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Lyr Req/Add: Nellie Cropsy / Nell Cropsey

Related thread:
Lyr Add: She Never Blamed Him, Never (4)

Joe Offer 15 Sep 04 - 03:52 AM
Joybell 15 Sep 04 - 08:59 PM
Joybell 15 Sep 04 - 09:00 PM
Snuffy 29 Aug 06 - 11:40 AM
GUEST,Andy in VT 21 Mar 10 - 10:16 AM
Joe Offer 21 Mar 10 - 10:28 AM
GUEST,Andy in VT 21 Mar 10 - 11:02 AM
Joe Offer 21 Mar 10 - 11:33 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Mar 10 - 04:54 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Mar 10 - 05:24 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Mar 10 - 06:09 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Mar 10 - 02:13 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 Mar 10 - 04:26 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: NELLIE CROPSEY (from McNeil)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Sep 04 - 03:52 AM

Nothing like a good murder ballad to brighten up the day. This ones from McNeil, Southern Folk Ballads.


On the twentieth of November,
A day we all remember well,
A handsome girl was coldly murdered,
Of her story I will tell.

Girls, I pray you all take warning,
Be careful how you trust a man,
For they will pretend they love you,
Then will kill you if they can.

She had scarce passed sixteen summers,
With eyes of blue and sunny curls,
Perfect were each handsome feature,
With red lips shutting over pearls.

One night the lover called to see her,
But they hardly spoke a word,
For they'd had a lover's quarrel,
So the neighbors all had heard.

Three months later, her dear mother,
Glimpsed a speck out on the river,
Oh 'tis my dear Nell I know,
For my dream has told me so.

Soon they brought the body homeward,
Oh how sad it was to see,
Father, mother, sisters, brothers,
Round her bowed upon their knees.

Just behind them stood the lover,
With his cold and hateful smile,
Making light of the dear parents,
Weeping for the darling child.

We all think that Nell's an angel,
Shining brightly as the stars,
As for Jim, the jealous lover
Peeps behind prison bars.

Young man, I pray you to take warning
Be careful what you do and say,
Remember life is very short,
And there's a judgment day.

The book of life it will be brought,
The Judge he will unfold,
And everything that you have done,
Is there wrote down in gold.

Collected by Lucy Maria Cobb from Mrs. Bessie Wescott Midgett, Manteo, North Carolina, May 1927.

McNeil says that Lucy Cobb contends that the song was written by Bessie Wescott Midgett in about 1905. Nellie Cropsey was murdered in 1901. The prime suspect was her sweetheart, Jim Wilcox.

McNeil does not include a tune in his book He suggests "The Lexington Miller" may be the tune Midgett used.

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry for this song:

    Nell Cropsey (I)

    DESCRIPTION: One night Nell's former lover Jim (Wilcox) calls on her. She disappears for three months, then her mother sees her body on the river. Her lover winds up in prison
    AUTHOR: credited to Bessie Wescott Midgett
    EARLIEST DATE: 1912 (Chappell)
    KEYWORDS: murder
    1901 - Murder of Ella Maude "Nellie" Cropsey, presumably by her former lover Jim Wilcox
    REFERENCES (3 citations):
    BrownII 307 "Nellie Cropsey" (2 texts)
    Chappell-FSRA 61, "Nell Cropsey, I" (1 text)
    McNeil-SFB2, pp. 82-84, "Nellie Cropsey" (1 text)

    ST MN2082 (Partial)
    Roud #4117
    "cf. The Jealous Lover (Florella, Floella) (Pearl Bryan II) (Nell Cropsey II)" [Laws F1]
    cf. "Nell Cropsey (III -- Swift Flowing River)"
    Notes: This song is item dF45 in Laws's Appendix II, but should certainly have been listed higher; he did not know the Brown version.
    There are extensive historical notes in Brown, which concur with the song in saying that she was very pretty but list her age as 19, not 16 as in the text of the song.
    Chappell has four songs associated by title with Nellie Cropsey, but only two (I and IV) mention her name: This one and the Nell Cropsey subfamily of "The Jealous Lover."
    To tell this from the Jealous Lover version, consider this first verse:
    On the twentieth of November,
    A day we all remember well,
    When a handsome girl was murdered,
    Of her story I will tell. - RBW
    File: MN2082

