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The Norwood Brass Band

Typical 19th Century Brass Instruments

The origins of Norwood’s first band date to before the town was incorporated. During the Civil War, the Eighteenth Massachusetts Volunteers – a regiment that included many South Dedham men – organized a regimental band. Several were from South Dedham.

After the war, in 1866, some participants decided to form a local band and the South Dedham Musical Association was founded on May 25, 1866. In March of 1868, the group became the South Dedham Union Cornet Band. On the evening of February 24, 1872, the day after Norwood was incorporated, the band met and changed its name to Norwood Brass Band. And the band played at the town’s official ratification ceremony held in March of 1872. Interest waned and the group became dormant in 1875.

Eight years later, on September 12, 1883, the musicians met again and reorganized under the direction of Bernard F. Colburn. The band earned a solid reputation in Norfolk County and began to thrive. A special practice room was constructed in the rear of Village Hall in 1891 and the band’s schedule began to include parades, quasi-military events, and dances.

Beginning around 1903, the Norwood Brass Band offered a popular series of summer evening concerts at the town’s first bandstand which was erected in Guild Square Park.

Norwood's first bandstand which was erected in Guild Square Park

Among the early founders of the Norwood Brass Band are three men interred in Old Parish Cemetery: Jarvis Fairbanks (1817-1899), William H. Gay (1840-1919), and George H. Morse (1834-1917).

Jarvis Fairbanks (lot 104), the son of Willard and Azubah Fairbanks, was born on March 29, 1817 in Dedham. On May 15, 1837, he married Lucy Ann Gay whose parents were Luther and Lucy Estey Gay. The couple had ten children: Adelaide, Jarvis, Eliza, William, Martha, Betsey, Henry, George, Herbert, and Cora. Jarvis Fairbanks was a cabinetmaker, likely working at either the Everett factory or one of the other small furniture establishments in the village. Lucy Gay Fairbanks died on July 9, 1873 at 57 of tuberculosis. Jarvis Fairbanks died on December 3, 1899 of heart disease at the age of 82.

William H. Gay (lot 23) was born in South Dedham in 1840. He was a cabinet maker by trade and, at the age of 22, on September 12, 1862 he enlisted in the 43rd Regiment, Company D of the Massachusetts Volunteers during the Civil War, as a “Nine Months Man.” After training, the unit was stationed near New Bern, NC and returned to Boston in July, 1863. Gay became an officer of the George K. Bird GAR Post in Norwood and a founding member of the South Dedham Union Cornet Band, later the Norwood Brass Band. He also joined the Orient Lodge of Masons, rising to become its Worshipful Master. William H. Gay died on June 7, 1919. The funeral service was held at his residence, 16 Howard St., Norwood.

George H. Morse (lot 58) was born on February 12, 1834, to Joseph and Millie E. Dean Morse. He married Abigail (Abbie) Rawson Shackley on December 24, 1855 and they had two daughters: Ellen Florence (1857-1923) and Catherine (Katie) Lilian (1858-1879). Abbie R. Morse died of cancer in 1869. On May 29, 1871, George H. Morse married Althine Atkins; she died in 1896, of liver cancer. George H. Morse was a farmer and an auctioneer. He was a member of the Orient Lodge of Masons, the Tiot Lodge of Odd Fellows, and the South Dedham, later the Norwood Brass Band. Morse was one of the first members of Norwood’s Board of Assessors in 1872, was chief engineer of the fire department, served as a surveyor of lumber and highways and was on the Board of Selectmen from 1877-1893. He died on May 6, 1917.

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