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seek recording: Death of Emma Hartsell/Heartsell


GUEST,Kate at Museum of the New South 29 Aug 12 - 02:24 PM
GUEST,Kate at Museum of the New South 29 Aug 12 - 02:26 PM
maeve 29 Aug 12 - 02:42 PM
maeve 30 Aug 12 - 12:35 PM
12-stringer 30 Aug 12 - 02:13 PM
Joe Offer 30 Aug 12 - 02:30 PM
Joe Offer 30 Aug 12 - 02:41 PM
open mike 30 Aug 12 - 06:05 PM
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Subject: Recording of Death of Emma Heartsell
From: GUEST,Kate at Museum of the New South
Date: 29 Aug 12 - 02:24 PM

Good afternoon all....
I am looking for a recording of the ballad "Death of Emma Heartsell". It was recorded I believe by JE Mainer, but I cannot turn up any copy of it. I would love to get a copy of any recording of this ballad.
Thanks you

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Subject: RE: Death of Emma Heartsell
From: GUEST,Kate at Museum of the New South
Date: 29 Aug 12 - 02:26 PM

please email me at

Thank you

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Subject: RE: Death of Emma Heartsell
From: maeve
Date: 29 Aug 12 - 02:42 PM

Dear Kate,

I'm sure someone here will be helpful.

In the meantime, you might have better luck searching under the title, "Death of Emma Hartsell", the spelling of the song here on Mudcat and in the related Digital Tradition, as well as various listings online.

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Subject: RE: Death of Emma Heartsell
From: maeve
Date: 30 Aug 12 - 12:35 PM

J.E Mainer's songbook is available right now via eBay.

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Subject: RE: Death of Emma Heartsell
From: 12-stringer
Date: 30 Aug 12 - 02:13 PM

For an LP dub of Mainer's Blue Jay recording of the song, go here and d/l the third album, "Precious Memories." It's a 37MB file and is still a live link. Allen has posted all, or nearly all, of J E's extensive 70s recordings, which now live only in the land of vinyl.
J E Mainer

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Subject: RE: seek recording: Death of Emma Hartsell/Heartsell
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Aug 12 - 02:30 PM

In the process of seeking a recording, we might as well find out what we can about the song. Here's the Traditional Ballad Index listing for the song:

Emma Hartsell [Laws F34]

DESCRIPTION: Emma Hartsell is found with her throat cut. Two blacks, Tom [Johnson] and Joe [Kiser], are accused of the crime and hanged from a dogwood tree. Even Joe's last request for a drink of water is refused
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1952 (Brown)
KEYWORDS: murder execution
May 30, 1898 - Rape and murder of Emma Hartsell. Joe Kiser and Tom Johnson are arrested, but -- despite protestations of innocence -- are lynched before they can be tried
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Laws F34, "Emma Hartsell"
BrownII 296, "Emma Hartsell" (1 text plus 1 excerpt and mention of 3 more)
BrownSchinhanIV 94, "Emma Hartsel" (1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS1, pp. 237-238, "Song of Emma Hartsell" (1 text)

Roud #2272
NOTES: Based on the notes in Brown, it appears that the facts in this particular case can never be known. The notes comment that racial hatred was at a high pitch due to attempts to give Blacks the vote in North Carolina.
The known facts are that Hartsell was raped, then killed by having her throat cut. Kiser came to town to report finding the body, and was arrested. Johnson was arrested soon after, on what basis it is not clear.
That night, a mob attacked the jail, seized the prisoners, and lynched them. The cynic in me suspects that the actual murderer was probably a leader of the lynch mob.
Joyce C. Preslar, a cousin of the Hartsell family, tells me that Hartsell "is buried at Poplar Tent Road Cemetary off of Highway 601 through Concord, relatively near the Charlotte Motor Speedway." - RBW
Last updated in version 2.7
File: LF34

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Bibliography
Go to the Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2012 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.

Roud Index Search

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Subject: RE: seek recording: Death of Emma Hartsell/Heartsell
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Aug 12 - 02:41 PM

Project Muse has an interesting piece on the song:

    Up Beat Down South: "The Death of Emma Hartsell"
    Bruce E. Baker
    From: Southern Cultures
    Volume 9, Number 1, Spring 2003
    pp. 82-91 | 10.1353/scu.2003.0001
    In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:
    Southern Cultures 9.1 (2003) 82-91

    "In eighteen-hundred and ninety-eight," as the song tells us, "Sweet Emma met with an awful fate." Sweet Emma was Emma Hartsell, the twelve-year-old daughter of a farmer in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, and the awful fate she met was murder. Just as awful, though, was the fate met by Tom Johnson and Joe Kizer a few hours later, hanged from a dogwood tree by a mob just outside of the town of Concord. Johnson and Kizer were black, Hartsell was white, and "The Death of Emma Hartsell" is a ballad that reminded everyone who heard it, mostly white folks, of just what that meant in 1898 in North Carolina.

