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Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)

DigiTrad:
CRANBERRY BOGS
ROLLING TO CAIRO TOWN (ROUSTABOUT SONG)
WAY DOWN IN SHAWNEETOWN


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Humane Society (Dillon Bustin) (8)
Lyr ADD: Thirty Dirty Sailors (Dillon Bustin) (6)
Lyr discuss: Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin) (34)


RonU 04 Apr 98 - 12:45 AM
Susan of DT 04 Apr 98 - 10:43 AM
Barry Finn 04 Apr 98 - 03:05 PM
Dale Rose 04 Apr 98 - 03:27 PM
Ferrara 04 Apr 98 - 03:30 PM
RonU 05 Apr 98 - 12:03 AM
Paul Stamler 05 Apr 98 - 02:12 PM
Whippoorwill 06 Apr 98 - 12:48 PM
06 Jul 98 - 11:56 AM
Art Thieme 07 Jul 98 - 10:02 AM
Mike T. 31 Aug 98 - 02:29 PM
Mark Roffe 08 May 99 - 12:33 AM
Joe Offer 08 May 99 - 12:45 AM
Mark Roffe 08 May 99 - 12:56 AM
Mark Roffe 08 May 99 - 01:12 AM
Sandy Paton 08 May 99 - 01:57 AM
Barry Finn 08 May 99 - 08:44 AM
Paul G. 08 May 99 - 11:33 AM
Sandy Paton 08 May 99 - 01:21 PM
Matthew B. 16 May 99 - 11:08 PM
Mark Roffe 20 May 99 - 12:19 AM
Sandy Paton 20 May 99 - 12:47 AM
Fadac 20 May 99 - 10:17 AM
Mark Roffe 20 May 99 - 05:38 PM
Matthew B. 21 May 99 - 09:26 AM
Sandy Paton 22 May 99 - 03:20 PM
Sandy Paton 22 May 99 - 03:24 PM
Mark Roffe 22 May 99 - 04:52 PM
Charley Noble 17 Sep 07 - 10:01 AM
Jim Dixon 30 Sep 07 - 01:12 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Sep 07 - 03:22 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Sep 07 - 10:43 PM
GUEST 17 Jan 08 - 04:11 PM
GUEST,Marlisa Clapp 19 May 09 - 12:11 PM
Art Thieme 19 May 09 - 02:59 PM
Jacob B 20 May 09 - 11:50 AM
ClaireBear 30 Dec 10 - 12:16 PM
stallion 30 Dec 10 - 02:56 PM
Gibb Sahib 30 Dec 10 - 05:11 PM
Charley Noble 30 Dec 10 - 05:31 PM
GUEST,leeneia 31 Dec 10 - 03:28 PM
Charley Noble 31 Dec 10 - 09:27 PM
GUEST,leeneia 01 Jan 11 - 11:04 AM
GUEST,leeneia 01 Jan 11 - 11:08 AM
GUEST 10 Feb 12 - 07:07 PM
Charley Noble 10 Feb 12 - 08:29 PM
GUEST,Harris (classmate of Dillon's) 01 Apr 12 - 08:57 PM
GUEST 04 Jun 13 - 11:52 PM
Squaresinger 28 Feb 14 - 10:26 AM
GUEST,Tuco 19 Feb 16 - 05:00 AM
GUEST,Berkeley Chanteyman 16 Nov 17 - 11:15 PM
Joe Offer 17 Nov 17 - 02:04 AM
GUEST,Gerry 17 Nov 17 - 06:42 AM
GUEST,Chanteyman 17 Nov 17 - 11:26 PM
GUEST,Chanteyman 17 Nov 17 - 11:41 PM
GUEST,Chanteyman 29 Nov 17 - 04:37 PM
Joe Offer 29 Nov 17 - 08:53 PM
Rapparee 29 Nov 17 - 08:57 PM
Mr Red 30 Nov 17 - 03:54 AM
GUEST,talithamac 03 Jul 22 - 04:48 PM
leeneia 05 Jul 22 - 12:05 PM
GUEST,henryp 06 Jul 22 - 12:39 PM
leeneia 07 Jul 22 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 06 Jan 23 - 12:26 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 06 Jan 23 - 12:34 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 06 Jan 23 - 01:14 AM
Lighter 06 Jan 23 - 08:37 AM
Lighter 06 Jan 23 - 10:48 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 06 Jan 23 - 09:13 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 09 Feb 23 - 10:22 PM
John Minear 15 May 24 - 07:37 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 15 May 24 - 11:43 PM
John Minear 16 May 24 - 09:49 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 16 May 24 - 03:55 PM
John Minear 16 May 24 - 05:59 PM
Joe Offer 16 May 24 - 06:51 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 17 May 24 - 08:24 PM
John Minear 18 May 24 - 11:33 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 18 May 24 - 05:45 PM
John Minear 19 May 24 - 11:02 AM
John Minear 19 May 24 - 11:08 AM
GUEST,henryp 21 May 24 - 11:50 AM
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Subject: Way down in Shawneetown
From: RonU
Date: 04 Apr 98 - 12:45 AM

Way down in Shawneetown on the O Hi O. Can anyone help me with the rest of the words to this song? Thanks, RonU


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Subject: RE: Way down in Shawneetown
From: Susan of DT
Date: 04 Apr 98 - 10:43 AM

It was either written or collected by Dillon Bustin. chorus is:

Haul on the beach oar
She moves too slow
Way down to Shawneetown
On the Ohio


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Subject: Lyr Add: SHAWNEETOWN
From: Barry Finn
Date: 04 Apr 98 - 03:05 PM

Somes rows up, we flowed down
Way down the Ohio to Shawneetown

Haul on the beach oar, she moves to slow
Way down to Shawneetown on the Ohio

There's corn in crib, boys, grain in the sack
Float on down to New Orleans & bushwack her back

I've got a gal in Louisville, a wife in New Orleans
When I get to Shawneetown I'll see my Indian Queen

The water is cold boys, the air is thick & dank
The fog it's so god damned thick I cannot see the bank

I got down Sandy & Caroline Paton as a source. Barry


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Subject: RE: Way down in Shawneetown
From: Dale Rose
Date: 04 Apr 98 - 03:27 PM

Another good version, though difficult to find (and I can't locate mine, either) is by The Indian Creek Delta Boys.


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Subject: RE: Way down in Shawneetown
From: Ferrara
Date: 04 Apr 98 - 03:30 PM

Malcolm Dalglish and Grey Larsen also sing this. Their first line seems to be "Some rows up, but we floats down." I'll try to check and see if they have any additional verses.


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Subject: RE: Way down in Shawneetown
From: RonU
Date: 05 Apr 98 - 12:03 AM

Many thanks for your responses. RonU


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Subject: RE: Way down in Shawneetown
From: Paul Stamler
Date: 05 Apr 98 - 02:12 PM

Pete Lippincott may still have some copies of the Indian Creek Delta Boys' LP "Late for the Dance", which was on his Prairie Schooner label. His address is:

dordog@cei.net

Peace. Paul


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Subject: RE: Way down in Shawneetown
From: Whippoorwill
Date: 06 Apr 98 - 12:48 PM

Just a little historical note:

Shawneetown is a very small town in southern Illinois, just west of the Indiana line. Like so many other river towns it was nearly washed away many times by high water, and finally moved up on the bluff. Its main claim to fame in the '50s was a justice of the peace who would perform marriages without the three-day waiting period required in Indiana. Numerous young couples from Evansville and thereabouts eloped to Shawneetown in those days, even when they had their parents' permission to marry.