    Jealous Lover (I), The (Florella, Floella) (Pearl Bryan II) (Nell Cropsey II) [Laws F1A, B, C]

    DESCRIPTION: The jealous lover lures (Florella/Pearl Bryan) into the woods with the promise that they will discuss wedding plans. Once there, he stabs her. When captured, he is imprisoned for life
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE: 1903 (Belden)
    KEYWORDS: murder prison jealousy death lover
    Feb 1, 1896 - Discovery of the headless body of Pearl Bryan, killed along with her unborn child by Scott Jackson and Alonzo Walling, near Fort Thomas, Kentucky
    1901 - Murder of Ella Maude "Nellie" Cropsey, presumably by her former lover Jim Wilcox
    FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,Ro,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont)
    REFERENCES (31 citations):
    Laws F1, "The Jealous Lover (Florella, Floella) (Pearl Bryan II) (Nell Cropsey II)"
    Belden, pp. 324-330, "Florella (The Jealous Love)" (2 full texts plus 7 fragments which may be this piece and references to 9 others, 2 tunes)
    Randolph 138, "The Jealous Lover" (7 texts plus 3 excerpts, 4 tunes)
    Randolph/Cohen, pp. 158-161, "The Jealous Lover" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 138A)
    Eddy 104, "The Murdered Girl" (8 texts, 2 tunes; the D and E texts apparently belong here)
    Gardner/Chickering 21, "The Jealous Lover" (1 text plus an excerpts and mention of 2 more, 1 tune)
    Creighton-NovaScotia 146, "Sweet Fair Ella" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Manny/Wilson 67, "Fair Florella" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Doerflinger, pp. 287-288, "The Jealous Lover" (1 text, 1 tune)
    BrownII 250, "Florella (The Jealous Lover)" (5 texts plus 7 excerpts, 2 framents, and mention of 9 more; Laws places the "A", "B", "C" (apparently), "H," and "L" texts with F1A and "U" with F1B)
    Chappell-FSRA 64, "Nell Cropsey, IV" (1 text plus 2 fradments, 2 tunes, apparently a local adaption to the Nell Cropsey story, for which see Nell Cropsey (I); Chappell's seem to be the only known versions of this adaption)
    Fuson, pp. 65-66, "Edward" (1 text, probably this although it has at least hints of the "Willow Garden" versions of "Rose Connolly")
    Cambiaire, p. 109, "Pearl Bryant" (1 short text, probably this though it is not long enough to be certain)
    MHenry-Appalachians, p. 251, "Fair Ellen" (1 fragment, probably of this family though it's too short to tell)
    Brewster 46, "Florella" (3 texts plus mention of 3 more, all of the F1A type though Laws does not list them); 61, "Pearl Bryan" (3 texts plus an excerpt and mention of 3 more; 1 tune; the "C" text is this piece (of the F1B group) while "A" and "B" are Laws F2)
    Flanders/Brown, pp. 59-60, "The Fair Flo-ella" (1 text)
    Greenleaf/Mansfield 180, "Florella" (1 text)
    Peacock, pp. 632-633, "Sweet Florella" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Burt, p. 31, "(Pearl Bryan)" (1 stanza)
    Leach, pp. 787-789, "Fair Florella or The Jealous Lover" (2 texts)
    McNeil-SFB2, pp. 85-87, "Pearl Bryan" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Friedman, p. 203, "The Jealous Lover" (1 text)
    Combs/Wilgus 63D, pp. 174-175, "Pearl Bryan" (1 text)
    Ritchie-SingFam, pp. 137-138, "[Fair Ellen]" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Abrahams/Foss, pp. 29-31, "Fair Florella/Pearl Bryan" (1 text plus a fragment, 1 tune)
    LPound-ABS, 43, pp. 101-102, "The Jealous Lover"; pp. 102-103, "The Weeping Willow" (2 texts, of which the first is "The Jealous Lover (II)" but the second could well be this)
    JHCox 38, "The Jealous Lover" (5 texts plus mentions of three more; of these, Laws identifies D and E as this song, belonging to the Pearl Bryan group)
    JHCoxIIB, #5A-B, pp. 130-132, "The Jealous Lover," "Blue-Eyed Ellen" (1 text plus a fragment, 1 tune; the "A" fragment might be this or "The Jealous Lover (II)"; the "B" text is probably the latter)
    Darling-NAS, pp. 197-198, "The Jealous Lover" (1 text)
    ADDITIONAL: Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), p. 204, "(The Jealous Lover)" (1 text)

