This last day of the year 1902 closed the earthly career of William H. Hoskins, son of a humble town blacksmith, who was possessed of a musical ability given few and ranked him above many, if not all other musicians in the state of West Virginia. With an ear so finely attuned to harmony he heard in the clang of his father’s hammer tones that caught and held in his brain and at night put these tones into a musical composition with the accompanying parts for all the instruments.
He began his career as director of the choir of Andrews Methodist Church at the age of 15 years and joined the old Grafton Brass band under the direction of the late William T. Lilly. At the resignation of Director Lilly the members unanimously chose him their director. As the oldest members left the organization he organized and directed an eight-piece band composed of S.L. Carson, Charles V. Gough, Frank Hanshaw, Leonard Haislip, W.I Rowland, Richard White and Fredrick Willhide. This little band of eight competent members were regarded as one of the very best musical organizations in the state and their services were in almost constant demand.
His great versatility was demonstrated on the occasion when his band was engaged for a fraternal convention at Kingwood and in a forgetful moment overlooked taking the band books with him. To provide the music for the occasion he sat in the train on the journey to the Preston County seat and wrote the score for a march with all the arts for the eight instruments and used it in lending the members in the parade on this occasion.
At the annual conclave of the Knights Templar held at Wheeling his band was engaged to lead the members of Crusade Commandery of Grafton in the parade at this conclave and so great was the attraction of this little band from Grafton the kids of Wheeling deserted the great Meisters’ bans of Wheeling to follow in the wake of this band led by Hoskins. For many years he directed and played in the orchestra of the local theatre and his services for the many balls and other musical events were in demand. His composition “March Magnificent” was probably his greatest triumph and it was pronounced by some of the best known and directors who had occasion to use this composition one of the best marches for bands ever written. His waltz “Irene” harmoniously beautiful, written and dedicated to Miss Irene, daughter of Mr. And Mrs. R.M. Sheets, of West Grafton, was among his best numbers. He wrote the words and music for a sentimental ballad entitled “Her Lover’s Last Sweet Song,” which was introduced to the local public from the stage of the theatre by Bert Wessner, juvenile leading man for the Anna E. Davis Stock company during the company’s engagement in 1894.
Seemingly indifferent toward attaining the recognition his great talent warranted, he appeared contented to direct the local organizations and let this gift of talent lie latent which had he used as he was capable of might have made him one of the greatest musical directors and composers in the American nation, but every man chooses his own way of life and perhaps the life he chose was the one best suited to him and his ways.
Then, with dying year, the soul of William H. Hoskins winged its way from all that was mortal of his and the tympanum capable of receiving sounds of harmony was deaf and the brain to bring sounds into being was forever stilled and a great talent lost to the world of music. Kind hands carried all that was mortal of him to Bluemont Cemetery and his face hid forever from the many friends in his short life.
Word was received in Grafton pf the drowning of John and Leonard Cowherd, sons of John and Carrie Mallonee Cowherd, and grandsons of Leonard Mallonee of Grafton. The lads, on a visit to Virginia during the cold weather, went skating on a pond near Gordonsville, Virginia, December 30,1902, former home of their father. The ice, unable to carry the weight of the two lads, broke, and precipitated them into the icy waters, both drowning before aid could reach them. The bodies of both were returned to Grafton and interred on the Mallonee lot in Belleville Cemetery.
A writer signing himself “Patriot” wrote the Sentinel of a matter that struck very forcibly at the concert given by the Hungarian orchestra in the Opera House, saying:
“It is deplorable that the lack of interest shown by the audience when this organization rendered several national airs, even when America and the Star Spangled Banner were being given not a single person arose to their feet while the soulstrirring strains emanated from the instruments of the orchestra. A few feeble hands clapping were heard, but how more fitting it would have been had the whole audience risen to their feet in a token of regard for music that had its part in making this nation great. But the people seem to think this simple act of appreciation for paying tribute to our national airs would make them look foolish and it seems that what is needed is a leader to start movements of the kind, one with real love of his country at heart and not afraid of being thought foolish.”