Henry Hart and His Family Orchestra (inclduing Eli Lilly's Recollections)


(Including Eli Lilly's Recollections)

This is the first of three supplements to the Wikipedia article entitled "Henry Hart (musician)". The article first appeared on June 1, 2007. Since then, further research has uncovered the material in the three supplements.

The Henry Hart Project started in 2004 when I was arranging hundreds of historic melodies, including those mentioned in Collection 1: African-American and Jamaican Melodies. One of the melodies, found in the huge collection at the Library of Congress, was a melody by Henry Hart, entitled "Evansville Favorite Waltz," published in Evansville, Indiana, in 1874. A reference librarian at the University of Evansville found that Hart was an African-American musician who had lived in Evansville.

Several findings followed soon thereafter. Among them was the fact that Henry and Sarah Hart and several descendents are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, which is located about one mile from my office. Another revelation was that Hart and Sarah's daughter Myrtle, born in Evansville within a year of the family's move to Indianapolis, became an outstanding professional harpist. Her sister Hazel became a principal of an Indianapolis public school that was named in her honor in 1938. It became clear that Henry Hart was a remarkable man with a remarkable family. Surprisingly, almost no information about Hart and his family could be found in Evansville or Indianapolis libraries, including the Indiana State Library.

Among questions which kept the Project active after 2007 are these: What pictures of Henry, Sarah, Myrtle, Hazel, and other descendents have survived? What happened to Henry's violin? What happened to the fine harp that Henry bought for Myrtle, with the assistance of Col. Eli Lilly? Could living descendents of Henry and Sarah Hart be found? What descriptions of the Hart family orchestra, or Henry's earlier musical groups, have survived? Above all else, what happened to Myrtle after her Chicago years? Until 2009, it seemed that Myrtle had disappeared without a trace.


Reminiscences from Eli Lilly's Childhood

In 1960, Eli Lilly published a little book entitled Early Wawasee Days. He recalls "Traditions, Tales, and Memories Concerning That Delectable Spot, Lake Wawasee."

Privately published in Indianapolis, the book includes an unusual and delightful notice: "No Copyright - It would be considered a unique compliment should anyone wish to quote from this book." So, let us see Chapter XIX in its entirety.

Henry Hart's Orchestra
By Eli Lilly

No collection of reminiscences of early Wawasee days would be complete without mention of the orchestra of Henry Hart, the beloved Negro musician, and his talented daughters, Myrtle and Willie. A party given in Indianapolis during the winter was no party at all without the Harts, Strauss waltzes, Sousa's two-steps, and potted palms. Henry had once played the fiddle and operated barber shops on the Ohio River packets of Captain Lemcke and Captain Dexter. He served in like capacities at Wawasee, but it was facetiously remarked that he handled has razor entirely too much like his bow!

The Harts became fixtures in the North Shore Wawasee days; and every evening happy young people (all were young then) from all around the Lake would congregate at the Club, later the Inn, to "chase the glowing hours with flying feet" by way of the two-step, waltz, and lancers, a dignified but gay form of square dance. This latter was especially loved by the children, each pair of youngsters striving to be the couple who could perch on the edge of the stage between figures.

The gaiety was heightened by Henry's calling, and by such tunes as:

Get away from that window, my darling, my dear,
Get away from that window, I say!
Come around some other night
For there's gwine to be a fight
And the razors are flyin' through the air!

This would be quickly followed by "Ring Dem Bells," "O! Dem Golden Slippers," and ""Old Dan Tucker." The mere memory sends shivers up and down the spinal column.

There was, of course, no dancing on Sunday, but at noon dinner the Harts would take up a position in the broad passage just outside the wide dining room and render the dulcet tones of "La Paloma," the Intermezzo from "Cavalleria Rusticana," "Home to Our Mountains," and other such favorites. Some of the lighter-hearted parents would occasionally highly amuse the children by jerkily eating in time with the music, "And all went merry as a marriage bell." Alas! The Harts have gone long since. Rest their good souls. May they be having as much joy as they gave others.

