1909-1910: The Beginnings
In the winter of 1909-1910, a group of about 20 young men organized to form the Westbrook Drum Corps. Louis Pratt, a Deep River resident and expert fifer and drummer, volunteered to teach new members each week. Originally, Westbrook had relatively small drums before acquiring "thunder makers" produced by Eli Brown, which are still used today. Some of the tunes learned the first winter were: "Bruce's Address," "Road to Boston," and, of course, "Yankee Doodle." Soon after, "White Cockade," "Battle Hymn," "Grandfather’s Clock," and more were added.
Early corps fifers included: Ty and George Manstan, John and Chapman Holbrook, Alex Brooks, Gilbert Spencer, Irving Bohling, Charlie Clark, Fred Ames, Charlie Brainard, and Lee Kelsey. Bill McCoombs and Paul Hoxsie later joined. Early drummers included: Tom and Luther Bloomfield, John and Bill Mulcair, "Happy" Burham, Russell Stokes, Bill Boone, Paul Post, Al Foerch, John Doane, Evelyn Wright, Robert Morgan, and Frank Palm. Albert Palm, Henry Wilcox, and Richard Gustafson later joined. The corps first drum major was William Wilcox, followed by Frank Hill and Stanley Griswold.
The first officers of the Westbrook Drum Corps, elected at the first meeting on February 6, 1910, were: Russell A. Strokes - President, Robert R. Morgan - Vice President, Charles C. Clark - Secretary & Treasurer. It was voted at that meeting to subscribe five cents a member towards rent for the hall that evening and thirty-five cents per week in dues.
Mid 1900's - Early 2000's: Growth and Success
The Corps has won two silver cups for making the best appearance in a parade. The first was won on May 13, 1917 in a parade given by Montrose Drum Corps in New Haven in which 18 corps competed. The second cup was won at a parade in Bridgeport on May 14, 1921, sponsored by the Warner Brothers Corps. Over the years, the Westbrook Drum Corps has continued to win awards in various parades, including Best Musical Unit in the 2018 Hartford St. Patrick's Day Parade.
A significant undertaking of this ambitious group was to host the National Muster of Fife and Drum Corps. Three times in fact. First, in August of 1976 , then in 1990, and most recently in 2010 to celebrate our 100th anniversary, co-hosted with Moodus Drum & Fife Corps.
The Corps celebrated its 50th anniversary, July 9th, 1960, with a parade and muster. On August 14th & 15th, 1970, the 60th anniversary was celebrated. To help make this occasion memorable, Governor Dempsey proclaimed August 15th, 1970 "Westbrook Ancient Muster Day." And to give the occasion greater distinction, the President's honor guard, the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry (Old Guard) Fife and Drum Corps participated in the Friday evening ceremonies and Muster Parade on Saturday. The Old Guard remains friends with the Westbrook Drum Corps and makes regular appearances at the annual Westbrook Muster.
Present Day Corps
The present Westbrook Drum Corps consists of approximately 20 members and is busy performing throughout New England. Dressed in authentic Revolutionary-style uniforms and marching to the ancient "beat" of the original corps, the corps continues to carry on a marvelous tradition, especially the annual Westbrook Muster. Even when the Covid-19 pandemic stuck in 2020, and the beloved Westbrook Muster had to be canceled, the corps hosted a Virtual Muster to cary on the tradition. 2020 marked the corps 110th anniversary, and the corps is actively recruiting new members and refurbishing original equipment for the continued success and use for years to come.