    Roud #500
    [Richard] Burnett & Leonard Rutherford, "Pearl Bryan" (Columbia 15113-D, 1927; rec. 1926; on BurnRuth01, KMM)
    Isabel Etheridge, "Nellie Cropsey" (on OBanks1)
    Eugene Jemison, "Fair Florilla" (on Jem01)
    David Miller, "Sweet Floetta" [Floella?] (Champion 15413, 1928/ Conqueror 7839, 1931)

    cf. "The Lily of the West"
    cf. "Pearl Bryan I" [Laws F2]
    cf. "Pearl Bryan III" [Laws F3]
    cf. "Pearl Bryan IV"
    cf. "Nell Cropsey (I)" (subject of some versions) and references there
    cf. "The Jealous Lover (II)"
    The Philadelphia Lawyer (by Woody Guthrie) (File: Grnw283)
    [The Drew Murder] (Hudson, no number or title, pp. 233-234)
    The Lone, Lone Valley
    Down in a Lone Valley
    The Love Valley
    Notes: The antecedents and relationships of this ballad are immensely complex, and cannot be described here. There are many related pieces.
    There is some debate over whether the ballad is in fact a "native American" piece. Although most of its present forms are uniquely American, Barry points to a connection with the British piece, "The Murder of Betty Smith." For this song, see e.g. the broadside NLScotland, L.C.Fol.73(126), "Murder of Betty Smith," Robert McIntosh (Glasgow), c.1850.
    (Belden also mentions a possible connection to T. H. Bayley's "She Never Blamed Him." This seems a stretch even in the versions where the girl forgives the murderer.)
    Given the number of similar songs, the reader is advised to check references under Laws F2, Laws F3, "The Jealous Lover II," etc.
    Fuller details on the story of Pearl Bryan may be found in the entry on Pearl Bryan (I) [Laws F2].
    Laws breaks this ballad up into three subgroups. F1A is "The Jealous Lover" (Florella, Floella, Blue-Eyed Ella, etc.); F1B is the Pearl Bryan group; F1C is the Nell Cropsey song. I decided to "lump" the songs, however, as they differ in very little except names.
    The "Pearl Bryan" versions of this song (Laws F1B) are told from other Pearl Bryan songs by a first verse similar to this:
    Way down in yonder valley
    There the violets fade and bloom,
    There lies our own Pearl Bryan
    In a cold and lonesome tomb. - RBW
    Peacock is another who believes "this is an American ballad freely based on an English broadside and a sentimental English song by T.H. Bayly called She Never Blamed Him [sic], written in the 1820's and widely popular during the American Civil War." You can read the lyrics of "She Never Blam'd Him, Never," by Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797-1829), on the Library of Congress American Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets site, digital id as203280. Judge the likelihood for yourself.
    Here's a description of "She Never Blam'd Him, Never": He visits and she receives him, vainly trying "to look the same." Though she was dying, only losing him made "her sweet voice ... faulter." She never blamed him for luring her "from the isle where she was born" into "the cold world's cruel scorn." He leaves and "she heard the bugle's sound... and strangers found her Cold and lifeless on the ground."
    In any case, T.H. Bayly's name has appeared in this index in connection with other songs [sometimes as Bayley]. What kind of poet writes songs that do pass into tradition? You can find out more about him and his songs in Andrew Lang's Essays in Little - BS
    File: LF01