The chapter just quoted indicates one of the connections between members of the Lilly family and Henry Hart. Another is Colonel Eli Lilly's loan to Hart for the purchase of a harp for Myrtle. As there were two different persons named Eli Lilly, some clarification will be helpful. Colonel Eli Lilly (1838-1893) was a Civil War officer who founded the Eli Lilly and Company -- and loaned Henry Hart the money for the harp. His son Josiah Kirby Lilly (1861-1948) was President of the company, and his son, Eli Lilly (1885-1977), also President, wrote Early Wawasee Days. Other members of the Lilly family are described at The Great Families of Indianapolis.


The Hart Family in U. S. Census Records

The 1900 U. S. Federal Census for Marion County, Indiana (Indianapolis) appears to be written with more care and detail than other census records. (There are, however, several errors, indicated here by parentheses.)

Name Born Birthplace (Bp) Father's Bp Mother's Bp
Henry (May) 1839 KY KY KY
Sarah F. Sept. 1849 IN AR AR
Estella Oct. 1866 LA KY IN
Myrtle May (1878) IN KY IN
Willie Dec. 1879 IN KY IN
Hazel Sept. (1883) IN KY IN
(Clothielde) March 1890 IN KY IN

The 1900 Census also indicates that Henry and Sarah had been married for 34 years, and that they had 13 children, of whom six were living. As Lillian was born and buried in 1870, these figures leave seven children unaccounted for. The 1900 census shows Henry's month of birth as May, but his death certificate shows June 8, 1839 as date of birth. Daughter Willie's full name was William, and the youngest daughter's name was Clothilde. Although Hazel's birth year appears as 1883, the year given on her death certificate is September 28, 1884. The record for the Hart household in the 1870 Census for Vanderburgh County, Indiana (Evansville) is consistent with the 1900 Census.


Henry Hart's Minstrel Groups
Newspaper articles

March 30, 1874
Evansville Daily Journal

As elsewhere announced the bills for Henry Hart's minstrels are posted. The performances take place at the Opera House April 6 and 7. After the 7th, the troupe leaves the city for a tour of the West, and will be in Pittsburgh before May. Henry Hart himself needs no commendation from us. His music and his abilities are known in this city and vicinity too well to leave any further reputation to be wished for, and his songs are known East and West, having delighted audiences for weeks in New York. The New York theatrical papers speak very highly of the troupe, and great things are expected.

Mr. C. W. Kidder, advance agent of Henry Hart's minstrels, sets out on his first tour for that troupe today. Mr. Kidder is a veteran showman who is too well known to the profession and the press to need any further introduction.

April 11, 1874
The Terre Haute Express

Tonight this excellent troupe appears in our Opera House. Everywhere these minstrels have been they were met with full houses, and their acting in all cases has elicited nothing but applause. The troupe comprises some of the very best vocalists, and led by Henry Hart, a magnificent violinist and unsurpassed end man, [they] will give an excellent entertainment. Let them have a full house. Tickets can be had at the Central.

April 12, 1874
The Terre Haute Express

Last night Henry Hart's Colored Minstrels gave their entertainment at the Opera House, and without a doubt the troupe is the best which has ever appeared in this city. This is saying a great deal, as the best troupes traveling, such as Duprez' and Benedict's, the Franciscos and the Georgias all have been here; but the Hart Minstrels are unsurpassed. A leading feature of their entertainment is their excellent singing, some of their songs wonderfully beautiful as rendered by their sweet voices; their scenes follow one another more rapidly than that of any other company. Their dancing is superb.

Last night was only the sixth entertainment, and yet it was unsurpassable in every respect.

The introductory overture was excellent… "Daffney, do you love me," a song of Henry Hart's own composition, was sung by Jake Hamilton and received the hearty applause of the audience… Henry Hart's new song, "C'yarve that 'Possum," illustrating the style of the old plantation negro melodies, was sung by Sam Lucas with great effect…"

June 6, 1874
Evansville Daily Journal

This troupe who have earned bright laurels on their tour play here this evening and Monday. The press everywhere on their route have given them credit for having the best minstrel show on the road…

January 6, 1878
New York Clipper

Henry Hart's Colored Minstrels gave an entertaining performance in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The instrumental music was excellent, and the songs, banjo-playing, sketches, and songs and dances were fine.