    Lots of North Carolinians met awful fates in 1898. Tempers ran high. One-party rule had been upset for four years in North Carolina as Republicans joined forces with Populists in a fusion coalition that gained control first of the legislature and then of the governor's office. White Democrats decided to take back control. To do so, they had to convince the white farmers in the Populist party to break ranks with the Republicans, whose strength lay in the support of the vast majority of the state's black voters and a fair number of whites, especially in the mountains. The strategy Democratic leaders—especially Charles B. Aycock, Josephus Daniels, and Furnifold Simmons—hit upon was to inspire fear. To frighten African Americans away from the polls, they brought in Senator "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman from neighboring South Carolina to instruct local Democratic clubs on the finer points of terrorism. To keep whites in line, they whipped up racial fears and animosities that had briefly been submerged. Daniels's newspaper, the Raleigh News and Observer, manufactured and circulated stories of unspeakable outrages committed by black men on white women.

    It was in this climate that Emma Hartsell's parents went off to church one Sunday morning at the end of May. Emma stayed home to look after a younger sister who was ill. Her parents returned to find her dead on the kitchen floor. A search was made, and Johnson and Kizer were carried to the jail in Concord. Later that evening, a mob broke into jail, carried the men to Big Cold Water Hill outside of town, and dragged them up. No one was punished for the lynching. Soon afterwards, a woman named Mary Baker wrote a poem, ten verses that told the story of Emma and Tom and Joe and the mob. A little later, some singer picked up the poem, added a final verse, and set it to a tune used for "Barbara Allen." The song was widely known in the North Carolina Piedmont northeast of Charlotte. Folklorists collected it from schoolchildren in the 1920s, and the story, usually with the ballad, was a regular item in newspaper feature columns for decades.

    "The Death of Emma Hartsell"

    In eighteen hundred and ninety-eight,
    Sweet Emma met with an awful fate;
    'Twas on the holy Sabbath day
    When her sweet life was snatched away.
    It set my brain all in a whirl
    To think of that poor little girl,
    Who rose that morning fair and bright,
    And before five was a mangled sight.

    It caused many a heart to bleed
    To think and hear of such deed.
    Her friends, they shed many a tear.
    Her throat was cut from ear to ear.

    Just as the wind did cease to blow,
    They caught the men, 'twas Tom and Joe.
    The sheriff he drove in such a dash
    The howling mob could scarcely pass.

    They got to town by half past seven.
    Their necks were broken before eleven.
    The people there were a sight to...

Bruce Baker also wrote an article on the Emma Hartsell story for a book titled Under Sentence of Death: Lynching in the South, edited by W. Fitzhugh Brundage.

You'll find a somewhat longer version of Bruce Baker's article here (click) - I'd recommend it. It's also available in PDF form here (click).

Note this excerpt:
    One thing that made Emma Hartsell easier to track down than J. V. Johnson was that the story and the ballad had never dropped out of local tradition. One person who sang "The Death of Emma Hartsell" for quite a while was hillbilly music star J. E. Mainer. Born just a few months after Hartsell's death. Mainer had left the mountains and come down to work in the textile mills of Concord in 1922. A fiddler and singer, Mainer soon assembled a band in the rich musical ferment of the textile world, and Mainer’s Mountaineers began playing shows and making records. By the mid-1960s, country music had left stringbands like Mainer’s behind, but a new generation of fans was rediscovering the music. Mainer and the latest incarnation of his band continued to perform around Concord and make records. In the mid-1960s. Mainer became the first person to record “The Death of Emma Hartsell.” About 1967. he published a songbook with some of his better known songs. Included was “Song of Emma Hartsell." which Mainer claimed to have written in 1966. Anyone ordering the record would receive along with it a copy of the photograph that went along with the ballad: two young black men hanging from a tree.

A lot of J.E. Mainer's recordings have been reissued. I'm surprised this one does not seem to be available. Note that Mainer apparently called it "Song of Emma Hartsell." The melody was one of the many tunes used for "Barbara Allen."

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Subject: RE: Death of Emma Heartsell
From: open mike
Date: 30 Aug 12 - 06:05 PM

thanks for the links to hill billy music,Allen;s archives!

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