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Lyr Req: Old Cumberland Land

Artful Codger 28 Oct 09 - 07:02 PM
Jim Dixon 30 Oct 09 - 08:42 AM
Jim Dixon 30 Oct 09 - 09:57 AM
Jim Dixon 30 Oct 09 - 11:04 AM
Jim Dixon 30 Oct 09 - 11:47 AM
John Minear 23 Mar 16 - 08:56 AM
John Minear 24 Mar 16 - 03:48 PM
GUEST,# 24 Mar 16 - 04:54 PM
GUEST 24 Sep 17 - 08:16 AM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Old Cumberland Land
From: Artful Codger
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 07:02 PM

I'm looking for the text of "Old Cumberland Land" (also known as "The Indian Tribes of Tennessee") as sung by Carol Ponder, as well as other versions. Three verses of Ponder's recording were used in the documentary "The Appalachians" (part 1, 12 minutes in).

Here are Ponder's notes from the album "Little Journey":
Dr. Charles K. Wolfe introduced me to "The Old Cumberland Land" which was collected from Dee Hicks in Fentress County, TN. Hicks said it had been in his family for a long time. About pioneer life on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, it is written in the form of a letter, which makes it unusual. It's a voice from the settlers who first came here, noticed what the land was like, and let us know what was important to them.

[Dee and Delta Hicks have been recorded for some archival project, and two LPs of these recordings were published, but I don't know if this song was included on either.]


Wolfe wrote an article called "Old Cumberland Land" which was printed in Rural life and culture in the Upper Cumberland (chapter 15), edited by Michael E. Birdwell and W. Calvin Dickinson; a limited preview is available at Google Books. In this article he wrote:

But a letter-known song paints an even more particular picture of the area; this remarkable ballad is known variously as "Old Cumberland Land," "The Cumberland," or "The Indian Tribes of Tennessee." An epistolary ballad in the form of a letter written by a woman who came from the East coast to settle with her family on the Cumberland Plateau, it told about the hardships they had to endure and the natural beauty they witnessed:

The Cumberland

The day that I parted away from you
In sorrow, grief, and touble too,
You gave to me your parting hand,
And wished me safe on the Cumberland.


Unfortunately, the remainder of the song and any further commentary are on unviewable pages.


I have found one complete version in The Revivalist: A New Selection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs... (pp.143-4), by Washington Glass (Scott & Bascom, Columbus OH, 1853):

117.
Mrs. L. Maxwell.
Missionary Hymn.

1 WHEN I first started away from you,
With grief and sorrow, and trouble too,
You gave to me the parting hand,
And wished me safe on the Cumberland.

2 When we were on the ice and snow,
It rained, it hailed--the wind did blow,
And some of us did mourn and cry,
To think with cold we all must die.

3 But bless the Lord, some relief is found,
We're landed here both safe and sound,
In a lonesome place but fruitful soil,
There's milk and wine, and corn and oil.

4 I have one more line to write to you--
Religion's dull, and preachers few;
We're here in peace, and like to be
With the Indian tribe on the Tennessee.

5 My friends behind, I would like to see,
If from this task I could get free;
To preach I'm bound, and may it be
With the Indian tribe on the Tennessee.

6 And if on earth we meet no more,
I hope to meet on Canaan's shore;
And there we'll sing, and happy be,
With the Indian tribe on the Tennessee.

The parts extracted from Ponder's version for "The Appalachians" correspond to verses 1, 3 and 4.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE CUMBERLAND (trad. Tennessee)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 08:42 AM

A slightly different version of the same article (apparently) appears in Lend an Ear: Heritage of the Tennessee Upper Cumberland edited by W. Calvin Dickinson (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, ©1983), page 97ff:

... A lesser-known song gives an even more unique picture of the area: this is a remarkable ballad known variously as "Old Cumberland Land," "The Cumberland," or "The Indian Tribes of Tennessee." The ballad is in the form of a letter written by a woman who came from the east coast to settle with her family on the Cumberland Plateau; in it she tells of the hardships the group has had to endure and of the sights they have seen.

THE CUMBERLAND

The day that I parted away from you,
In sorrow, grief, and trouble too,
You gave to me your parting hand,
And wished me safe on the Cumberland.

Then on our journey we did steer,
O'er hills and valleys and rivers clear,
Through a desert place in a barren land,
We steered our course for the Cumberland

When we got there, there was ice and snow;
It rained and hailed and the wind did blow,
Which caused us all to weep and cry,
Staying here with cold we all must die.