The "Old Cremone"
Indianapolis Freeman
May 30, 1891

The rendering of 'Nearer My God to Thee,' by Prof. Hart and daughters, Myrtle, Willie and sweet little Hazel, the seven year old wonder, was an execution of superbest technique and finish… The Prof. in his place as lead, Willie at the violincello, Myrtle behind the royal harp, and petite Hazel holding the second violin like any master under her baby chin, was a sight that carried the great audience away from itself, as leaves are swept by the storm. The encore offered with a will was greatly responded to by Prof. Hart and his obedient slave the 'Old Cremon,' and then we did hear a rendition of that sacred hymn, then through the insinuating witchery of music's dulcet melody, we were drawn nearer indeed to God, and farther away from the perishable and sordid things of life. All mankind, the savage as well as the civilized, kneels at music's soothing shrine. All Indianapolis should be thankful that Henry Hart is with us. His life, unassuming, modest, upright, as he has lived it in this community, his great gift always glorified, never abused, has exerted such an influence and inspiration for good for every one of us, in the estimation of the whites, and in our own hearts that it may be that we will not fully realize it until it be taken from us.


Full text of the 1901 article
The Indianapolis News
Saturday, April 6, 1901

Along with the only known picture of Henry Hart, the following article, which appears in part in the main Wikipedia article, is as follows:

Henry Hart and His Family of Musicians Always in Demand

Any one in Indiana who has not danced to the fascinating measures of Henry Hart's violin has missed a treat. It's an open secret that when a dance is contemplated the first person visited in regard to arranging a date for it is Henry Hart. If there is an anniversary approaching, "Henry" as every one calls him, must be secured, and if it happens to be in the social season, say from the middle of September to the middle of February, or just after Easter, or in June, when the weddings begin to bloom, then the music must be spoken for weeks and often months ahead. For such dates as Christmas and New Year's, and particularly December 31 and January 1, three months ahead is not too early to speak for the music.

Mr. Hart alone is not all of "Henry Hart's music." He has a family of interesting daughters, and as they grow up to young womanhood, and even when quite small, they take their part in the orchestra. First, there were Myrtle and her father, with piano and violin. The harp is a fine instrument for dances, and it was decided that Myrtle must learn to play it. Several weeks in Chicago under a good master followed. Harp and violin were soon in demand. Then Miss William learned the piano, and with her skill as a manipulator of the ivories came an education for her on the 'cello. Hazel was the next daughter. She learned the piano, as did the others, and she became an expert on the smaller instruments, the trap drum, xylophone and bells. Last, but by no means least, there is little Clothilde, who plays the drum. Not to have danced the two-step to the rhythmic beating of a drum, one has missed one of life's joys.

The combination of instruments played in the Hart family furnishes the best possible music for a dance. Mr. Hart adds a cornet, and sometimes a viola, but in his own family he has an orchestra that is closely identified with the city's gay life. What Mr. Hart doesn't know about Indianapolis society is not at all worth knowing. He is on the most friendly terms with the prominent people of the Hoosier capital. He played for Governors Williams, Porter and Mount, and for the inaugurals of Governors Gray and Hovey. He provided the music for the inaugural ball given by Governor Durbin, at Tomlinson Hall, in January. Hart was engaged for the opening receptions of the Columbia Club, the Country Club, the Commercial Club, the Canoe Club, the Propylæum, the Brenneke Academy, the Americus Club and the University Club. He was the musician to furnish music on the occasion of the visits of President Rutherford B. Hayes, President Grover Cleveland, and President Benjamin Harrison. "It's pretty good honor to have played for three kings," said Henry, once, when speaking of his work in this connection. He was always called on to play at entertainments given at the home of General Harrison, and always for social affairs at the home of Governor Gray. The Dramatic Club, in all the years of its existence, has had Hart and his orchestra play the overtures and incidental music, and, afterward, the dance music. He has played for the biggest weddings, the handsomest receptions and for teas by the hundred. In Hugh H. Hanna's home these popular musicians play for the elaborate birthday celebrations, when only the family is present, and there are many other families that would feel like ceasing to entertain if they could not have Henry and his orchestra. The senior hop of the Girls' Classical School is another affair that furnishes an annual engagement for him.

