Volume 7, Number 6 - Winter 1981

About Ponce De Leon
by Thomas R. Welch

If you would view fair Poncy gay,
Go visit in the month of May,
When the flowers and trees are all
And the Fountain of Youth is all
With its healing waters so crystal clear;
The loveliest season of all the year,
And home returning solemnly swear,
You have never seen a village so fair.

I have many pleasant memories about the little town "Poncy during the years 1885 to 1895 especially. I went there to school in 1884, to Sunday School, church, the post office, store, and various other gatherings during later years.

Ponce de Leon had a rather large population, according to the information I have obtained, back in the 1870’s, but during the years when I frequented the place, about 12 or perhaps 15 families. Poncy had some musical activities during those years. The wonderful little brass band came from Galena there frequently to thrill us with its fine selections like "Rally Round the Flag," "America," "Marching Through Georgia" and other selections. These were really thrilling to folks who had little opportunity to hear good music.

Many old fashioned singing teachers came and conducted classes and sang songs from the old Southern Harmony, Hours of Song, etc.

Willie Weatherman came from Taney County and conducted a class of which I and my brothers and sisters were members. Mr. Weatherman was well qualified to teach singing, being a fine singer himself. We all learned to read the notes before we tried to sing songs. He was not only a fine musician for that day, but a fine personality and will be remembered by many friends and associates.

During the 1890’s, my family took a deep interest in music. About that time many of the neighbors bought old fashioned organs from the agents who hauled them around.

We managed to get an organ, a violin and guitar and a cornet and started a string band which the neighbors seemed to think was very fine. Many people came to hear us play.

Later two families moved into the community. They were really musical. They were the Puller family from Springfield and the Myers family from Kansas. Frank Myers was a school teacher and a good violinist and Charley Myers was, as I still think, the best bass singer I have ever heard. Will Puller and Tell Puller were also fine singers and guitar players.

They all joined in with us and we played and sang songs on many occasions. Another man, named Elam, came to Poncy who played the violin beautifully.

He also joined our band and for a few years we made music for the public which thrilled many people including ourselves. There is no joy so great as the ability to make your own music.

Our band was not the hillbilly sort. We played excellent marches, waltzes, and the like as well as many old songs. We sang selections of Stephen Foster, Civil War songs, old Irish songs, and many comic medleys and parodies.

But like other country bands, it soon disintegrated. I really believe our music was both edifying and of lasting benefit.

After our string band faded away, the phonograph came into existence. I remember paying a nickel to hear through tubes in my ears someone playing a piano. Within a few years nearly everyone had a phonograph, which had a tendency to lessen the urge to make music for yourself.

However, it did not have that reaction with me, as I have all through my life tried to play some kind of instrument. I learned to play or rather ploughed through the songs which were used at church, on an organ or piano, but only when no one else could be found to do so.

During more recent years Poncy had some outstanding musicians, especially Miss Betha Hendrex, a pianist and general leader in all the music activities. Later she left Poncy to become Mrs. Clyde Little, of Clever. Mrs. Maude Magers, a very fine alto singer, now deceased, and Mrs. Ada Hendricks, an excellent soprano, now of Springfield. These three were much in demand for special occasions. They were sometimes assisted by a man named Tom Welch, who sang tenor.

I am not saying that Poncy is not what it used to be. It has a very active Baptist Church and a new building. I have no doubt that they have able musicians still.


And I think I should not close this article without mentioning other musicians in some nearby communities. The Bilyeu and Maples families at Spokane were outstanding in musical talent ten years ago and probably they have other good musicans now. Also Highlandville was not without good musicians, particularly the Lawson, Pigg, Melton families and probably many others at the present time. So this ends my story about music as I knew it through the years from about 1885 to 1948.

Note: Rudolph Hilton, a member of our society who now lives in Sugar Creek, MO. remembers going to music parties at the Welch home, which was about one mile from the Hilton home.


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