"The Graveyard Waltz."
by Mr. Galen Wilkes.
When Lee Edgar Settle died, he was no better known for his
music than at the outset of his career. Although one of his compositions
realized extraordinary fame, having been played in the White
House for years, and eventually becoming an official state song
outside of his home county, scarcely anyone knew, or cared,
who wrote it. Buried in an unmarked plot, and leaving only three
published works in his name, Lee Edgar Settle was destined to
remain an obscure, forgotten man.
Like many of ragtime's finest composers, Settle was born in Missouri.
The area around New Franklin, in the central part of the state,
is steeped in history Kit Carson, George Caleb Bingham,
and the Santa Fe Trail are just some of the legends of which
the area can boast. New Franklin's population never varied far
from the 1,000 mark, even today. Built on the Missouri River
across from Boonville, "New" Franklin appeared after
the original town of Franklin was washed away by a flood in 1826.1
Lee Edgar Settle was born on July 20, 1882 in New Franklin to
James Martin Settle and Laura Alice Van Arsdale. He was fifth
of six children (the first died in infancy). Never called "Lee"
or "Lee Edgar," he was always referred to by his second
name, or a nickname, as were his other family members. His nephew,
J. B. Settle, explains, "... this is a carry-over from the
South ... you see, Howard County was one of five counties that
was known as the Little Dixie Counties in Missouri. And they
maintained the traditions there far there beyond anyplace else
in the state or in the nation. ... Just like they called dad
'Bing'; he wasn't known as 'Boulton,' he was known as 'Bing'
Settle long before Bing Crosby was ever heard of and wherever
that came from I don't know."2
Above: Lee Edgar Settle's "X.L.
Rag," published 1903 by A. W. Perry and Sons, Sedalia, Missouri.
1 It is interesting that even
such a small town as New Franklin had two published composers
of ragtime in the early 1900s, the other being Lilburn Kingsbury,
a contemporary of Settle, who was a prominent and highly regarded
citizen of New Franklin for all of his 99 years. Musician, historian,
and writer, he composed two known rags, both published by Perry
in Sedalia: Djalma (1904), and Razzle Dazzle with
Alma Smith (1905).
2 Interview with J. B. Settle
Jr., June 10, 1992, Lebanon, Mo.