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Subject: Shawnee Town
From:
Date: 06 Jul 98 - 11:56 AM

I'm guessing about the spelling of the song. I sang it briefly at a dance and music camp. It starts out,

"Its hard on the beech oar, she moves too slow, Way down t' Shawnee (Shoney, Shaney?) town, on the Ohio"

I'd love the rest of the words and verses and best of all possible worlds, the chords or music.

Thanks to anyone who responds,

Donna Odell donna@unr.edu Reno, Nevada


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Subject: Lyr Add: STATE OF ILLINOIS
From: Art Thieme
Date: 07 Jul 98 - 10:02 AM

SHAWNEETOWN was the first town in Illinois. It's on the Ohio River. Was a major emigration point of entry into the territory (southern Illinois)for folks coming by water and via the Wilderness Road (Kentucky). The rivers were the highway into the interior of the unknown continent then. In 1937 the huge flood just about wiped out the town so it was moved 3 miles further inland. But the old Shawneetown, with many buildings and the huge old bank (complete with pillars) is STILL THERE. It's worth the trip if you get close---so much history there. The SHAWNEE FERRY ran there for 150 years---until the 1950s when a bridge was built. An old story is that folks from the northern part of the territory (not yet a state) went to the bank there for a loan to further a small development up in the N. area. They were refused the loan because "Chicago was too far away from Shawneetown to ever amount to anything!"

STATE OF ILLINOIS (a theme song of mine for many years. Is traditional.)

Way down upon the Wabash such a land was never known,
If Adam had crossed over it this land he'd surely known,
He'd say it was the garden he'd lived in as a boy
And straightway call it Eden in the state of Illinois

Ch) So move your family westward-bring all your girls and boys,
And cross the Shawnee Ferry to the state of Illinois.

She's bounded by the Wabash, Mississippi and the Lakes,
There's milk sick in the on thr prairie--and in the swamps there's snakes,
But these are slight diversions that take not from the joys
Of living in that garden spot called the state of Illinois.

CH) So move your family westward--bring all your girls and boys
And rise to wealth and honor in the state of Illinois.

It was here the queen of Sheba came with solomon of old,
With a wagon load of spices, pomegranates and fine gold
But when she saw that lovely land her heart was full of joy
Straightway she said , I'd like to be a queen in Illinois."

Way up in the nothland upon the border line,
Agreat commercial city, Chicago, you will find,
Her men are all like Abelard---her women like Heloise,
All honest, virtuous people 'cause they live in Illinois.

Way up in the north


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Subject: History - Way Down in Shawneetown
From: Mike T.
Date: 31 Aug 98 - 02:29 PM

Does anyone have any tidbits of History or other info about the song "Way Down In Shawneetown" (It's in the DT)

Mike


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Subject: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 08 May 99 - 12:33 AM

I have a question about this uncommonly great song. The song can be found in the database. Here's the beginning:

WAY DOWN IN SHAWNEETOWN
(Dillon Bustin)

Some rows up, we float down
Way down the Ohio to Shawneetown

My roommate of 20 yrs ago (Jessica) taught me this song. I think she told me it was written by two students on the east coast who had an assignment to write a song in the style of an old folk song. If this is correct, they sure succeeded and then some.

Jessica is a wonderful singer who is married to British guitarist Martin Simpson. She has a clear-as-a-bell voice, and always sang this song a cappella.

After looking this song up in the database, and finding it was written by Dillon Bustin (with Sandy and Caroline Paton as "source"), I went exploring the internet for more information on Dillon. I could only find him at Legacy Records, which is, I gather, Paton country (do the Patons own the label?)

I'd like to know more about the history of the song. Like was it written as Jessica explained? Who has recorded it? Is it on one of the Legacy records? ...and any other info about the song and about Dillon Bustin.

Thanks,

Mark


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 May 99 - 12:45 AM

Hi, Mark - using the filter and searching for shaw, I found one other thread on this song here.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 08 May 99 - 12:56 AM

Thanks, Joe. Interesting reading in there about the town itself as well as the lyrics.

My questions about Dillon Bustin and about how the song came to be are still open, folkies (of course, the thread is only five minutes old, and I already got an answer that pointed me to some great information -- at the speed of the 'cat).

I just remembered that Jessica said the song was about rafts that were rowed for the upstream trip, and then floated down for the return.

Mark


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 08 May 99 - 01:12 AM

Come to think of it, I think Jessica might have said it was about barges on the river that were pulled upstream and then floated down....
I was gonna call her in Santa Cruz to get a refresh, but it turns out the Simpson's have recently moved to New Orleans and I've got no number there for them.
I'll bet Sandy must know all about Dillon and about this song. He's sure to see this thread bobbing in the muddy water sooner or later.

Mark


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 08 May 99 - 01:57 AM

Flatboats were generally floated down the river to New Orleans, then broken up and sold for their timber while the crews hiked back upstream or along the Natchez Trace. Keelboats (later) were more valuable and they were hauled back upstream by "bushwhacking" brute labor.

The text in the blue clicky thingy takes you to one that is not exactly the way Caroline and I learned the song. We do sing the first verse as "Some rows up, we floats down." However, we did make one conscious change, used only when singing the song for a bunch of junior-high students. I just couldn't face singing "Hard on the beech (beach?) oar" and listening to the giggles from the kids. We started singing "Haul on the beech oar" instead. Call me chicken, but those kids are hard enough to control as it is!
(To answer your question, Mark, yes, Caroline and I started the Folk-Legacy label, with Lee Haggerty, back in 1961.) I think Legacy must be Dillon's own label, on which he has released a number of cassettes of his original material. He's a brilliant songmaker and an excellent folklorist. He was "state folklorist" of Massachusetts (and every state ought to have one) until they got stingy with the budget up there.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Barry Finn
Date: 08 May 99 - 08:44 AM

Hi Sandy, any clue as to the songs origin, I always thought it was traditional. I gonna send you an e-mail about Julianna. Barry


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Paul G.
Date: 08 May 99 - 11:33 AM

Just a brief interjection to mention that if you have not heard the version of Shawneetown by my friend and fellow north Floridian, Sam Pacetti, you are missing pure genius. The CD is "Solitary Travel" on Waterbug. Sam was a protege of Gamble Rogers, and is a 23 year old finger-style magician. All of you celtic fans will appreciate Sam's treatment of the music...

Blessings,

Paul G.


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 08 May 99 - 01:21 PM

You know, Barry, I'm not sure. I have a vague memory that suggests Dillon got a fragment of it from an elderly southern Indiana "informant" known as "Poss'" Skaggs, then filled it out with his own contributions. But don't take that as Gospel; let me do some homework first. Got your E-mail, thanks. I appreciate it.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Matthew B.
Date: 16 May 99 - 11:08 PM

So what's the verdict? When was this song written, by whom, and under what circumstances? (my favorite theory is the one about the two college students)

Does anybody know?


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 20 May 99 - 12:19 AM

I'd still like to know the answer to that one, Matthew.

I may have put Sandy off the scent when I mistakenly called the label on which someone recorded a Dillon Bustin song as the "Legacy" label -- it was actually the "Folk-Legacy" label, which Sandy and friends started in 1961. (The album is ONLY HUMAN, Folk-Legacy #CD-5061, by Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein and Michael Cicone. I don't know which of Dillon Bustin's songs are on the record, and I don't know if Dillon has written songs other than "Shawneetown.")

