The Schwarz Family

Christoph M. Schwarz

Schwarz business card

Business card for C.M. Schwarz, Professor of Music and teacher of Brass & String Bands. MCHS archival document.

Ten-year-old Christoph emigrated from Prussia with his parents and four younger siblings (including Charles) in 1844. The family settled on a farm near Edwardsville. As a young man, Christoph earned his living as a violinist, playing gigs and giving music and dance lessons.

The Civil War broke out in April of 1861. In August, Christoph joined up as a musician with the Fremont Hussars, a Union cavalry unit organized in St. Louis. He left behind a wife and 8-month-old daughter. After the war, Christoph purchased Oak Hill Farm near Edwardsville. There he and Charlotte raised five children, among them sons William, George, and Elmer.

Civil War cap

Cap worn by Christoph Schwarz during his Civil War service as a musician, playing the cornet. Christoph enlisted with the Fremont Hussars. The unit was later consolidated into the 4th Regiment, Missouri Cavalry. MCHS object 1955-001-0001.

William C. Schwarz (son of Christoph Schwarz)

Concert program

Program for an Enterprise Band concert on April 20, 1892. MCHS archival document.

William was born while his father was away serving in the Civil War. He began his music career at age ten playing cornet in the Joseph Brendle band. William organized the Edwardsville Enterprise Band in 1885 and led the band as its director. Band members included William’s brothers George and Elmer.

William never married. The 1900 census of Edwardsville shows the 38-year-old music teacher living with his widowed father on Schwarz Street (named for his family). In 1907, William partnered with Edward Ballweg to open a retail drugstore. He patented a design for a 4WD automobile transmission the same year (the Madison County Archival Library holds the original patent document).

William lived on Schwarz Street for the rest of his life. In his later years, he tuned and rebuilt pianos.

Enterprise Band

Enterprise Band, July 4, 1896. Band director William Schwarz stands in the front. Do you think he is wearing his father’s Civil War cap? William’s brothers: George (trombone), seated in middle row, fifth from right; Elmer (clarinet), first row, second from left. William’s uncle: Charles Schwarz (trumpet), bearded man fourth from left, middle row.

Charles Schwarz and the Schwarz Sister Orchestra

Charles was six years old when his family emigrated from Prussia in 1844. He grew up on the family farm near Edwardsville. By 1870, Charles had a wife and an infant daughter. Over time, Charles and Frances raised nine daughters and a son.

Schwarz Sisters Orchestra

The Schwarz Sisters Orchestra in 1899. Band director William Thomas stands at the rear. Jessie Schwarz Thomas (trombone) sits at the far left. The remaining band members/Schwarz sisters are unmarried. From left: Etta (cornet), Minnie (clarinet), Catherine (drum), Ruth (base drum), Edith (violin), Estelle (violin), and Irene (bass viol).

Charles, who played in his nephew’s Enterprise Band, passed a love of music on to his children. Eight of them formed a band called the Schwarz Sisters Orchestra in the late 1890s. In the 1899 photograph above, the band members range in age from 29-year-old trombonist Jessie to 6-year-old Ruth on the bass drum. Jessie’s husband William Thomas served as band director.

Only Jessie reported her occupation as a band musician to a census-taker, in 1910. Minnie is listed as a music teacher in the 1900 census. The band played for dances and other social functions until the early 1910s.


“City has long been noted for musical organizations,” Edwardsville Intelligencer, 75th anniversary edition, November 14, 1937. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.

Edwardsville Intelligencer. Various articles.

Edwardsville Intelligencer. Madison County centennial edition. 1912. Various articles. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.

Find A Grave. Accessed February 5, 2020.

“From Missouri: Competent and Experienced Officers; The Attraction of Gen. Fremont’s Name Organizing the Army; Gen. Fremont’s Body Guard; &c,” New-York Times, September 3, 1861. Accessed February 5, 2020.

Illinois State Archives. Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls (database). Accessed January 31, 2020.

National Park Service. The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database. Accessed January 4, 2018.

Springer, Jessie. Music in Edwardsville: Early-1900. Manuscript. December 1959. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.

Travous, Rachel Louise. [Notes on band history from information gained from W.C. Schwarz]. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.

United States census records and other public records.