1818–1903
Dion De Marbelle
illustration

Ju­ly 4, 1818, Se­ville, Spain.

De­cem­ber 18, 1903, Wayne, Il­li­nois.

Bluff Ci­ty Ce­me­te­ry, El­gin, Il­li­nois.

De Mar­belle worked on a whal­ing ship in the ear­ly 1800’s, then joined the Am­er­i­can na­vy and served as a drum­mer in a New York com­pa­ny dur­ing the Mex­i­can War (1847).

He was al­so a mil­i­ta­ry mu­si­cian in the Am­er­i­can ci­vil war, serv­ing in the 6th Mi­chi­gan In­fan­try.

After that, he toured Am­er­i­ca as a mu­si­cian and ac­tor with an op­e­ra com­pa­ny, lat­er or­gan­iz­ing his own the­a­tri­cal troupe.

It has been said that at the in­vi­ta­tion of Bail­ey (of Bar­num and Bai­ley fame), he be­came the ve­ry first cir­cus clown. Later, he man­aged his own cir­cus, but lost ev­ery­thing in a fire while tour­ing Ca­na­da.

Then, he helped Buf­fa­lo Bill Co­dy set up his fa­mous Wild West Show:

Wracked by rheu­ma­tism and pen­ni­less, a tired old man had come to El­gin [Il­li­nois] to live with a son on Se­ne­ca Street. Few paid him much at­ten­tion un­til Buf­fa­lo Bill [Co­dy] and his Wild West Show came to town in 1897.

He was stand­ing in the crowd among the tents when Col­o­nel W. F. Co­dy glanced in his di­rec­tion, gazed in­tent­ly at him for an in­stant, and re­cog­nized a for­mer as­so­ci­ate, Dan De Mar­belle…The col­o­nel ar­ranged for his old friend to view the af­ter­noon en­ter­tain­ment from an ea­sy chair in front of the band. That ev­en­ing, De Mar­belle dined with Co­dy, An­nie Oak­ley, and other show fi­gures in the col­o­nel’s pri­vate din­ing car, and left with a gen­er­ous part­ing gift [called in his obit­u­ary a sub­stan­tial roll of cur­ren­cy].

Days Gone By, by Mike Alft, p. 141

De Mar­belle could play al­most any in­stru­ment, and wrote ma­ny songs. He was a ven­tril­o­quist, or­gan­ized a brass band, and sang in a Me­thod­ist choir in Elg­in, Il­li­nois. He also called the fi­gures in local square dan­ces.

He claimed he could make an el­o­quent speech on any sub­ject, with­out pre­pa­ra­tion! The roy­al­ties from all his songs were stol­en from him, and he died pen­ni­less, near star­va­tion.

  1. When They Ring the Gold­en Bells