Web searches yielded that Dillon does perform at Massachusetts festivals, but I haven't yet found a way to contact him. So...Sandy, can you tell us more about how the song came to be, or maybe how to contact Dillon?

Thanks,

Mark


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 20 May 99 - 12:47 AM

Still workin' on it. Sorry. I can't find my original notes. Next week we're gonna get organized!

We help to market the Kallet, Epstein, Cicone recordings, Angels in Daring and Only Human, but we didn't produce them. Those two, an Cindy's solo Dreaming Down a Quiet Line were "self-produced" CDs. Now, I recently learned, they have a new one coming out on Philo, one of Rounder's labels.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Fadac
Date: 20 May 99 - 10:17 AM

Hi A song called "Shawnee town" was reliesed by St. Elmos Choir, a all femail sea chantie group in the Pacific Northwest. The name of the tape is White Stocking Day. I bought mine from the Hyde st. pier musium book shop, in Down town San Francisco, ca. I don't have the phone number...sorry, but that info should get you close.


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 20 May 99 - 05:38 PM

Thanks, Sandy. Don't knock yerself out -- I've been wanting to find out about this for about 20 years. Guess a little more waiting won't make much difference.

Mark


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Matthew B.
Date: 21 May 99 - 09:26 AM

But I want to know Now!!!

:)


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Subject: Lyr Add: SHAWNEETOWN (sung by Dalglish & Larsen)
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 22 May 99 - 03:20 PM

At long last, some information for you. Malcolm Dalglish and Grey Larsen recorded "Shawneetown" on their The First of Autumn LP (June Appal JA026). What follows is taken from the booklet that accompanied the album.

We learned "Shawneetown" from a good friend of ours, Dillon Bustin. Dillon learned part of the song when he was young from a year-round fisherman (*) on the White River in Indiana. Since then he has picked up verses from travel logs and novels of the keelboat era. He even made up one of the verses. (**)
Shawneetown is an Ohio River town in southern Illinois just a little south of the Wabash River junction. The town was the first Anglo settlement on the Ohio and before 1830 was the major trade center for Illinois settlers and the Indians. The nearby salt mines provided the town's major commodity.
The most efficient commercial boats in those days were the keelboats. Unlike flatboats and rafts, which only travelled downriver, the keelboats made the difficult trip back as well. In the days before steam power, and before present dams tamed the river's currents, the methods for getting a boat back up river (whether "cordelling" or "bushwacking" ) involved the crew literally pulling the boat against the current. While a downriver trip from Cincinnati to New Orleans took only a few weeks, the return trip took several months. … The use of the beech oar, a long oar that most river craft had to guide the boat as well as to physically maneuver it off mudslicks and snags, was the main work of the downriver course.

Here's the text as Dalglish and Larsen recorded it:

SHAWNEETOWN
(Dillon Bustin)

Some rows up, but we floats down,
Way down the Ohio to Shawneetown.

Chorus:
Hard on the beech oar, she moves too slow.
Way down to Shawneetown on the Ohio.


Now the current's got her and we'll take up the slack.
Float her down to Shawneetown and we'll bushwack her back.

The whiskey's in the jug, boys, the wheat is in the sack.
We'll trade 'em down to Shawneetown and we'll bring the rock salt back.

I got a wife in Louisville and one in New Orleans,
And when I get to Shawneetown gonna see my Indian Queen.

The water's might warm, boys, the air is cold and dank,
And the cursed fog it gets so thick you cannot see the bank.

(repeat first verse)

(*) This, as I recall, is the gentleman known as 'Poss Skaggs.
(**) They don't say which one, however.

That's about all I can come up with. It would seem, then, that credit for the song should be given completely to Dillon. He created the song from a fragment.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 22 May 99 - 03:24 PM

If you copy this text, please correct "curses" to "cursed" in the penultimate verse. Thanks.
[Done]
Sandy, super-typist.


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 22 May 99 - 04:52 PM

Thank you for your work on this, Sandy. I'm really looking forward to an opportunity to do something as nice for you. I've wondered about this song for many years. Now I can even pass the information on to Jessica, who taught me the song over twenty years ago.
And just after writing the above paragraph, I was searching the net for albums by Jessica and her husband Martin, and I found that they also recorded "Way Down Shawneetown" on an 1994 Shanachie album called "Martin Simpson: Collection." !! I haven't heard the album, but CDNow had a short clip of the song, and it is the same song. Give it a listen. (I also found it on Tunes.com, but for some reason their cut-order is all mixed up and if you click on one song you get a different one, so the CDnow works better, at least for Shawneetown.)

Mark


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 10:01 AM

Here's an unrelated "Shawneetown" song:
^^
SHAWNEETOWN

Shawneetown is burnin' down,
Who tole you so?
Shawneetown is burning down,
Who tole you so?

Cynthe, my darlin' gal,
Who tole you so?
Cynthie, my darlin' gal,
How do you know?

How the hell d'ye 'spect me to hold her,
Way down below?
I've got no skin on either shoulder,
Who tole you so?

De houses dey is all on fire,
Way down below.
De houses dey is all on fire,
Who tole you so?

My ole missus tole me so,
Way down below.
An' I believe what ole missus says,
Way down below.

After being flooded out several times (due more to the Engineers working on flood control, I believe), the town was moved to higher ground. When I went through there years ago, the carcases of some old stone buildings were still on the old site. The town had lost its importance. Shawneetown is referred to in other threads.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 30 Sep 07 - 01:12 PM

I used Google Book Search to search for "beech oar" and found this, from "Lights and Shadows of American Life" by Mary Russell Mitford, 1832. The chapter is called "The Last of the Boatmen."
    As they left the shore, they gave the Indian yell: and broke out into a sort of unconnected chorus, commencing with —

      "Hard upon the beech oar!
      She moves too slow!
      All the way to Shawneetown,
      Long while ago."
I also found some quotes--the oldest was 1874--that used the spelling "beach oar." The same 4 lines are quoted in several old books, but none gives more lyrics than that.


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Sep 07 - 03:22 PM

I wonder if the last line should be- Long way to go.

I have seen excerpts from the Mitford volumes before; they suggest that the book is worth reading. Unfortunately, the three volumes of "Lights..." are costly. A reprint was made some years ago, but it is just as expensive.
Following Dixon's search for beech oar, I found this in a blog. Something newly coined? (the dialect looks false).

HARD UPON THE BEECH OAR

Hard upon the beech oar
She moves too slow
All the way tay Mandan town
Long way tay go.

Hard upon the beech oar
Up Mizzou we go
All the way to Cook's Sound
Long way to go.

Hard upon the beech oar
Row you bastards row
Big John is blowing our roofs down
And it's a long way to go.


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Sep 07 - 10:43 PM

Another blog version without source; close to the version by the Patons, thread 4597: beech oar .

Some poles up but we floats down,
Way down on the Ohio to Shawneetown.
Hard on the beech oar, she moves too slow,
Way down to Shawneetown on the Ohio.

Whiskey in the brown jug, cornmeal in the sack,
Gonna float her down to Shawneetown and bushwhack her back.
Hard on the beech oar, she moves too slow,
Way down in Shawneetown on the Ohio.