Mr. Hart's sense of dance rhythm is known in many places. He played at the clubhouse at Lake Maxinkuckee for several seasons. Then he went to Wawasee, another Indiana resort, for ten seasons, and a long time ago he went to West Baden for two seasons. This summer he and his family will go to Harbor Point, Mich. It will be the third season for him there. They played for the opening of the Harbor Point Casino, the largest dance pavilion in the Northwest. In all these places he was heard by many Indiana people and also by thousands from other States who frequent these resorts. In this way his acquaintance has broadened, and he is not infrequently called out of town to play. In 1899 he went to Chicago to play for the debut party of Miss Winston and for a banquet at Kinsley's. He once played at an entertainment given for Jerome Bonaparte, brother of the Emperor.

Mr. Hart was reared in Cleveland, O., and had his early instruction on the violin in that city. He spent five years in New Orleans and lived in Evansville, this State, for twelve years. He has lived in Indianapolis ever since leaving Evansville. Mr. Hart is very proud of the fact that he plays for "the bloods," as he calls them. He and his orchestra have great opportunities to watch the development of love affairs, for they see them in all stages.


A Tribute to Sarah F. Hart

Sarah's name appears to be missing from archival accounts of the family orchestra. One must wonder if she sometimes participated in performances, but aside from that, she clearly played an essential role at home as a wife and mother. Did she also teach her daughters to play the piano? The 1901 article quoted above reveals that daughters Myrtle, William, and Hazel all learned piano before learning other instruments. There is no mention of Henry as a pianist, but an 1879 article in The Pacific Appeal (partially quoted in the main Wikipedia article) notes that when Henry married Sarah in New Orleans, she was a professional pianist.

Sarah's death certificate and Myrtle Hart's application for marriage license (October 20, 1907) give information not found elsewhere: Sarah was born in Jeffersonville, Indiana, to John Smith (birthplace unknown) and Angeline Mason (born in Arkansas) on September 6, 1849. She died on September 22, 1932. At that time she had resided at 1121 North West Street, Indianapolis, with her daughter, Hazel Hendricks, who was killed three years later in a traffic accident. An account of that tragedy in the September 14, 1935 issue of The Chicago Defender includes these words: "Just two years ago in September when Mrs. Hendricks was driving in a car with her mother…the car overturned and her mother died from injuries two weeks later."

According to one of Sarah's great-granddaughters, the Hart family were Christian Scientists. Although there may be only one published trace of this adherence (see Supplement II), discussions with the great-granddaughter leave no doubt that several of Sarah's daughters attended the Christian Science church, as she herself did as a child. It seems likely that Sarah was the guiding family member in this regard. In any case, she lived during the years of the phenomenal growth of Christian Science, chartered in 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts. This was about two years after the Harts moved from Evansville to Indianapolis. Possibly Sarah was one of the earliest Christian Scientists in the city of Indianapolis.

Just imagine the mothering that was required to raise six daughters! This mothering included "being there" when the daughters had their own children. Again, it is only through official birth records that we know that Myrtle's son was born at home - Sarah and Henry's home - 1223 North Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis, and that Hazel's twins were born nearby at her home: 1211 North Capitol Avenue.


Records in Evansville

From Burch & Polk's Evansville Directory,
In list of barbers: Henry Hart, 25 Locust Street
In list of residences:

1. Henry Hart, barber, 25 Locust, residence NW side of Oak Street, between 7th and 8th [presently occupied by city and county buildings]
2. Mrs. A. Seldon, res. of Henry Hart.
3. Moses Seldon, laborer, res. SE side of Canal Street, between 5th and 6th.

