Marker rededication for ‘Home on the Range’ composer is May 18 in Marble Falls

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — If you’ve ever sang “Home on the Range” or “Get Along Little Dogie,” thank Cottonwood Shores native Oscar Julius Fox.

Known as the Cowboy Composer, Fox wrote the music to those songs that became famous during the early 20th century.

Fox (1879-1961) was born on a ranch in Cottonwood Shores, and, on May 27, 1962, the state dedicated a red granite marker in his honor. It was recently removed from the old rest stop on U.S. 281 South in Marble Falls when the state closed it.But after some residents saw the marker wasn’t displayed anywhere, they started a campaign to rededicate it in Marble Falls, a place that inspired Fox to write his favorite song, “The Hills of Home.”

That dedication is 10 a.m. May 18 near the entrance of La Quinta Inn, 501 FM 2147 West.

Fox’s relatives, Mark Fox and Elizabeth Schnelle, will be in attendance along with other local musicians and dignitaries.

Falls on the Colorado Museum secretary Fran McSpadden said Fox’s contributions go beyond his musical compositions.

He attended school in the then-new town of Marble Falls until 1893 before moving to San Antonio to study music. Three years later, Fox’s grandfather Gertuli Kellersberger sent the young musician to Zurich, Switzerland, to study piano, violin and choral direction. By 1899, Fox was in New York City for an additional two years of music study.

When he returned to Texas in 1902, he became a choirmaster at two churches in Galveston and one in San Antonio. Fox was the conductor of the San Antonio Choir Club and the University of Texas Choral Society and the director of the UT men’s and girls’ glee clubs.

One of the members of the UT men’s glee club was Tex Ritter, who became one of the most popular of the singing movie cowboys.

But it’s Fox’s collaborations with John A. Lomax for which he’s best known.

Lomax traveled with cowboys on cattle drives, recording the tunes they sang. But he realized that while just about everyone sang the same words, most sang them to a different tune.

So Lomax asked Fox to listen to the words and write the musical notes that are familiar to most people today.

Local real estate business owner Mark Fox, a second cousin of Fox’s, met the composer when he was 10. They both were at Cypress Mill visiting family.

When Fox was told the marker was going to be moved from the old rest stop, he said, “You can’t stop progress.”

He’s happy the city will rededicate the marker.

“I think it’s great,” he said.

May 18 is also a big day in Reno, Nev., because of its mayor, Bob Cashell, Oscar Fox’s grandson.

To honor the mayor and his wife, Nancy Parker Cashell, Reno is conducting a gala featuring his grandfather’s music.

“I was very surprised,” the mayor said about the gala. “I’m learning more and more about my grandfather.”

Cashell was about 13 years old the last time he saw Fox. But at that age, he said he didn’t realize his grandfather’s contributions to music, not even when the elder man offered piano lessons. Cashell was more into sports than music.

The Reno mayor was happy to hear Marble Falls’ plans to rededicate his grandfather’s marker and has decided to take a trip to the Highland Lakes very soon to meet more of his relatives.

“If (the rededication) were on any other day, I’d be there,” Cashell said. “I intend to get down there … and knock on some doors. I can’t wait to talk to my cousins.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Oscar J. Fox red granite marker rededication

WHEN: 10 a.m. May 18

WHERE: Near the entrance of La Quinta Inn, 501 FM 2147 West in Marble Falls