The water's mighty cold boys, the air is thick and dank,
That damned old fog is got so thick you can scarcely see the bank.
Way down to Shawneetown on the Ohio.

Got a wife in Cairo, another in New Orleans,
Gonna float on down to Shawneetown and see my Angeline.
Hard on the beech oar, she moves too slow,
Way down in Shawneetown on the Ohio.

Anyone know who sang this?
Way down in Shawneetown


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Jan 08 - 04:11 PM

While listening to Martin Simpson's recording of "Shawnee Town" (from an album called "The Definitive Collection") online from Pandora pandora.com I googled the lyrics and came upon this very interesting and informative thread. THANKS, GUYS! :-)

What is interesting to me is that I just updated my collection of recordings by Cathy Barton & Dave Para, which included a Christmas CD they recorded with the Paton family. Then I happen upon this lively discussion (about as lively as an eight-year discourse can be, I figure!) I am surprised that they (Barton-Para)or their late recording partner, Bob Dyer, haven't recorded this song since Bob's main emphasis was river songs, and B-P sing mainly Missouri/ midwestern/plains/river songs. I shall have to suggest it to them if they haven't already done so! Oops, I just checked their discography Cathy Barton & Dave Para discography They have indeed recorded it on one of the few albums of theirs I'm still lacking, the aptly-named "Livin'On The River".


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: GUEST,Marlisa Clapp
Date: 19 May 09 - 12:11 PM

I know Dillon Bustin. He is launching a website soon.
Are you still looking for more info?
He has a concert this Fri if you are in Massachusetts.

See
mcdstudios.com for my contact info


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Art Thieme
Date: 19 May 09 - 02:59 PM

Sandy mentioned that Mr. Bustin got it from Poss Skaggs. If I recall right, "Poss" was short for "Possum" -- He either looked like that animal, or was a trapper of those. (I'm sure it has nothing to do with George Jones. ;-)

Art
(Still here in this thread--after all these many years!)


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Subject: RE: Way Down in Shawneetown - Dillon Bustin
From: Jacob B
Date: 20 May 09 - 11:50 AM

What's missing is a link to that website!

I didn't find it, but I found

a page about Dillon Bustin

and

his CD on CDBaby.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: ClaireBear
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 12:16 PM

I can't attest to its origins (though WE certainly didn't write it), but my band sings an additional verse to Dillon Bustin's Shawneetown that fits the information Sandy provided above about keelboats vs. flatboats. This verse should come just before the reprise of the first one:

Keelboat boys call loud and long
They're round as a barrel but twice as strong
Hard on the beech oar, she moves too slow,
Way down to Shawneetown on the Ohio.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: stallion
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 02:56 PM

We just put it out on our new cd "Crossing the Pond", the liner notes got cocked up and it was put down as "trad" and not Dillon Bustin, however the important recording licence does have it credited to Dillon and he should recieve the royalty payment. Having said that Ron learnt the song from a scotsman in a bar in Perth, Western Ausralia, I haven't heard Dillon's version yet, perhaps Charley can enlighten us as to whether our version is a copy of his.
Peter


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 05:11 PM

Not sure if you guys were aware of this reference to Shawneetown in 1821, which was introduced by J. Lighter in our chanties discussion.

http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=126347#2869260

You'll also find it in this publication:

1828        Hall, James. _Letters from the West._ London: Henry Colburn.

The song text is:

Some rows up, but we row down,
All the way to Shawnee town
Pull away - pull away!


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin
From: Charley Noble
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 05:31 PM

Gibb-

Nice to have this historical note added to this thread.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 31 Dec 10 - 03:28 PM

I just read a book, author Jay Feldman, that deals with this part of the world. It is:

When the Mississippi ran backwards : empire, intrigue, murder, and the New Madrid earthquakes. 2005

Shawnee Town even gets a mention. The book combines history and geology. I was especially interested in the description of the colossal New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812. I think every American, and certainly every Midwesterner, ought to know about those quakes.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin
From: Charley Noble
Date: 31 Dec 10 - 09:27 PM

Leeneia-

Surely you're not implying that a massive earthquake might happen again and that the entire set of "red states" would become a great inland sea?

Thread drift but I couldn't resist!

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 01 Jan 11 - 11:04 AM

There might be another terrible quake, but an inland sea is not in the cards.

In the meantime, people in the region should practice basic earthquake safety - water heaters strapped down, no heavy pictures over beds, a pair of shoes right by the bed, a piece of heavy furniture to hide under for every member of the family. etc


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 01 Jan 11 - 11:08 AM

Here's a book I just read which finally makes sense of those inland seas of yore:

Vanished ocean : how Tethys reshaped the world
Stow, D. A. V. (Dorrik A. V.)
Publication: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2010.


Too bad it has maps of the world that are about the size of a business card.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Feb 12 - 07:07 PM

In my opinion from being around the river all my life and googleing beach oar is, it doesn't exist. I believe the line is about bushwacking the boat back and it should read " It's hard on the beach, or she moves too slow" Bushwacking is putting men on the beach with ropes to the boat to pull it up stream when it can't be poled up. Dillion, being around water, must have known this. It was confusing to me when i heard this 30 or so years ago, but thinking about the song led me to believe as i stated. I have not found any thing to change my opinion.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Feb 12 - 08:29 PM

Guest-

Interesting but would you provide some "guest handle" so we can at least keep track of you. We (well most of us on this forum) value comments that advance the discussion but it's nice to know who is generating them.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble (who is not Charley Noble)


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Harris (classmate of Dillon's)
Date: 01 Apr 12 - 08:57 PM

Dillon has a website, replete with phone number and other contact information:

http://www.dillonbustin.net/about.html


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Jun 13 - 11:52 PM

@ GUEST 10 Feb 12 -

You're right about bushwhacking flatboats up river, but I think the "beech oar" in the song is simply an oar made of beech wood, which is very strong and suitable to the purpose.

The Google eBook "A Manual of Forestry ...: Forest utilization, by W.R. Fisher ... being an English translation of 'Die forstbenutzung,' by Dr. Karl Gayer" may shed some light: "Large quantities of wood are used for making rudders and oars. Ashwood is best, but beechwood is also used" (1896, p. 96). The tree grows throughout the eastern United States as far west as Illinois.

- Peter Ellertsen, Springfield, IL


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: Squaresinger
Date: 28 Feb 14 - 10:26 AM

I was puzzled by 'beach oar' from the first time I read it in this spelling. I first supposed it might mean the rowing oar at the side of the beach, but I have never seen anything on board a ship named with reference to something outside the ship. If a rowing oar was meant it would have been called the starboard oar or the port oar.
I didn't find any other reference that explained 'beach', so I'll stick to 'beech' or possibly "It's hard on the beach, or she moves too slow".

Anyone with thoughts on beach versus beech?

Arend


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Tuco
Date: 19 Feb 16 - 05:00 AM

Being old enough to remember the Fess Parker "Davy Crockett" movies, I recall scenes where Davy was on a keel boat(?) that was propelled by men walking the length of the boat, from bow to stern, with long wooden poles that were long enough to reach the river bottom so that as they pushed against the pole while walking the length of the boat, it pushed the boat forward.

In that regard, "beach" (or river bottom near enough to shore for the poles to reach the river bed) might make more sense than naming the wood which those poles were made of. As far as an "oar" goes, that might not necessarily have to be what we might think of as a wooden pole with a flat blade that pushes against water, not the river bed.

