With Jammin’ in JC about to be in full swing, we at the Geary County Historical Society would again like to highlight the great tradition of musicians from the area by sharing the story of local musician, Abbie Clarke Hogan.
Sanborn and Harriet Clarke came to Junction City from Michigan in 1872. The family moved to Wakefield in 1874 where they welcomed their second child, J. Abbie Clarke on February 1, 1875. The family returned to Michigan when Abbie was about a year old but returned to Junction City in 1878.
The Clarke family loved music and enjoyed sharing their love with the community. Every Sunday morning their church would send a wagon to pick up the family pump organ so that Harriet could play during the service.
Mrs. Clarke also gave piano lessons in the community. When Abbie was five years old her mother attempted to teach her how to play the piano. Abbie was not interested in the instrument and her mother soon gave up the lessons.
When Abbie was eight she heard a traveling violinist. She was captivated by the music and immediately asked her parents for a violin. Her mother was shocked because the violin was a “man’s instrument” and not at all proper for a young lady. But Abbie persisted and in a fit of exasperation her mother said that if she wanted a violin she would have to buy it herself. Abbie promptly marched downtown with her savings and bought herself a violin.
The next problem was finding a violin teacher in the wilds of Kansas. In a strange twist of fate K. Dome Geza, a Hungarian violinist trained at the Vienna Conservatory had become stranded in New York at the end of a concert tour. Down on his luck he met a very persuasive army recruiter and ended up being sent to Fort Riley where he served as the chief musician of the 5th Cavalry Band.
The Clarke’s convinced Geza to teach Abbie. He taught her for three and half years until fortune favored him and he left the Army to become the head the music department at Bethany College.
Mr. Geza thought that Abbie showed a lot of promise and he advised Mrs. Clarke to take Abbie to Germany and have her audition for the violinist Joseph Joachim.
Just before the audition Abbie injured her hand, despite the injury Abbie performed admirably. Mr. Joachim was not impressed with her technique but he agreed that she did have talent and he would teach her.
Abbie lived in Germany with her mother and sister, LuCelia. She attended the Royal Hochschule. She was so talented that she performed a solo with the Royal Hochschule Orchestra at the age of thirteen; making her the youngest member of the orchestra.
Abbie came back to Junction City after spending two years in Germany.
Abbie was eighteen years old when she won a statewide music contest in Hutchinson, Kansas. The winner would represent Kansas at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. While in Chicago preparing for her fair performance, she auditioned for and won a scholarship at the Chicago Musical College.
Abbie stayed in Chicago to attend college. She graduated in 1894 with honors. After graduation she traveled around the county performing as a soloist with many well-known groups. But she never forgot her home.
In the fall of 1896, at the age of 21, Abbie worked with the local school district to organize a high school orchestra. During this time Abbie was still touring around the country so her sister LuCelia, also an accomplished musician, took responsibility of the high school orchestra.
In August of 1898 Abbie took a break from her musical career to marry, Thomas Hogan, who was in the milling business with his uncle, Mr. Fogarty. They made their home in Junction City and were blessed with two boys, Cornelius born in 1899 and Theodore born in 1903.
When Mr. Fogarty passed away in 1901 Thomas took over managing the mill. The Hogan’s bought the mill in 1907.
Marriage, children, and business responsibilities kept Abbie close to home but she still made time for her music. To keep her schedule manageable she only performed in the Midwest. Her other passion was working with community and high school orchestras. With her help curriculum was developed for music education in Kansas.
Abbie was also very active in the community. She was a member of the Ladies Reading Club and gave concerts to raise funds for the clubs many activities and good works. She also volunteered at Fort Riley by bringing music to injured soldiers.
It was by chance that Abbie was passing through Wakefield in September of 1950 and learned that the old hotel was going to be auctioned off. She stayed and bought the hotel with the intention of tearing it down and selling it for salvage. But she just couldn’t tear down the beautiful old building, so she moved into it. One day some workers at Fort Riley asked if they could stay at her hotel and the next thing she knew she had a new career.
Abbie helped run the hotel among her other interests until her death in May of 1964. The Hogan Hotel, originally built in 1905, was bought by the Corps of Engineers and torn down to make way for Milford Reservoir.
The Geary County Historical Society will have a booth at this weekend’s Jammin in JC on both Friday and Saturday. We look forward to seeing you there.