History of the Corps
Col. John Chester Fife & Drum Corps is the oldest Jr. Ancient Corps in Connecticut. Organized in 1940, the Corps made its first public appearance at the Wethersfield Memorial Day Parade in 1942. The Corps is named after Col. John Chester School where it was formed as an activity of the PTA. Realizing the need to expand beyond the school, the Corps was then sponsored by the Exchange Club. Since 1955, however, the Corps has been an independent self-supporting organization.
When the Corps was formed, its mission was to: maintain and preserve the martial music of the Spirit of 76 and to foster and encourage good sportsmanship, citizenship and the enrichment of American culture through participation in parades, competitions, concerts and other appropriate activities.
Col. John is a founding member of the Company of Fifers & Drummers and also belongs to the Connecticut Fifers and Drummers Association (CFDA), Hudson Valley Drum Corps Association and the Massachusetts Fife, Drum and Bugle Association. Over the years, Col. John has earned the reputation as being one of the top Junior Ancient Corps in Connecticut. The Corps maintains an active schedule each year appearing in parades, competitions, concerts and musters. Col. John has been the reigning Jr. Ancient State Champions in the Connecticut Fifer's and Drummers Association (CFDA), the Hudson Valley Association and the Massachusetts Association since 1994.
The Corps has had a variety of uniforms during the years. A standout at any event, the Corps first uniforms were a white shirt and white pants with red stripes, a light blue cape with light red lining, all topped with a white sailor hat which had a V for victory on it. This hat was replaced in 1945 by a colonial navy blue tricorn hat. They also added white belts and navy blue capes with royal red lining. By 1947, the uniform was dark blue cadet style with grey slacks and a blue cape. In the early 1960s, a civil war type of uniform was worn. The present uniform was researched, designed and adopted in 1969. It is an adaptation of the uniform worn by the Wethersfield Company commanded by John Chester at the Battle of Bunker Hill: blue waistcoats, buff trousers, white shirts, black leggings and tricorn hats. In recent years, the Corps has added a black sash where members proudly display their competition medals and muster pins.
Who was Col. John Chester?
Born in Wethersfield on January 18, 1749, John Chester became a local war hero. In 1767, he graduated from Yale College (now Yale University) and in 1771, he was a Lieutenant in the Local Militia (9th Company of the Sixth CT Regiment) which had been organized in 1640. The unit prided themselves on their uniforms "wholly blue turned up with red". In 1775, when the Lexington alarm came, John Chester led a picked body of about 100 men which ranked as the most select body in the Provincial Army and were distinguished at Bunker Hill. John Chester was commissioned Colonel in June 1776 and retired from the army at the close of the war. During the remainder of his years, he was devoted to public service in Wethersfield. He died November 4, 1809, at the age of 60.