Sam Anger, Fiddler

Sam Anger was “the best durn fiddle player in seventeen counties.” That’s what an ad for Winger’s Crescent Park Entertainers called him. He worked as a blacksmith in Ridgeway, just outside Fort Erie in Ontario. He also was my 3rd cousin, thrice removed.

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Sam Anger and wife Jennie in doorway, band members in the Tin Lizzie (tap to enlarge)

Samuel Anger was born 10 December 1862 in Brantford Ontario. He moved to Welland where he ran the Arlington Hotel, later Hotel Reeta. Then he moved to Ridgeway, his father’s hometown, and worked as a blacksmith. He died in Ridgeway on 18 January 1933.

His parents were Lorenzo Anger and Catherine Buck. Loren was the great-grandson of Georg Frederick Anger who had come from Pennsylvania to Bertie Township as a United Empire Loyalist after the American Revolution.

Sam Anger married his second cousin Jeanette Mathews. Her parents were Charles Mathews and Louisa Anger. Louisa’s parents were William Anger and Margaret Ellsworth. Sam’s father Loren was the son of Henry Frederick Anger and Sarah Ellsworth. Sarah and Margaret were sisters and Frederick and William were brothers. Louisa and Loren, therefore, were double first cousins.

Sam Anger family chart

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Sam Anger line on right side, my grandfather’s on left (tap to enlarge)

Sam and Jeanette had two sons, Charles Sherman and Gordon. Gordon Anger was born and died in the Niagara region. Sherman was born in Buffalo, New York and died in Pennsylvania, thereby completing the circle started by his UEL 3x great grandfather a century and a half earlier.

Appalachia

Sam Anger also closed that circle, not geographically but musically. The Winger’s Crescent Park Entertainers played “hillbilly music,” which originated in the Appalachian Mountains. Georg Frederick Anger, after his arrival from Germany, settled in Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley in the Appalachians. It is coal-mining country, the same area and industry that produced hillbilly music. It, in turn, produced country music.

village-blacksmith-shop-c-1930-fb-ridgeway-histWinger’s Crescent Park Entertainers were Red Tubbs, Howard Brandel, Ernie Clare (or Clue), George Marshall, Millie Downs and Garnet Jansen in addition to Sam Anger and, to some extent, his wife Jennie. Their name came from Ward A. Winger, a local real estate developer, and a housing subdivision he built in the 1920s. Crescent Park extends from Highway 3 to Lake Erie east of Ridgeway. It had been the farm of George Krafft, father of Kraft Foods founder J. L. Kraft.

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Newspaper ad for Ward A. Winger real estate developments (tap to enlarge)

Winger’s Crescent Park Entertainers crossed the bridge to Buffalo, New York, every Friday to play on the radio station WGR. Their show was called The Village Blacksmith Shop. It always opened with the ringing of Sam Anger’s anvil.

sam anger fb-ridgeway-3oct19They played fiddle, guitar, dulcimer and piano. In addition to the music, their shows included square dance calling and comedy skits. This was the stuff of radio broadcasts across the United States in the first half of the 1900s.

The most famous of these shows is the Grand Ole Opry, which started on WSM in Nashville. It is both a business empire and musical dynasty. “Hillbilly music” as played by Sam Anger’s “orchestry” and so many others, may not exist today but it is the foundation stone of country music.

Country Music by Ken Burns

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tap for Amazon.ca

The Rub, first episode of Country Music by Ken Burns, is about the popularization of “hillbilly music” through bands playing live on radio stations. It’s airing again on PBS and also streaming (or DVD at right). It’s worth watching, and recording. There’s a lot of information in there and you’ll want to keep up. Subsequent episodes show the musical building on that foundation and how the circle remained unbroken.

Thanks to Ridgeway, Ontario, History on Facebook for the photos and for introducing me to my cousin Sam.