Lost Butte, Montana, a book by Richard I. Gibson, is in stores and museum gift shops around Butte. Or order from the publisher. It's also in E-book formats at all the usual places. And read an interview with Gibson, here, and on KXLF here. The Facebook page has many historic photos of Butte, and the Butte-Anaconda NHLD project showcases many historic buildings. Location-oriented posts can be found on HistoryPin. On Mondays beginning in January 2016, look for Gibson's "Mining City History" column in the Montana Standard.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Butte’s first Band

By Richard I. Gibson

The first organized band in Butte debuted on July 4, 1876, for the U.S. centennial. There were neither 76 trombones, nor 110 cornets, but the five musicians included Band Leader George Fitschen on B flat cornet, Simon Hausworth on E flat alto, Charles Basuman on bass, John Hausworth on alto, and Peter Sherrer on bass drum.

“I think that was the first band in the state aside from the military bands at the army posts.” – George Fitschen, recalling the band's debut.

George C. Fitschen had come to Montana in 1868, from Hanover, Germany, emigrating alone at the age of 14 in 1858. He tried his hand at gold mining in California, but “fortune did not come his way as rapidly as he thought it might.” In Montana first at German Gulch and then in 1875 in Butte, he dabbled in both mining and the mercantile business, and eventually real estate.

George C. Fitschen
(Anaconda Standard, May 12, 1902)
Fitschen became the manager of one of Butte’s first general stores – Weibold’s, on Main halfway between Park and Broadway. After a year or so again in California, Fitschen settled in Butte for good. With his brother George he operated a saloon in the Fitschen Block at 17 S. Main, where he lived upstairs. It was a three-story double-bay-front building built in May 1890 just south of the Theatre Comique. The upper floors were rented out as furnished rooms catering especially to “transients.” After the State Savings Bank (Metals Bank) was erected in 1906, the Fitschen Block was on its south side. In 1928 the Fitschen Hotel was managed by Mrs. Mary Ferrari. The façade has been modified, but the building is still there, serving as law offices today.

Fitschen’s local success allowed him to revisit Germany, sailing from New York for Hanover on May 22, 1902, for a visit of 6 months or more.

He died in October 1908. His son George H. Fitschen became the chief electrician at the Elm Orlu mine; he lived with his wife Charlotte at 1108 West Platinum in 1928.

Fitschen’s bandmates, Simon and John Hausworth, were Swiss emigrants who built the first two-story building in Butte, the Hotel de Mineral at Main and Broadway. Simon’s son Charles was elected Mayor of Butte four times.

Resources: Anaconda Standard, May 12, 1902 (source of photo); city directories; Sanborn maps; Lost Butte, Montana, p. 16.

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