Family Photo Album

Josephus (Joseph) Gorton, 1835-1916


Band Master and Prominent Citizen Who Will Be Greatly Missed (November 1916)

Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 o'clock marked another evidence of the power of the Omnipotent, as the guide and controller of our destiny, when Mr. Josephus Gorton, whom we all knew as a man of splendid character, died suddenly from heart failure, leaving behind him an extraordinary history as well (as) a host of memories, long to be cherished in the archives of local thought.

Mr. Gorton was born February 21, 1835 on East Hill, and in his younger days lived in one of those good old-fashioned log cabins. Mr. Josephus Gorton was the son of Mr. Joseph Gorton and Mrs. Phoebe Baxter, the latter being the sister of our well-known pioneers, Prof. James Baxter, whose widow still charms our streets and makes her abode in Goodman Opera House, originally the famed Baxter Academy of Music. Even today one interested in music may find in well preserved order, practically all of Mr. Baxter's compositions at the old landmark to which the fathers and mothers of the later generation point with historic pride.

Mr. Gorton was eighty-one years and nine months old, spry and active until within a few hours of the end, and has lived an experience which we believe interesting and worth recording. As a boy of 14 years, back in the little log cabin on East Hill, Mr. Gorton learned his first rudiments of music, i.e., the letter strings of a violin, which smattering of education aroused his latent ability along this line and was the nucleus of a name as an entertainer, familiar from coast to coast and from clime to clime.

Mr. Gorton organized the Gorton's New Orleans Minstrel Co. in 1867, which was later changed to Gorton's Minstrels, and in the same year started out on a four weeks' trial. This trial, under his directorship proved a success and (he) maintained this reputation until the death of their son, Joseph Gorton in Dec. 1908. Mr. Gorton was recognized by the profession as the oldest minstrel man to date.

Many will remember the arrival of Gorton's Minstrel car in our village and few of us realized the distance it had traveled. The troop went from coast to coast sixteen times and played all towns and cities of account, along the route of both the Northern and Southern Pacific R.R. from Cape Cod to Puget Sound, as far north in Canada as transportation facilities allowed, ship wrecked off the coast of Prince Edward Island, suffered the heat of the Yuma Desert, gave the first minstrel show in Quebec and in the territory of the Bay of Funday, are in brief, some interesting phases of Mr. Gorton's life experiences.

In 1889 the name A.L. Elliott Hose Co. was changed, in honor of the deceased, to the name of Gorton Hose Co., which organization since 1900 has been known as the T.J. Rose Hose Co.

Mr. Gorton was married March 10, 1864, to Miss Ellen Church, sister of Mr. Frank B. Church of New York, who to the last fulfilled that worthiest of relational positions -- wife and helpmate. For many years she followed her husband in his work, assisting in every possible way.

Messrs. Darwin Middaugh, Chas. Middaugh, A. L. Masten and C. W. Vreeland of this place were associated with Mr. Gorton in his show business. Mr. Frank B. Church of the firm of Hatch & Sheehan of New York and Mr. Sheridan Gorton of Smethport, PA were among his early associates in business, both of whom attended the funeral last Thursday. Such men as Milt Barlow of Barlow & Wilson Co., Geo. Primrose, now in high class vaudeville, Geo. Stewart of Boston, "Senator" Frank Bell, who originated and starred in the role of constable in "Way Down East" and popularized the song "All Bound Round in a Woollen String," and Barrey Maxwell, creator of the "Coon" part in "A Texas Steer," give the credit for their success to the tutorage under Mr. Gorton. Mr. Don Carlos Scott, Henry Goodman, H. C. Pfaff and George Sparks are among our deceased who also were associated with Mr. Gorton in his business pursuits.

After retiring from the show business in 1908 Mr. Gorton and wife made their home here on West Main Street. Mr. Gorton devoted much of his time to developing the Band we so proudly claim as our own. He composed most of the musical selections so many of us have enjoyed the past summer.

Mr. Josephus Gorton will ever have the fond memories of the G.A.R., in honor of his enlistment for service during the rebellion, the Band he so faithfully trained, the Masons, as a Brother of the most correct standing, and the public at large for his pleasing disposition, his community service and his good citizenship.

His beloved wife, one brother Dr. Henry B. Gorton and a multitude of friends remain to mourn his loss.

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