More like such, maybe: https://youtu.be/WYRtziLzSjQ 'Course, that's presuming Hollywood got it right for river boat propelling of that period.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Berkeley Chanteyman
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 11:15 PM

I'm interested in publishing my band's recording of this and would appreciate any clarification regarding the copyright.

I searched the online copyright database here:

https://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?Search_Arg=Shawneetown&Search_Code=TALL&PID=py6zcCF6HwZYsqVKZL_w9krAhdq1&SEQ=20171116224732&CNT=25&HIST=1

I didn't find any reference to Dillon Bustin, though there are entries for Dalglish, Larsen & Sutherland -- but on the latter it's not clear whether they claim copyright for the lyrics or just (p) on the recording for this song. (Disclaimer, I'm not a lawyer.)

I tried contacting Dillon Bustin-- I was able to find him on Facebook and tried PM'ing him but that was a while ago and I have as of yet received no reply.

I'd be interested in hearing from "stallion," above, in particular, since he seems to have had some experience with this but I would also welcome any additional feedback.

Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 02:04 AM

Hi, Chanteyman - there's a message above from Sandy Paton (click), the late owner of Folk-Legacy Records. Sandy says that Dalglish, Larsen & Sutherland learned the song from Dillon Bustin, who made up at least part of the song.
I'm hoping Dillon will respond to your Facebook message or mine and give us definitive information.

Here's the URL for Dillon Bustin's Website:There's contact information there.

-Joe Offer, Mudcat Music Editor-


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 06:42 AM

There's a fine recording of Shawneetown on an album by the Australian group, The Roaring Forties. The album has the great name, Life of Brine, and was released in 2008.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Chanteyman
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 11:26 PM

Thanks Joe! Me too.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Chanteyman
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 11:41 PM

Now I remember why I tried contacting Dillon Bustin via Facebook Messenger-- the email address given on his website, dillonbustin@dillonbustin.net, doesn't work.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Chanteyman
Date: 29 Nov 17 - 04:37 PM

Well, I just got off of the phone with Mr. Dillon Bustin. I've arranged to send him the royalties for The Dogwatch Nautical band's use of Shawneetown on our upcoming CD.

The email contact information on his website is obsolete but the phone number worked. I should have tried that sooner, duh! :-)

Of interest to Mudcatters is this part of our discussion, Dillon actually wrote ALL of the verses except ONE, not the other way around. Unfortunately, I didn't have that info in time to update the liner notes on our album but I promised to do that here. (Don't ask me which verse is the one he didn't write-- I neglected to ask. Maybe I'll get to that when I send him our CD.)

Cheers,
Steve Aultman


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Nov 17 - 08:53 PM

Thanks a lot, Steve. I'm glad we finally have this clarified. I credited the song to Dillon Bustin when I sang it last week. Glad I was correct.

Joe


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: Rapparee
Date: 29 Nov 17 - 08:57 PM

There's this and other versions of the song on You Tube.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: Mr Red
Date: 30 Nov 17 - 03:54 AM

searching for beech oar will get a few results. But Guest's grammatical explanation is very appealing.
I say this many times: having two meanings in a song (or three if we include pole) is perfectly reasonable, and makes the song connect with more people - who take the meaning they think of first, usually. We build a virtual image in our minds, it is what humans do. The song is as much art as it is a fossil. Given it's authorship.
Comparing historic/logic interpretation, it only has value in a discussion like this.

I like the song, and revel in the discussion. Win Win!


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Subject: ADD Version: Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,talithamac
Date: 03 Jul 22 - 04:48 PM

When I recorded this in 1986, with Dillon Bustin singing on the chorus, he gave me words to a couple of extra verses. This is my version:

SHAWNEETOWN
(Dillon Bustin)

Vs 1        Some row up but we float down
        Way down the Ohio to Shawneetown

Cho        And it’s hard on the beech oar
        It moves too slow
        Way down to Shawneetown
        On the Ohio        

Vs 2        Now the current’s got her and we’ll take up the slack
        We’ll float her down to Shawneetown and bushwack her back

Vs 3        The whiskey’s in the jug, boys, the wheat is in the sack
        We’ll trade ‘em down in Shawneetown and bring the rock salt back

Vs 4        Got a wife in Louisville, one in New Orleans
        When I get to Shawneetown gonna see my Indian queen

Vs 5        Them hoop-pole boys talk loud and long
        Round as a barrel and they’re twice as strong

Vs 6        I like to fight, I can take my knocks
        But not like last Saturday night at the Cave-in-Rock

Vs 7        The water’s mighty warm, boys, the air is cold and dank
        And the cursed fog it gets so thick you cannot see the bank

Rpt Vs 1


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: leeneia
Date: 05 Jul 22 - 12:05 PM

Here's a clear map of the Ohio River with the states labelled.
not near New Orleans

[Funny how they don't label the states on the SOUTH bank of the Ohio.
Too banjo-ridden, maybe?]

Throughout this discussion, bear in mind that these rivers used to be much wider and much slower than they are today. Today's rivers have been engineered to handle big boats, mostly barges.

As you can see, the Ohio starts at Pennsylvania's western border and ends at the southern tip of Illinois, where it joins the Mississippi. (Where Huck and Jim got lost in the fog.) For other information, see Sandy Paton's post from May, 1999.

Shawnee was in Illinoi where the Wabash River comes in from the north.    The boatmen in our song are taking whiskey and wheat from Pennsylvania and Ohio to Shawnee and will take rock salt from Shawnee back upriver. So New Orleans, the Natchez Trace and the Mississippi don't come into this journey. Our boatman will get to see his wife in Louisville, but not the other one.

It never seems to occur to these guys that their various "wives" could have had various "husbands", depending on who's in town and who's slogging their way back north. Must have been complicated.

Given how hard it was to go back upstream, it makes sense to have shorter journeys such as this. By the way, I don't think there were many beaches, because if there had been, they would have been using draft animals, not humans, to go upstream.

Oddly, the actual Wabash Cannonball, the train takes good hoboes to Heaven, didn't run near the Wabash River. And that reminds me:

   Oh the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash.
   Through the fields there comes the breath of new-mown hay.
   Through the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming
   on the banks of the Wabash, far away.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 06 Jul 22 - 12:39 PM

Banjo News Letter November 2012 Shawneetown By Tim Jumper
https://banjonews.com/2012-11/shawneetown.html Shawneetown

When I first heard the song a few years ago I assumed it was as old as it sounded. Only recently did I learn of its contemporary (circa 1996) genesis, the details of which Dillon related to me via e-mail:

“My original sources for Shawneetown were two fragments included in Leland DeWitt Baldwin’s “The Keelboat Age on Western Waters” (Pittsburg, 1969)... Baldwin quotes James Hall’s “Letters from the West, Containing Sketches of Scenery, Manners, and Customs” (London, 1828):

Some rows up, but we rows down
All the way to Shawneetown,
Pull away – pull away!

In his endnote Baldwin further quotes Neville’s The Last of the Boatmen in a compilation edited by James Hall, “Western Souvenir”(1828), p. 114:

Hard upon the beach oar! –
She moves too slow! –
All the way to Shawneetown.
Long while ago.

These fragments became my first verse and chorus:

Some row up,
But we float down,
Way down the Ohio,
To Shawneetown.

Hard on the beach oar,
She moves too slow,
Way down to Shawneetown
On the Ohio.”

