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Carl B. Weimer and the Boys Concert Band of Devils Lake

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Anyone who has ever played trombone or saxophone or tuba in a high school concert band knows the worth of making beautiful music in harmony with their band-mates.

In Devils Lake, about 100 years ago, a “famous band” arose. This band, known as the Devils Lake Boy Concert Band, played throughout the region, from Bismarck to Bemidji; northward to Winnipeg, and westward to Montana.

This Devils Lake Boy Concert Band flourished in the 1920s and made memorable music for decades thereafter.

The man behind the band was Carl B. Weimer, born in 1893 in Wabash, Indiana. A talented musician, Weimer came to North Dakota as a young man, and got inducted into the Army from Grand Forks in 1918. Weimer served during World War I at Camp Dodge, Iowa, where he was the musical leader of the Fifteenth Regiment Band.

Following the war, Carl Weimer went to Devils Lake and, in the summer of 1919, founded a “Boy Scout Band,” as a way to enliven interest in the Boy Scouts. Weimer’s first band consisted of 54 boys ages 10 to 17.

Funding for the band came from its own non-profit community corporation, established in 1922. It paid a salary to Director Weimer, who, as a “superdisciplinarian,” promoted top-notch musicality.

Weimer’s band created a sensation in a 1923 Montana concert, playing the “Poet and Peasant” and “William Tell” overtures, along with Sousa marches, making it hardly seem possible that a group of 60 boys under age 17, could come from a town with a population barely above 5,000.

In 1923, Governor R.A. Nestos designated the recently-renamed “Devils Lake Boys Concert Band” as the “Governor’s Band,” to play at some official functions.

On this date, in 1949, the magnificent Band played at a pancake-feed in Devils Lake; where they entertained 10,000 people.

By that time, boys and girls alike could join the band if each had ability and a willingness to put in long hours of practice.

Carl Weimer continued as director of the Governor’s Band until the year of his death, in 1950, at age 57, from heart disease.

Weimer had inspired thousands of youngsters to musical-excellence. Though his original band eventually dissolved, Devils Lake continues his legacy with a community-orchestra and its Elks Community-Band.

Dakota Datebook by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSUM

“Pancake Day Draws 10,000 to Devils Lake,” Bismarck Tribune, June 9, 1949, p. 11. (Event was on June 8, 1949).
Devils Lake, Ramsey County Centennial: 100 Dakota Years (Devils Lake: Centennial Committee, 1983), p. 6, 38.
“Band Concert By Youngsters Is Sensation,” Great Falls [MT] Tribune, July 31, 1923, p. 7.
“Devils Lake Boys Concert Band to Appear in Bismarck June 15,” Bismarck Tribune, June 9, 1949, p. 14.
“Algeria Patrol Brings Boys’ Concert Band to Shrine Temple July 31,” Independent-Record [Helena, MT], July 18, 1923, p. 10.
“Devils Lake Band Founder Dies at 57 Of Heart Disease,” Bismarck Tribune, December 5, 1950, p. 6.
U.S. Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976, “Official Roster, North Dakota, Vol 4, p. 3,414,
“Famous Band to Play Here This Evening,” Bemidji Daily Pioneer, July 16, 1935, p. 1.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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