But thank the Lord our health we found;
We landed here both safe and sound,
In the happy land, Oh the fertile soil!
Here's milk, here's wine, both corn and oil.

We saw ten thousand human graves,
All walled in with mason's sign,
Which made me think in the days of old,
Some human race had passed this place.

I've nothing more to write to you,
Since preaching's scarce, and religion's low,
We're here in love, peace, and hope to be,
With the Indian Tribes in Tennessee.

My love to you I can't unfold,
It's like some lovely ring of gold,
It's round, it's pure, Oh! it has no end,
So is my love to you my friend.

This particular version of the song was collected in 1935 from LP Carlock of Alpine, Tennessee (Overton County); it had been handed down from father to son in his family. Other versions of the song have been found in southeastern Kentucky, in Crossville, and in Fentress County. Some omit the stanza about the "ten thousand human graves" walled in with "the mason's sign," which is possibly a reference to Indian graveyards. The Indian symbols would seem strange to settlers, much in the way a secret Masonic sign would seem strange. But few songs give as gripping a picture of the cruel winters that faced settlers in the wild new land on the Cumberland Plateau.

A third song unique to the region is a long murder ballad entitled "The Braswell Boys." ...

[I believe there is another version of THE CUMBERLAND, or perhaps some quotes from it, in Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin, Volumes 39-40 (Maryville, Tenn.: Middle Tennessee State University, 1973).]


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE PIONEER PREACHER (trad. Mississippi)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 09:57 AM

From Folksongs of Mississippi and Their Background by Arthur Palmer Hudson (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1936), page 210:

8a THE PIONEER PREACHER

The text was obtained by Mr. George F. Swetnam from his mother, Mrs. Flora Stafford Swetnam, Vaiden. The first line of the third stanza indicates epistolary rather than lyrical character, but Mr. Swetnam stated that his mother sang the composition. Whatever the literary design of its composer may have been, the piece suggests a lyric fragment of the great unwritten epic of the missionary preachers in America. I have not been able to find the piece in any other collection.

1 As we were on the ice and snow,
It rained, it hailed, and the wind did blow;
And some of us did weep and cry,
For we were so cold we'd almost die.

2 But thank the Lord, relief was found.
We landed here both safe and sound.
We landed here on a fertile soil;
Here's milk, here's wine, here's corn and oil.

3 And one more line to write to you:
Religion's scarce and preachers few.
I'm bound to preach, and may it be
To the Indian tribes of the Tennessee.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Cumberland Land
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 11:04 AM

From Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky by Jean Thomas (New York, Oak Publications [1964]), page 168f:

... Now there was Roger Williams, the young evangelist who set out to preach the Gospel in the lonely mountains when first the Cumberlands were being settled. Roger proudly boasted kinship with Roger Williams of Rhode Island, and while some listened with tongue in cheek, or took it with a grain of salt, others believed firmly that the young preacher was all he claimed to be. They listened to many of his tales, too, of the fair lady to whom he was "promised" back in New England. As the winters grew more severe Roger concluded it was best for his loved one never to join him in the wilderness and he sent a messenger to her with his letter of farewell. But whether the Indians slew the bearer of the letter or whether he died of exposure in the snow-covered mountains, no one knew. At any rate the fair lady not hearing from the young evangelist set out from her home in New England to join him in the Cumberlands. But ere she reached her lover's side, Roger had perished from cold and hunger in his solitary hut in a deep ravine. To this day his kin relate the story and sing the young evangelist's letter of farewell in this wise:

My own dear love I write to you,
Religion's scarce and preachers few;
I trust in God and daily pray
In the lonely mountains far away.

When I was on the ice and snow,
It hailed....

[I think there is more of the song in this book, but I was unable to extract it.—JD]


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE PIONEER'S LETTER (trad. Oregon)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 11:47 AM

From By an Oregon Pioneer Fireside by Lincoln Ellsworth Wilkes, Carol A. Thilenius (Fairfield, Wash.: Ye Galleon Press, 1995), page 51:

THE PIONEER'S LETTER

When first I parted away from you,
In sorrow, grief and trouble too,
You gave to me your parting hand,
And wished me safe in Oregon.

On our journey we did steer
Over prairies wide and rivers clear;
Through desert, plain, and barren land
We steered our course for Oregon.

