Emma Oledine Demmond was born in Joliet, Illinois on 21 October 1866, the daughter of Joliet pioneers William Charles Demmond (1828-1902) and Clarissa Esther Beach (1829-1897). Oledine's mother came from a family that traced its ancestry back to several early settlers in New England, including John Beach (ca.1613-1677) of New Haven, Elder John Strong (1605-1699), Priscilla Bennett (1632-1663), and William Carpenter (1605-1660) of Rehoboth.
Oledine attended Steubenville Female Seminary in Steubenville, Ohio, where she studied music, and was active as a vocal soloist. On 9 May 1888 Oledine married Sanger Steel (1863-1920) in Joliet, and the couple embarked on the building of a prominent residence on South Eastern Avenue. They produced two children, Sanger Bright Steel (1889-1927) and Harriet Steel (1891-1965). By 1899, however, in the face of financial reverses, the family sold their house and moved to Chicago, where Oledine, an accomplished musician with a fine soprano voice, supplemented the family income by giving music lessons, and by serving as a solo vocalist and organist at area churches. Following the death of her husband in 1920 and her daughter-in-law in 1924, she moved to Scarsdale, New York to help care for her grandsons, but she returned to Chicago in 1926 to marry Frederick Earle French (1863-1931). Later, after Mr. French's death, she lived with her daughter Harriet Steel Pickernell in New York City. She died on 20 September 1949 and was buried in the family plot in Oakwood Cemetery in Joliet.
STEUBENVILLE, O. June 9. – The winter session of the Steubenville Female Seminary closed to-day, at which time the commencement was held in school hall before an audience which filled the hall in every part. The seminary, under Dr. Wrightman's management, has been very successful during the past year and has a promising future. A large number of visitors were present from abroad and enjoyed the exercises. The closing concert took place last evening, at which the following programme was carried out.
Piano solo, "Air varie de Rode," Moscheles, Mrs. Campbell. Vocal duet, "Here Mid The Bowers," Donizetti, Miss Reid and Mrs. Cartledge. Recitation, "Asleep at the Switch," Hoey, Miss Marie Moore. Song, "The Old Cathedral," Ciro Pinsuti, Miss Carrie Finley. Piano solo, "Danse Des Baschkirs," Krug, Miss Ella Alexander. Song, "Separazione," Rossini, Miss Oledine Demmond. Recitation, "Lasca," Desprez, Miss Carrie Haines. Vocal trio, "Row us Swiftly," Campana, Misses Reid, Demmond and Finley. Piano solo, "Weber's Last Waltz," (Fantaisie) arranged by Cramer, Miss Helen M. Baker. Songs, (a) "Afar in the Wood," (b) "last Night," Halfdan Kjerulf, Miss Reid. Piano solo, "Rondo Capriccioso (Op. 14)," Mendelssohn, Miss Jessie Mossgrove. Chorus, "Evening Hymn," J. Concone.
At the commencement exercises to-day ex-Lieutenant Governor Richards delivered the address to the graduates, who are as follows: Misses Maggie D. Potter, of Noblestown, Pa.; Maud Botherton, of Waynesboro, O.; Carrie M. Finley, of Mt. Pleasant, O.; Lulu Potter, of Noblestown, Pa.; and Helen M. Baker, of Latrobe, Pa., the latter lady taking first honors. The commencement exercises were as follows:
Piano duet, "Les Vepers Siciliennes de Verdi," Air by Cramer, Clara Hammond and Mamie McLaughlin; essay, "The Rose Can Never Fold its Leaves and be a Bud Again," Maggie D. Potter, Noblesville, Pa.; vocal duet, "O, Beautiful Violet," Carl Reinecke; essay, "Close the Door Behind You," Maud Brotherton, Waynesboro, Pa.; piano solo, "Valse," Durand, Nellie McL. Wightman; essay, "Waking," Carrie M. Finley, Mt. Pleasant, O.; vocal duets, (a.) "The Doubting Lovers," (b.) "Spring and Love," Eduard Lassen, Fannie Hammond and Oledine Demmond; essay, "Is the World Growing Better," M. Lulu Potter, Noblestown, Pa.; piano duet, "Polonaise Brilliant," Ch. Lysberg, Jessie Mossgrove and Ada Matheson; essay and valedictory, "Next," Helen M. Baker, Latrobe, Pa.; chorus, "Come Sing the While Our Silk We Gather," Gounod. Conferring of degrees. Address by Hon. R.G. Richards [Reese G. Richards, lieutenant governor, 1882-1884].
The art exhibition was the finest ever displayed at this school, and a large number of beautiful paintings in oil and water colors, crayon, painted china, etc., etc., the work of the scholars, was displayed. The art school is in charge of Miss McCune, of Pittsburg.
