I noticed a promotion for an upcoming concert by the DePue Brothers Band. It made me wonder if Indianapolis has any history of musically talented families in earlier times. ~ Steve L., Indianapolis
Indianapolis does indeed have a number of musically talented families in its history. Among the surnames of musicians who performed with relatives in the late 1800s and early 1900s were Bassett, Berthelson, Danner, Ernestinoff, Floyd, Frenzel, Hendricks, Jose, Ketcham, Krull, McGibeny, Lieber, Mueller, Pierce, Recker, Schellschmidt, Steffen, Willard, Woodbridge, and Woollen. In most cases, they were duets made up of husband and wife, parent and child, or two siblings.
However, one family in particular stood out among the others, not only for the volume of printed materials available on them in local libraries, but also for the variety of combinations in which they performed — solos, duets, trios, quartets, and orchestras. That family was named Schellschmidt.
The earliest and perhaps the most prominent member of the family was Adolph H. Schellschmidt Sr. (1829-1915). He and his wife, Emma Meissen Schellschmidt (1835-1917), immigrated to the United States in 1854, along with Adolph’s parents and siblings. Adolph’s brothers, Ferdinand and Conrad, and their sister, Amelia Schellschmidt Recker, were also musically gifted.
In 1854, Adolph became one of the first music teachers in Indianapolis. He is also among the men who are credited with founding the Indianapolis Maennerchor, which is now in its 160th year of existence.
Adolph and Emma’s seven children were Alfred, Amelia, Adolph Jr., Emma, Pauline, Bertha, and Louise, all of whom were born in Indianapolis. The parents imparted their love of music to their children and gave them the best music educations they could, which included sending each of them to Europe to study and perform. The members of the Schellschmidt family played multiple instruments, including the violin, cello, harp, and piano.
For several decades, the Adolph Schellschmidt family resided at 246 East Ohio Street (eventually renumbered to 436 East Ohio Street). Located within the original plat of the City of Indianapolis — often referred to as “The Mile Square” — today that block is the site of the Clevelander Condominiums.In 1912, Adolph Schellschmidt Sr. moved his family about a mile north to a new residence at 1220 North Alabama Street, which today is within the Old Northside Neighborhood. The house is no longer standing, and the vacant lot is now owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, you can still see the sidewalks that once led from the curb to the lots where there were formerly homes by clicking here.
Following the deaths of their parents, the children of Adolph and Emma Schellschmidt who had not married moved to a residence at 2917 Washington Boulevard together. Adolph Jr. served as the head of the household. That home, located in the Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood, is still standing today.
The last surviving member of Adolph Schellschmidt Sr.’s immediate family was Pauline. Her final years were spent at 3240 Washington Boulevard, which is three blocks north of the home in which several of the siblings had previously lived together. It too is in the Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood, as well as in the Historic Meridian Park Neighborhood. The Schellschmidts and other members of their extended family are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.
Historic Indianapolis readers who are acquainted with, or descended from, early Indianapolis families who were known to be musical are encouraged to share their stories below this article.