Ten thousand Indian graves we found
Built up with sticks and stone all 'round,
Which made me think some Indian race,
In the days of old, had passed that place.

When we got there was ice and snow.
It rained, it hailed, the wind did blow;
While some of us did weep and cry,
Saying, here with cold we all shall die.

But, thank the Lord, our health we found.
We're landed here both safe and sound,
To a healthy place and fertile soil.
Our milk is sweet, no wine or oil.

I've nothing new to write to you.
Religion's dull and preachers few.
We're living here the same as one
With the Indian tribes of Oregon.

My love to you I can't unfold.
My love is like a ring of gold.
It's round, it's pure, it has no end.
My love to you, my bosom friend.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Cumberland Land
From: John Minear
Date: 23 Mar 16 - 08:56 AM

Norman Blake has a good recording of "Cumberland Land" on an album called "Sandstone and Pine Rosin". Here is a link that gives more information:

http://sandrockrecordings.com/album/sandstone-and-pine-rosin/

And here is his song on Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/sandrock-recordings/sets/sr1001-various-artists

I would be very interested in obtaining a copy of Dee Hicks' recording of "The Old Cumberland Land". Once upon a time it was available on a vinyl record as a part of a folklore collection, but that has become too elusive for me. If anyone can help me with this please PM me. John


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Cumberland Land
From: John Minear
Date: 24 Mar 16 - 03:48 PM

Dee Hicks' recording of "Cumberland Land" is included in this collection edited by Charles Wolfe. It seems to be rare. Here is a link to a copy of the original vinyl on Amazon for $250!

http://www.amazon.com/Historical-Ballads-Tennessee-Valley-Folklore/dp/B00AXG2DII

If anybody happens to have this album, I'd love to hear that particular song. Also, does anyone have the lyrics to Dee Hicks' version? I did find a recording of this song by Dee's younger brother, Bessford Hicks, on an album called "Gettin' Up The Stairs", put out by Sandrock Recordings:

http://sandrockrecordings.com/album/gettin-up-the-stairs-traditional-music-from-the-cumberland-plateau-volume-1/


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Cumberland Land
From: GUEST,#
Date: 24 Mar 16 - 04:54 PM

If you highlight that and do a Google search
https://books.google.ca/books?id=Urlx0G99H7gC&pg=PA280&lpg=PA280&dq=%22Old+Cumberland+Land%22+(also+known+as+%22The+Indian+Tribes+of+Tennessee%22)&source=bl&ots=eW-9UOX-Av&sig=oY4P1z8WHBt_2oy62Im6HgFWUYA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwig7ZifkdrLAhULMj4KHUqrCzoQ6AEIKTAC#v=onepage&q=%22Old%20Cumberland%20Land%22%20(also%20known%20as%20%22The%20Indian%20Tribes%20of%20Tennessee%22)&f=false

it will take you to abook entitled 'Rural Life and Culture in the Upper Cumberland.' Look at pp 280-1.

Jim Dixon on 30 Oct 09 - 08:42 AM posted the lyrics that are there, but some of the other info might be of use.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Old Cumberland Land
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Sep 17 - 08:16 AM

The Stewart County (TN) Archives has a sheet with similar lyrics, found tucked inside an 1847 court case and written in the hand of court clerk Zachariah T. Shemwell. The Archives consulted the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University, who could find no earlier printed copy of the lyrics. The sheet is titled "A Song Ballad Written in 1847."

A Song Ballad Written in 1847

When I parted away from you
In sorrow, grief and trouble too
You gave to me your parting hand
And you wished me safe to the Cumberland

Then on our journey we did stear
Over high hills and rivers clear
To a desert wild and barren land
We've made our way to the Cumberland

When we came over the ice and snow
It rained, it hailed and the wind did blow
And some of us did weep and cry
Saying now with cold we all shall die

But bless the Lord, his help we found
We landed here both safe and sound
To a wholesome place and virtuous soil
Here's milk, here's corn, both wine and oil

I've got no news to write to you
Preaching seems dull and religion low
But we are here in peace and like to be
With the Indian tribes on the Tennessee

Ten thousand of their graves we've found
With Free Masons works built up around
Which makes me think some Christian race
In the days of old possessed this place

My love to you I will unfold
My love is like a ring of gold
It's pure, it's round, it has no end
So is my love to you, my friend


Contact: stewartcountyarchives@yahoo.com


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