[Columbus, Ohio] Dispatch, undated clipping, ca. 1885.
[ clippings from various newspapers ]
Mrs. Sanger Steel, who is well known in the musical life of Chicago, is one of the few favored artists who by special invitation will sing in concert before the National Music Teachers' association in New York next month. She has a voice of unusual sweetness and sympathy, combined with an excellent range, which fits her admirably both for the best in ballad work or the heavier oratorio selections. - Chicago Evening Post.
Mrs. Sanger Steel, the gifted singer, has captured another city with her rare voice. Her visit to LaFayette, Ind., last Wednesday, to sing at the twenty-fourth annual commencement exercises of the Purdue University resulted in a distinct triumph for Mrs. Steel. She appeared before 5,000 people and was given a hearty ovation. - Joliet Republican.
Mrs. Steel's voice is a pure soprano with tones like velvet, bell-like in quality, vibrant and mellow. There is always apparent a soft, rich, silvery tone that is particularly pleasing to the ear. Added to her delightful voice there is a personal attractiveness that wins favor from the first. The conquest is half assured before she utters a tone, so charming is this fortunate singer. - LaFayette Courier.
Mrs. Steel's voice is a high soprano, delightfully clear and pure and she uses it in pleasing style. She has studied with some able instructors and this, coupled with painstaking work, has produced admirable results. Her voice has a sweet quality and there is no lacking of warmth and color. She has a clean, crisp, brilliant style. This was well shown in the Samson and Delila number that opened the program, and as the program passed this effect was heightened. The applause was most hearty at the close of each number and Mrs. Steel was compelled to respond to three encores. The people were thoroughly delighted with her singing and the members of the Mendelssohn club will hope for an opportunity of hearing her again. - Rockford Register
The Decatur Herald, 24 February 1900.
A sacred concert will be given at St. Francis Xavier's church, Linden avenue and Ninth street, on Sunday evening, February 23, at 8 o'clock. This concert will be given by some of the best Chicago talent and we believe it will be an entertainment you can't afford to miss. Inasmuch as this entertainment is being given in the church, we will be able to seat only about three hundred, and from the interest already shown we expect a very large attendance, so it will be to your advantage to secure your seats early. Mrs. Sanger Steel, soprano, and Miss Hazel Huntley, contralto, whose photographs appear in this issue, will be assisted by Mr. C. Robert Wood, tenor; Mr. J. D. Cole, bass; Clara Louise Thurston, harpist, and Mr. Carl H. Rohles, accompanist. The program will include a group of songs by several of the popular composers, and song recitals. This concert will be a real treat and we sincerely hope to see every seat filled. Price of admission one dollar a ticket: funds will be used for the purchase of a new pipe organ. The program follows:
Piano, Fantasie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C. Saint Saens Mr. Carl Rohles. "Blessed Jesu" ("Stabat Mater") . . . . . . . . Anton Dvorak Quartet. "Great is the Holy One of Israel" . . . . Henry Lincoln Case Mr. C. Robert Wood. Prayer, Harp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hasselmant Miss Clara Louise Thurston. "O Divine Redeemer" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gounod Mrs. Sanger Steel. (a) "The Lord Is My Shepherd" . . . . . . . . . . . Koschat (b) "O Gladsome Light) (Golden Legend") . . . . . . D. Buck Quartet "The Lord Is My Light" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Allitson Mr. Carl Rohles. "But the Lord is Mindful of His Own" ("St. Paul") Mendelsohn Miss Hazel Huntley. "Meditation," Harp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas Miss Clara Louise Thurston. "Heavenly Love" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gounod Mrs. Sanger Steel and Miss Hazel Huntley. "Salve Regina" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . D. Buck Mr. Jirah D. Cole. "Agnus Dei" (St. Cecilia Mass) . . . . . . . . . . . Gounod Quartet. Harp and Piano.
Lake Shore News, 20 February 1913.
Mrs. Frederick E. French. a former resident of Scarsdale on Wayside Lane. where she lived with her son, the late Sanger 8. Steel, died in White Plains on Tuesday in her 83rd year. A resident of Joliet in her early life, she was well known throughout the middle West as Mrs. Sanger Steel. In her profession as a singer, Mrs. French came to Scarsdale to make her home with her son after the death of his wife, the former Marion Parsons Warren. After her marriage to the late Frederick E. French, she had lived in New York and Florida. Surviving is her daughter, Mrs. Harriet Steel Pickernell of New York and three grandsons, William Warren Steel, Sanger Bright Steel, and Munroe Hubbard Steel. Services were held yesterday in New York. Burial will be at Joliet.
The Scarsdale Inquirer, 23 September 1949.
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