In Room 231 of the Vanderburgh County Court House, Evansville, Indiana, there is a card catalog for the Index of Deeds, in two parts: Grantee and Grantor. The cards pertaining to property owned by members of the Hart family bear the following information:

From the GRANTEE Index of Deeds:

Grantee: Henry Hart Grantor: Walker, William H.
Ins. W. D. June 25, 1870 $1300
Description: Eastern Enlargement Block 48 Lot 12
Recorded June 30,1870 Book 25 Page 42

Grantee: Angeline Seldon Grantor: Henry Hart & wife
Ins. W.D. March 7, 1872 $1500
Description: Eastern Enlargement Block 48 Lot 12
Recorded March 15, 1872 Book 28 Page 42

Grantee: Sarah F. Hart Grantor: Angeline Seldon
Ins. W.D. March 7, 1872 $1500
Description: Eastern Enlargement Block 48 Lot 18
Recorded April 23, 1872 Book 28 Page 125

Grantee: Henry Hart Grantor: Walker, Jesse W. & wife
Ins. W.D. May 20, 1873 $375
Description: Blankenburg Block 12 Lot 3-4-5
Recorded June 3, 1873 Book 29 Page 499

Grantee: Henry Hart Grantor: McFerson, Theodore R. et al
Ins. W.D. July 3, 1873 $300
Description: Southern Enlargement Block 26 Lot 15
Recorded August 21, 1873 Book 30 Page 180

Grantee: Sarah F. Hart Grantor: James T. Walker, Jr.
Ins. Q.C.D. January 26, 1874 $1 [one dollar]
Description: Southern Enlargement Block 26 Lot 15
Recorded February 21, 1874 Book 30 Page 522

Grantee: Sarah F. Hart Grantor: Tri State Land Co.
Ins. W.D. February 26, 1907 $250
Description: Sonntag Place Block 12 Lot 27
Recorded August 5, 1908 Book 93 Page 315

From the GRANTOR Index of Deeds:

Grantor: Henry Hart and wife Grantee: Angeline Seldon
W.D. March 2, 1872 $1500
Description: Eastern Enlargement Block 48 Lot 12
Recorded March 15, 1872 Book 28 Page 42

Grantor: Henry Hart and wife Grantee: James T. Walker, Jr.
W.D. January 26, 1874 $1 [one dollar]
Description: Southern Enlargement Block 26 Lot 15
Recorded February 21, 1874 Book 30 Page 522

Grantor: Henry Hart and Sarah F. Hart Grantee: James T. Walker, Jr.
W.D. October 12, 1875 $300
Description: Blankenburgh Block 12 Lot 3-4-5
Recorded January 4, 1876 Book 33 Page 89

Grantor: Henry Hart and wife Grantee: Daniel B. Kumbler, Notary Public
W.D. January 30, 1880 $300
Description: Southern Enlargement Block 26 Lot 15
Recorded January 31, 1880 Book 37 Page 593

Grantor: Sarah F. Hart & husband Grantor: Sophia Mace
W.D. September 22, 1900 $750
Description: Eastern Enlargement Block 48 Lot 12
Recorded October 2, 1900 Book 76 Page 329

These property records help to establish that Angeline Seldon was an active member of the family - Angeline was Sarah's mother - and that the Henry and Sarah owned their home at Block 48, Lot 12 (NW side of Oak Street, between 7th and 8th in downtown Evansville).


Bits and Pieces

At least three documents show the name "Henry V. Hart": his death certificate, the Indianapolis City Directory for 1914, page 661, and the property deed indexed just above with the date Sept. 22, 1900.

From The Cleveland Gazette, May 22, 1886: Miss Estella Hart, the accomplished daughter of Henry Hart, the noted composer, will soon visit the city [Cincinnati] and will be the guest of our talented townswoman, Mrs. Sarah G. Jones.



Along with a great deal of gratitude to Judith A. Simmons of Chicago, I also thank Randy Abbott, Reference Library at the University of Evansville; Cynthia Fife-Townsel, Harsch Research Collection Librarian, Chicago Public Library; and the interlibrary loan officers at the University of Evansville: Meg Atwater-Singer, Juanita Chappell, and Kathy Bartelt.

Clark Kimberling
University of Evansville
March 2010