else he wants he can whistle for it." Robert Shidaker agreed and the three were left alone whistling "In the Sweet By and By."
Mr. George Scroggy was not in. However, Mr. Albert Merrill's whistle, certainly not a creative one, auditioned in a melodious tone, "When you and I were Boys, John."
Mr. George P. Ross, the boss, to the tune of "The Mill Will Never Grind With the Water That is Past", serenaded Mr. Buck Stoops, working lazily at his job at the mill.
Alexander Reed was caught whistling in low notes "Come Ye Sinners," while Thomas McDonald was caught with his lips pursed, whistling the tune, "Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing."
Mr. James Ellis and Son were both quite busy building a fire. Their stove was on the blink but their whistles were quite in tune, displaying a pleasing and musical note. Will Antram quite abruptly opened the door and rang out with "O Hush Thee, My Baby." W.W. Welch was seen walking at a rapid pace across the street whistling with all his might, "Pull Down the Blinds."
Mr. Arthur Ham complained of what effect the cold weather might have on his whistler, but did his best to whistle "Boston Dip Waltzes." Mr. Joseph Lippencott jokingly said: "It might be a good thing to stop this eternal whistling if a number of their whistles would freeze and leave their mouths in a perpetual pucker."
Mr. Ben Keiger composed a remark concerning the infection of a whistler. "Yes sir, there is not one man in a hundred when he hears a tune whistled whose mouth won't instinctively pucker to join in, unless he is boiling mad."
Mr. S.M. Denny, for the sake of not being embarrassed, was assumed to be a better store keeper than a whistler.
Mr. Henry McKinsey was visiting from Corwin. He was caught whistling "That Cincinnati Ham." His somewhat sub-nasal chords caused him some off-beat notes, but overall his performance was acceptable.
Imagine this pose! A well respected citizen of Harveysburg leaning back in his chair, one eye half shut, looking vacantly out the window, one arm thrust in his vest, and allowing the influence of an unguarded whistle propel from him. Yes, Mr. A.T. Sabin was caught whistling "Fal de-diddle di-do." It is his opinion that life would be fruitless if it were not for whistling.
Mr. A.L. Antram had gone to Cincinnati and Dr. Mason had gone to the country, but Sue says he whistles all the time.
Mr. Baily Davis flatly objected to his whistling on such a short notice. The instant the door shut he was momentarily overheard practicing "Do, Re, Me, Fa," etc.
Dr. Vandervoort says: "The whistling passion is so strong the soul of an old friend of mine was brought back into his lifeless body - so strong was the infection that instead of being frightened we who were walking his corpse joined in the tune of "Little Brown Jug."
"Flares out like a speaking trumpet!" These powerful words were spoken of Mr. Horace Dakin's whistle. His notes almost rivaled Mr. Hisey's imitation of a Southern bird.
Alfred Edwards, C. Hisey, J. Kimbrough and Prof. Bone joined in an effort to whistle "Over the Garden Wall."
Mr. R.F. Wales screwed his mouth in piercing notes and trills of the "Mocking Bird." His imitations of the rosy-necked fife, the ear-splitting locomotive, and the screaming piccolo were an ovation becoming his talent.
Turner Welch and W.J. Collett showered their harmonious bird notes upon the multitudes, which sounded like a bunch of boys playing on broken "flageolets," translation, a green baby lima bean.
Tantalizing! Yes, the whistlers of Harveysburg found life meaningless without the harmonious challenges from their neighbors. They were accomplished whistlers, most of them, and their puckered mouths suggested anything from a gas retort to an inflated balloon.
A series of whistling contests was suggested with an all-out community gathering with prizes being given in return for their exhibitions. Of course, to say the least, a series of lung exercises would be held accountable, along with the art of successful puckering.
However, when things came to a head, the contestants presented the comic appearance of all men who try to whistle and can't. Their characterization of a whistler resembled caricatures of the toothache.

[Writer's note: Story "slightly" modified from original.]

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This page created 4 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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