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Joseph Savage

Musician, Amateur Geologist.  Born: July 28, 1823, Hartford, Windsor County, Vermont. Died: December 30, 1891, Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas.

Joseph Savage was born in Hartford, Vermont, on July 28, 1823, to William and Polly (Hazen) Savage.

He married Amanda B. Crandall on June 17, 1847. Savage was an accomplished writer and amateur scholar, but he was a farmer at heart. He and his brother, Forrest, were members of the Hartford band. In 1854 he traveled to Boston with plans to move to Wisconsin to seek more land. Known for his moderation, he uncharacteristically became involved in the Kansas question: would it would become a free or slave state. Savage decided to forgo his move to Wisconsin and instead chose Kansas. In fall 1854 he was part of the second group of New Emigrant Aid Society to move to the new territory.  He brought with him his band instruments.

In spring 1855 Savage returned to the East and to move his family to Kansas. His young son, Charlie, fell ill on the journey and died. Not long after arriving in Kansas, Savage’s wife and three other children died; only one of his five children survived.

Savage married Mary Burgess on April 14, 1858.

Savage and others from Vermont formed the first Kansas band. They played at Lawrence’s first Fourth of July celebration in 1855. By 1856 the band was growing and organized. In 1863, through the efforts of Governor Charles Robinson, they held concerts to raise funds for new instruments. With their new instruments, they played a concert on August 20, 1863. The following day Lawrence was attacked by William Quantrill’s men. As the militia band, members served two weeks at the border in 1864. In 1867 they had the honor of performing at the first commencement exercises for the University of Kansas (KU). They reassembled and played their last performance on September 15, 1879, the 25th anniversary of their arrival in Lawrence.

Savage continued to pursue his writing, contributing several articles to the Kansas Academy of Science, of which he was a member.  Although he never became an academic or facility member, he sponsored the science club at KU. He also mentored young students such as Samuel W. Williston, a natural scientist.  

Savage died in Lawrence, Douglas County, on December 30, 1891.

Entry: Savage, Joseph

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2016

Date Modified: July 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.