Dillon wrote several additional verses evocative of the early 19th century keelboat era when Shawneetown, Illinois was an important frontier trading center, and his catchy pentatonic melody stands worthy of comparison with the best of the prolific Mr. or Mrs. Anon. What he has given us is a new American folk song; so when you sing it for other folks, be sure to tell them who wrote it.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: leeneia
Date: 07 Jul 22 - 12:28 PM

Thanks for that complete and helpful statement, Henry. I think it wraps up for good the story of the composition of 'Shawneetown.'


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 06 Jan 23 - 12:26 AM

RE: This seems to be the main thread for James Hall (above and link to Lighter's post.) He did not become “Judge” Hall until 1824, so unlikely to publish as such in 1821. Otherwise identical text ––

“Nor did the amusements of the night end here. The adventure of the whipping post had exhilarated the spirits of the crew, who now seating themselves in groups on the bank, actuated, no doubt, by the genial influence of "the chaste cold moon,” began to chant their rude ditties of "bold young fellers," and "ladies gay;" an accomplishment in which some of them had acquired a tolerable proficiency, and which they appeared to value more highly than their rough natures would seem to indicate. Here was a fund of entertainment for me. It is amusing to see poetry dressed in rags, and limping upon crutches. Dignified and lovely as she is in her robes of majesty, she becomes the most quaint, ingenious entertaining little imp imaginable, when she condescends to play the hoyden; and I assure you, that I adored her with ten-fold ardour, when I beheld her versatility, and saw her, like a good republican, conforming herself to the company in which she happened to be thrown. She has indeed risen wonderfully in my opinion, in which of late years she had rather sunk, in consequence of the suspicious company she had kept––a virago with Lord Byron, a voluptuary with Anacreon Moore, and with Monk Lewis, a wrinkled old hag. She has again appeared in her native integrity; I have seen her in the robes of nature, and heard her in the innocency of her heart. To the admirers of the simplicity of Wordsworth, to those who prefer the naked effusions of the heart, to the meretricious ornaments of fancy, I present the following beautiful specimen verbatim, as it flowed from the lips of an Ohio boatman:

        Its oh! as I was a wal-king out,
        One morning in July,
        I met a maid, who ax'd my trade,––
        Says I “I'll tell you presently,”
        “Miss, I'll tell you presently!”

I challenge the admirers of that celebrated poet to point out, in all his works, or in those of his disciples, a single verse which is more simple, more descriptive, or which contains so much matter in so small a compass.

In the following amatory stanza, the lover betrays his tenderness with great delicacy:

        Here's to you, and all the rest,
        And likewise her that I love best;
        As she's not here to take a part,
        I'll drink her health with all my heart.”

What a manly spirit breathes through each line, where the poet pays an honest tribute to poverty, sympathises with the forlorn wight, too often the object of ridicule, who lives in " single blessedness," and satirises the cupidity of the world, all in the compass of a single verse, as thus:

        “Here's to those that have old clothes,
        And never a wife to mend 'em;
        A plague on those that have half joes,
        And hav'nt a heart to spend 'em.”

There was one ballad particularly, of a very pathetic nature, which I regret I have forgotten, as the singer observed very feelingly, that "he set more store to it, than all the rest." It began thus:

        "Oh! love was the 'casion of my downfal,
        I wish I had'nt never loved none at all!
        Oh! love was 'casion of my misery,
        Now I am bound, but once I was free!"

But I have no more room for criticism. These brief extracts will convince you that I have not decided in favour of the “River Melodies,” on slight grounds. By some future opportunity, I will send you some more of them; in the mean while I bid you good night, in the words which the rowers are even now sounding in my ears as they tug at the oar:

        Some rows up, but we row down,
        All the way to Shawneetown,
        Pull away-pull away!”
[Letters from the West, Letter III, April 18th, Oliver Oldschool*, The Port Folio, 1821]

*more to follow.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 06 Jan 23 - 12:34 AM

*Oliver Oldschool was the pseudonym for a collection of authors writing for Joseph Dennie (1768–1812), founding editor of the The Port Folio. This, to include Dennie himself and Sarah Ewing Hall (1761–1830), mother of:

John Elihu Hall (1783–1829), who succeeded Dennie as owner/editor of the Port Folio and
Harrison Hall, publisher and contributor to the Port Folio and;
James Hall (1793–1868), briefly resident of Shawneetown and co-owner/editor of the local newspaper. He lost his first re-election to the bench and by 1827 was listed as Illinois State Treasurer. And, little doubt, the Oldschool in question.

Nautical Trivia: Army Lt. James Hall served “TDY” as a gunnery officer on the second Enterprise (Kearny) for five months of the Second Barbary War. Most bios have him resigning that commission to return to law studies but he may have left under some duress after first returning to Army duties.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 06 Jan 23 - 01:14 AM

More on Mitford:
“...In a few minutes afterwards, we observed their keel wheeling in the current, the gigantic form of Mike* bestriding the large steering oar, and the others arranging themselves in their places in front of the cabin, that extended nearly the whole length of the boat, covering merchandize of immense value. As they left the shore, they gave the Indian yell: and broke out into a sort of unconnected chorus, commencing with ––
        “Hard upon the beech oar!
        She moves too slow!
        All the way to Shawneetown,
        Long while ago.”
In a few moments the boat “took the chute” of Letart's Falls**, and disappeared behind the point with the rapidity of an Arabian courser.”
[Last of the Boatmen, Lights and Shadows of American Life, Vol.I, Mitford ed., 1832]
Mary Russell Mitford (1787–1855)

*Mitford's boatman is none other than Mike Fink (c.1770/1780–c.1823). [wiki]
**Letart's Falls is a bit downriver of Shawneetown & Cave-in-Rock. Frontier trapper Jimmy Stewart gets mugged at the latter in How the West was Won.

In the same year as Mitford, Judge Hall, owner-writer-janitor of the Illinois Monthly Magazine, created the fictional singing Canadian boatman/voyageur Michel de Coucy.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Jan 23 - 08:37 AM

Of note:

Cleveland Herald (Apr. 30, 1845):

"Every body has heard of Mike Fink, the famous keel-boat captain.... 'Long time ago,' when Mike was on a voyage 'all the way to Shawneetown,' with a 'bully boat and a bully crew,' he found himself compelled to lay up a short time at Louisville...."


Walnut Valley Times (El Dorado, Kans.) (Oct. 1, 1887):

"Transportation on the Ohio before steamboats was on keel boats. ...The hands...usually sang in passing a town. All joined in a chorus, 'All the way to Shawneetown, row, boys, row. All the way to Shawneetown, row, boy, row."


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Jan 23 - 10:48 AM

The Western Messenger I (Nov., 1835):

“For a time we feared we should have to pause upon the rude boat-songs and wild choruses of Mike Fink, and his redoubtable companions: ‘Hard upon the beach oar,’ ‘All the way to Shawneetown,’ ‘Row! Row! On the bright ‘Hio,’ &c.”

Henry Brown, The History of Illinois (N.Y.: J. Winchester, 1844):

“There [is] something, even at this day, on which the imagination delights to linger, in ‘All the way to Shawneetown; long time ago.’*… *The chorus of a favorite boat-song.”


That was nearly 180 years ago! And there's no record of the old tune!

So what's the continuing fascination with the words, "on which the imagination delights to linger," which many writers have quoted in print into the 21st century.

There's the prosody (aw...aw...aw...o), the exoticism of "All the way to Shawneetown" and the nostalgia of "Long time ago."

