The song was published in Sing Out Volume III (Vol III Reprints page 7, 1961)
The pre-ampble in this version states:
Pete Seeger says: "The following song I first learned from Larry Ehrlich of Chicago, who learned it from Paul Clayton, who learned ti from Arthur Kyle Davis of the Univ. of Va. who got if from a small booklet, published by a now deceased French professor. his original sources, Negor folksingers of Virgina were not listed.
There may have been other verses, but Payl Clayton did not know them. Larry Ehrlich and others in Chicago there made up a couple more. And the Weavers added a few. The Weavers have just recored it on a 78 rpm single for Vangaurd."
It then lists the copyright as 1958 by Sangro Music Inc. (used by permission).
The Weavers Song Book published in 1960 also lists the above copyright but adds. "New words and music by Paul Clayton, Larry Ehrlich, David Lazaar, Paul Six."
So I don't think we will ever know for sure unless one of the above is still alive and cant tell us.
If it didn't start out in the folk process it certainly has ended up there.
BTW it is one of my favorite songs.