A School Orchestra from Wedena, Minnesota
08 February 2011
Posted by Mike Brubaker
For a change from my usual emphasis on brass instruments, here is a photo of string players - a school orchestra from Wadena, Minnestota. There was a time in America when string orchestras were almost as common as brass bands. The immigrant experience often tried to retain the musical traditions of the old country, so music education in many small towns became just as important as any other academic subject. Here we see what is basically a fiddle band - as far as I can determine there are only violinists, as a viola would be noticeably larger in this pose, along with one guitarist and a mandolin player. Unlike the bands that tended to be of one gender, they are a nice mix of boys and girls. The music teacher stands at the back, 3rd from the right.
This photo postcard was sent from Wadena, MN in 1911 to a Clara Nisges of New York Mills, MN, a village in Otter Tail County about 12 miles to the northwest along the rail line. The writer. also named Clara, begins:
I ought to be spanked for not writing to you, but as I'm home for a visit I'm coming out to call on you as
I'm anxious to see Tony any way if you tell me what time(?) you have church Sun. we will come then if that is O.K. Clara.
A search of the US census records found no Nisges, but in the 1905 Minnesota Census. there was a farmer in New York Mills named Anton Nesges, with a daughter named Clarice, age 11. It is a German name, but there were many more neighbors in the village who were Finnish or Swedish, so the spelling of names must have changed often, depending on the background of the writer.
So Clara Nesges would be around 17 when this was sent. Could the writer be one of the older girls in the photo? I'd vote for the one with the bow.