For me it's also the mental connection of the image with Disney's "Davy Crockett Meets Mike Fink" and "Davy Crockett and the River Pirates."


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 06 Jan 23 - 09:13 PM

No music... yet. Our lyrical world is sure getting smaller though. Mitford's ultimate source for Mike Fink was Judge James Hall's The Western Souvenir for 1829 (Cincinnati.) Haven't located the original but, The Last of the Boatmen chapter with Shawneetown and beach oar (with an “a”) appears in: The Critic: A Weekly Review of Literature, Fine Arts, and the Drama, 10 January 1829:

The literary contents of this, as of the other Annuals, are furnished by different writers, among whom the editor has performed the largest share. The prose portion possesses greater merit than the poetical. We copy the opening lines, by James Hall, which are a favorable sample of the latter; and the sketch, entitled, The Last of the Boatmen, which bears the signature N. is perhaps as interesting as any prose selection which we could make….

N=Morgan Neville (1783-1839) per Beginnings of Literary Culture in the Ohio Valley: Historical and Biographical Sketches, Venable, 1891.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 09 Feb 23 - 10:22 PM

Not sure where this fits in. Field & Hall were two-of-a-kind.

“There was water enough on the “Falls”; it was a bright day in spring, and at an early hour, all hands at their posts, Mike was guiding his clean and trim built “keel,” the Mary––still adhered to the name, and it had always been a charm to him, he said––through the rapids, below Louisville. There was not much peril in the passage, at the moment, and the exhileration was only of the pleasant kind.

“That's like a lady!” cried Mike, as, under the bold and skillful guidance of his sweeping stern oar, his craft a moment yielded to a powerful eddy, and then drew out again with a graceful curve.

“See how she puts her feet out! Dances like a fairy, by gracious!”

                “As we go as we go
                Down the O-hi-o,
                There's a tight place at Louisville,
                You know boys, know.”

“Jabe Knuckles!” shouted Mike, “one of them Philadelphy noospapers you've got sorted away, tells about a York feller that's got a steam fixin' to take boats up rivers without hand, hoss, or hawser! I reckon he'll never try 'ginst this water, eh?””
[Field, Last of the Boatmen, Half Horse Half Alligator: The Growth of the Mike Fink Legend, Blair, Meine eds., 1956]
Published in serial form by Field's own St. Louis Reveille c.1842
Joseph M. Field (1810–1856)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Shawneetown
From: John Minear
Date: 15 May 24 - 07:37 PM

I thought that I knew this song. I have worked on it and with any number of times over the past decades. And now I am once again looking at it and enjoying it. But this time around I am looking more closely. And today I began to wonder if my basic assumptions about it were wrong. I have been doing a close study of both the text and the historical context. Something has been bothering me. This all may turn out to be very obvious to everyone else, but when you make a false assumption it can really anchor you in the wrong place. My question was./is: How can you bushwack a Flatboat back up river? Did that ever happen? The historical answer and the practical answer is simply “No”. Flatboats were one-way boats - down river. At the end of the trip thery were sold for lumber and dismantled. I read somewhere that much of New Orleans was built out of dismantled flatboats. No one ever tried to haul a flatboat back upstream. Thia is obvious on the Mississippi and probably also on the Ohio. So is the song just historically wrong talking about “hauling the rock salt back” (up stream) and “bushwacking back”… ? Or have I been wrong in my basic assumption all along? Is it the case that this song never was about flatboats, but about keelboats? Where did I get the idea that it was a flatboat song? In going back over all of the notes I have and all of the Mudcat discussions, I could only find one reference to the song being about flatboats. Someone said that Jessica Simpson (Martin Simpson’s wife) who knew Dillon Bustin, said it was about flatboats. I don’t even remember ever seeing this reference before. But I have assumed all along that it was about flatboats. Given the internal evidence of the song text and the external historical evidence of the context, that is simply impossible. It can’t be about flatboats. It has to be about keelboats. But there is no mention of keelboats (or flatboats per se) in the song. Just “floating” down the river. There is no mention “poling” the boat. Just “hard on the beach/beech oar.” What is the role of the oar? Is this about “pushboats”.   There is a known historical “Pushboat Song”, which is a keelboat song. Some of the verses are very similar to “Shawneetown” and it is likely that Bustin was familiar with this traditional song. Was his song always a keelboat song? Why is it never discussed in those terms? In the Mudcat discussions, it is not discussed in either flatboat or keelboat terms as such. Strange. Everything mentioned in the song could apply to a keelboat. Not everything can be applied to a flatboat. I think it is a keelboat song. This may be obvious to everyone else. It has taken me a long time to reach this realization. I suppose the only way to settle this question once and for all is to ask Dillon Bustin himself. Is he still with us? I remember going to him many years ago to ask him about the verse about the “hooppole boys” and clearing up that mystery. For now I am simply going to ask Mudcat, is this a flatboat song or a keelboat song? I look forward to lifting the “cursed fog”.    John Minear


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Subject: RE: Lyr ADD: Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 15 May 24 - 11:43 PM

“Jabe Knuckles!” shouted Mike*, “one of them Philadelphy noospapers you've got sorted away, tells about a York feller that's got a steam fixin' to take boats up rivers without hand, hoss, or hawser! I reckon he'll never try 'ginst this water, eh?””
[Field, Last of the Boatmen, Half Horse Half Alligator: The Growth of the Mike Fink Legend, Blair, Meine eds., 1956]
Published in serial form by Field's own St. Louis Reveille c.1842

The old Mississippi is long time gone. It has been civil engineered from end-to-end. Back in the day…

Much of the upper river turned into an ice road in the winter. By late fall it was drying out. You'd be walking alongside if there was enough draft to float your hull at all.

The lower river meandered all over the place every spring flood. Once it calmed down a tad one could actually drift upstream on the back eddies by crossing from bank-to-bank to keep on the inside of the 'ox bows.' Regardless, that was where all the upstream bushwhacking, cordelling, poling, rowing, sailing &c&c happened. Not head-on against the mainstream.

*Fwiw: Mike Fink has been dubbed king of the keelboaters.


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Subject: RE: Lyr ADD: Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: John Minear
Date: 16 May 24 - 09:49 AM

But what kind of boats are we talking about? Surely not the flatboats.


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Subject: RE: Lyr ADD: Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 16 May 24 - 03:55 PM

Who we?

c.1824: The original 'lyric' was the work of Cincinnati, Ohio attorney and author Morgan Lafayette Neville in The Last of the Boatmen which is about Mike Fink and Ohio keel boats. There was no tune to go with.

1941: Some bit of Neville's prose & Mike Fink folklore found its way into Leland D. Baldwin's The Keelboat Age on Western Waters.

c.1970: Per the usual sources, Dillon Bustin picked up a copy of Baldwin. Those boats could be anything Dillon Bustin, or his listeners, imagine(d) them to be.

Fwiw: The generally accepted minimum for “flatbottom” is: no keel, stern or stem posts. A long, narrow, northern European style punt will do as well as most other upstream friendly hull types. A broad beamed barge with two sweeps and a steering oar… maybe not so much.

Fwiw2: Shawneetown is smack dab in the middle of the Illinois Salines. No need to schlep all the way south to New Orleans and back again.


