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What more can you ask for than to discover this kind of a biography of a Civil War veteran and a fiddler. Fortunately, this biography has a photo too. See the photo, click here.
"Asa Hale came to Michigan sixtyseven years ago and settled in Greenville where he married in 1862 Miss Elmira Kent. He was born in Phelps, N. Y., May 8, 1833. He enlisted in Co. D., 21st Michigan Infantry in 1862 and served three and a half years. Joined the Masonic Lodge in Greenville in 1867 and was Past Master of the Blue Lodge and Chapter at Greenville and at the time of his death was standard bearer in the Traverse City Commandery Knights Templar. He was much famed for his skill in playing on his violin the old familiar tunes and was much in demand for playing at social events and even in his declining years never failed to respond to a call for his musical services at Masonic events. Mr. Hale died Jan. 30, 1916."
The Traverse region, historical and descriptive, with illustrations of scenery and portraits and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers. Page 59.
I left in an interesting tidbit about the Mormons on Beaver Island. The Mormons mentioned in the following excerpt were those located on Beaver Island. The Mormon colony on Beaver Island, located north of Grand Traverse Bay, was in serious conflict with folks in the region, and some blood was shed. "King" James Jesse Strang was leader, but the colony was destroyed after Strang's assassination. Someone recently told me that Strang was a fiddler, and I will be looking for documentation on that. In the meantime, here is another tidbit to show that fiddlers were on both sides. A man named Timothy Smith was apparently around the Charlevoix area in the 1850s. The Mormons burned his copper shop in 1856, according to Beaver Island papers. Smith was a fiddler, and an interesting anecdote was told about him. He was on a ship during a storm. A man named Johnny Green related,
"There was a Tim Smith who was a fiddler. One time he was in a boat in very rough weather - he was in the cabin fiddling when someone came in & said, 'Everything is going to Hell up there!' Said Tim, 'If everything is going to Hell, let me off 1st at Charlevoix.'"
Smith appears to have been a character. The Beaver Island papers also say, "In 1892 Johnny saw this Tim again, he was hauling a stuffed whale to the Chicago World's Fair on a lighter with his tug the 'John Martin.'"
The above information and quotations about Tim Smith come from HERE in the Clarke Historical Library Beaver Island Papers Collection
The following excerpt also gives an idea of the frequency of a single fiddler playing for dances in the area during the early 1850s -- about once every other week.
"On New Year's night, in the winter of 1851 and'52,'the boys' determined to amuse themselves by waking up, in a startling manner, tile more sedate citizens. Secretly collecting all the firearms, they found they could muster thirteen guns. With these they went round to several of the houses firing volleys under the windows, to thie utter consternation of the more timid inmates, who, living in constant fear of a hostile visit from the Mormons, thought their dreaded enemy was upon them.
Card-playing and the habits of negligence and idleness to which it leads, had been among the causes that made Mr. Boardman's enterprise unsuccessful. In the boarding-house of Hannah, Lay & Co. it was strictly prohibited. -Some of the young men, however, were not to be so easily deprived of a favorite pastime. At Austin's they found a convenient rendezvous, where card-playing and general hilarity, though the latter was sometimes a little boisterous, were not considered out of order. Michael Gay could play the fiddle, after a fashion. Usually as often as once in two weeks his services were put in requisition, the ladies, married and single were invited, and music and dancing, neither of them, perhaps, of the most polished kind, served to while away an evening. "