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Subject: RE: Lyr ADD: Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: John Minear
Date: 16 May 24 - 05:59 PM

"We" are all of the participants in this thread over the last 24 years or so, living and dead, who have been interested in this song by Bustin, and his actual lyrics and I would assume their historical context. Reading through these old threads, one can see that there has been some confusion about these things over the years. My question is pretty simple. What kind of boat and boatmen do we think Bustin had in mind when he wrote this song? And is the imagined scenario consistent with historical fact. And is the song coherent. I am assuming that there are a number of technical differences that define a "flatboat" as distinct from a "keelboat", some of which you have pointed out. I appreciate the references. But given what little I know, some of the verses don't seem consistent with the historical data on flatboats. The "bushwhacking back" one especially. And why would you be hauling salt back upriver in a flatboat? Doesn't really make sense. I have focused my attention over the years on the flatboats and don't really know much about keelboats, except that they might more closely fit the sense of Bustin's lyrics. I am curious about his assumptions and the assumptions of the various discussions on this thread. Are "we"/"they" talking about flatboats or keelboats? I thin it matters for the sense and integrity of the song. It presents itself as a "historical" song.   It's a wonderful song to sing and has lasted for some time now. But is it historically accurate and if so what is it talking about? And also why is there no real discussion in these threads about the kind of boats involved?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 May 24 - 06:51 PM

I moved messages around to boil all this down into two threads, designating this as the Origins thread and the other as the supplement. I hope it makes more sense this way. I sure love this song. Bev Praver and I drove through this area in October 2024. That added a lot to my appreciation of this song.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 17 May 24 - 08:24 PM

The starting point isn't Lloyds or the U.S. Bureaus of Commerce/Shipping; it's a 200 year old bit of pop entertainment not unlike the song itself. Stitch counting historical accuracy was never on offer.

Speculation (imagination) is part of the fun for some listeners. It's a sure-fire fun killer for some others. A lot artists will struggle to recall exactly what they were thinking line-by-line if they haven't looked at them in 40-50 years.

The whiskey's in the jug, boys, the wheat is in the sack.
We'll trade 'em down to Shawneetown and we'll bring the rock salt back.


Today that's 240 river miles, one-way, from Shawneetown to Louisville. 380 miles to Cincinnati. One could do the shorter round trip more than once per month… in season… weather permitting… &c &c. A keelboat is the most often mentioned type but a large canoe, dugout, pirogue or periagua &c&c would not raise an eyebrow. The 1820s 'original' is already lamenting the advent of steam on that stretch of the river.

Alas the pedant, the Ohio River salt trade was an evaporation process (brine)... a fine paste, brittle as chalk or sandstone when dry, but not commercial “rock salt.”


I got a wife in Louisville and one in New Orleans,
And when I get to Shawneetown gonna see my Indian Queen.


Your show-biz trope alarm should be gonging. A girl in every port & debauching the natives has been pop entertainment sailor stock-in-trade since Odysseus & Calypso.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: John Minear
Date: 18 May 24 - 11:33 AM

Trying to get a sense of the kind of craft imagined in this song is not seeking "stitch counting historical accuracy". And of course "speculation" is a form of "imagination". But my questions are not designed to be a "sure fire fun killer", And yes the question of the kind of "salt" involved in the river trade is a legitimate question. And my questions have to do with whether it makes any sense to imagine/speculate/talk about flatboats making "round trips" from Shawneetown to Louisville or Cincinnati. And so, when singing this song and enjoying it, are we thinking about flatboats or keelboats (or other river craft that can go up stream)? And why is this concern not a part of our discussion over the years. And to refresh my memory I would like to see the 200 year old "starting point" pop song that you are referring to. Can you give us a copy of it? More than just a reference. I do not recall seeing anything like this as such in the various discussions on "Shawneetown". Are you referring to the "Pushboat Song" or "Going Down to Cairo" or something else?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 18 May 24 - 05:45 PM

John: Bustin's older lyric comes from one Neville's five verses, as republished by James Hall (aka: Oliver Oldschool.) I don't believe we've recovered the "original-original" just yet. See above at: 06 Jan 23 - 12:26AM. Again, there was never any music to go with. Your call if that's a song or a short story with/about a song.

fwiw: The only vessel mentioned in Neville/Hall is Mike Fink's Mary. Supposed to be a keelboat but, there are no surviving drawings or plans of her and she's not mentioned anywhere in the lyrics. Assuming she, and he, was ever really real to begin with that is.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: John Minear
Date: 19 May 24 - 11:02 AM

Okay, Phil, I have taken your good advice and bushwhacked my way back upstream in this thread and re-read all of your notes and the rest of the thread as well. I think the cursed fog may be lifting., with a sip of whiskey from the jug (I like Elijah Craig) and maybe just a pinch of that good flaky salt (I am partial to Malden Salt and use it all of the time).   I appreciate the work that you and Lighter did to make these sources available. I have seen some of thisi material before but I never quite got it into focus and I was missing some of the important historical context, especially as regards “Mike Fink”. I must have been about 12 when Davy Crockett floated down the Ohio with him and that all very much still affects my own imagination. I can see now how Bustin appropriated the two early verses for the beginning of his song. And while I don’t know what he was imagining, surely he also knew abou the Mike Fink connection. And that would strongly suggest that he had Keelboats in mind. I think it gets confusing trying to deal with two distinct historical time frames, or maybe even three: the early history, the time when Bustin wrote his song, and perhaps the ongoing times of whenever the song continues to be sung (and often modified). It’s all history but some distinctions are helpful. I appreciate the way you do this. So, I will begin to devote more of my attention to keelboating as I continue to think abut this song. I am imagining more regional commerce, on the Ohio and its tributaries, up and down, back and forth, rather than the long-haul trading down to New Orleans. John


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: John Minear
Date: 19 May 24 - 11:08 AM

I have just noticed the obituary for Dick Swain. I wanted to say it was from the singing of Dick Swain at Augusta (Elkins WV) one summer that I learned "Shawneetown." The world of good song and important information has lost another significant person.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Way Down in Shawneetown (Dillon Bustin)
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 21 May 24 - 11:50 AM

John Minear, Maldon Salt is a good choice! It is harvested in the English town of Maldon, Essex. World-renowned, Maldon’s distinctive pyramid salt flakes have been skilfully made using the same traditional artisan methods since 1882. Thames sailing barges are still moored along the waterfront at Maldon and the Thames Sailing Barge Trust is based there.

The last Thames barge to trade entirely under sail was the Everard-built Cambria owned by 'Bob' Roberts, who sailed the Cambria for more than twenty years. https://intheboatshed.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/p8-EDS-spring-2103_LO-RES.pdf; Who was Alfred William ‘Bob’ Roberts?

For the folk world, he was a proper sailing barge skipper, traditional singer and melodeon player. A charismatic performer, he appeared at EFDSS festivals at the Albert Hall in the 1950s, made a series of LPs, and sang at many folk clubs. His contracts to perform always specified he would appear ‘winds and tides permitting’.

Bob’s daughter, Anne, remembers her father singing deep sea sailors’ shanties learned when he was a young man, and recalls how he later came to learn songs associated with inshore fishing and barge
crews, and also rural songs from old boys in the pubs around the Essex coast and particularly Pin Mill, where he lived for many years with his first wife and young family.

A big change came in the early 1950s when Bob met folk song collector Peter Kennedy. This led to Bob becoming involved with Kennedy’s BBC Archive recordings and the influential 1950s radio series As I Roved Out, and also with the American collector Alan Lomax.


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