    Nell Cropsey (III -- Swift Flowing River)

    DESCRIPTION: "Oh, swift flowing river, A secret you hold, Way down in the depths Of the water so cold." The singer begs the river to tell its secret. A "fair girl" is missing, "stolen away in the night." "The secret, Oh River, You surely must know."
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE: 1934 (Elizabeth City _Daily Advance_); reportedly collected 1902
    KEYWORDS: murder river
    1901 - Murder of Ella Maude "Nellie" Cropsey, presumably by her former lover Jim Wilcox
    REFERENCES (1 citation):
    Chappell-FSRA 62, "Nell Cropsey, II" (1 text)
    ST ChFRA062 (Partial)
    Roud #4117
    cf. "Nell Cropsey (I)" (subject of some versions) and references there
    Notes: Although Chappell lists this as a Nell Cropsey song, and the details (such few as the song contains) fit that case, Cropsey is not mentioned in the text; it might be about another murder.
    Roud lumps this with all the other Nell Cropsey songs, but it is clearly distinct. The real question is, Is it traditional? The only collection is Chappell's, from a printed source, allegedly based on a poem (song?) taken down around the time of the murder. - RBW
    File: ChFRA062

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

    The Ballad Index Copyright 2009 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.

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Subject: RE: Lyr: Nellie Cropsey (murder ballad)
From: Joybell
Date: 15 Sep 04 - 08:59 PM

A good one Joe, thanks. Would seem to work with: "Life Presents a Dismal Picture", or even the Austrian Hymn (Deutschland Ueber Alles)but something cheery and light might be the go.
Wait a minute!!
Jamaica Farewell!
Have to fiddle with the stresses and phrasing a bit, but it works.
Bye for now. I'm off to give it a go. Joy

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Subject: RE: Lyr: Nellie Cropsey (murder ballad)
From: Joybell
Date: 15 Sep 04 - 09:00 PM

Forgot to mention. Forget the chorus though! Joy

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nellie Cropsey (murder ballad)
From: Snuffy
Date: 29 Aug 06 - 11:40 AM

How about "Three Rogues of Lynn" for a jolly tune, Joy?

On the twentieth of November,
A day we all remember well,
A handsome girl was coldly murdered,
Of her story I will tell.
Of her story I will tell.
Of her story I will tell.
A handsome girl was coldly murdered,
Of her story I will tell.

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Subject: Nellie Cropsy?
From: GUEST,Andy in VT
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 10:16 AM

Does anyone have lyrics for the ballad, Nellie Cropsy, recorded about 50 years ago by Harry and Jeannie West? It begins, "Down in Elizabeth City where violets bloom and fade.."

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Subject: lyr req: Nell Cropsey
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 10:28 AM

Looks like I posted the song under another name a while back, so I combined the two threads.
JAFL says the song is also known as "Florella" (and a long list of other names).
I'm at Disneyland and can't access my songbooks. Perhaps somebody else can help you if you need other versions. If not, remind me next week. Note the spelling of the name.

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Subject: RE: req/ADD: Nellie Cropsy / Nell Cropsey
From: GUEST,Andy in VT
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 11:02 AM

Thanks very much. Not quite the same as the ballad I partly remember, but definitely related.    Andy

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Subject: RE: req/ADD: Nellie Cropsy / Nell Cropsey
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 11:33 AM

There's lots more research to be done on this song, Andy. Keep an eye on it. You can come back to this thread by putting Nell in the Filter on the Forum Menu page, and set the age back a bit.

And if you post a "refresh" message in this thread a week from now, I'll see what I have at home. I have a number of recordings by Harry and Jeannie West, but not on this computer.

I'm sure Q or Jim Dixon will beat me to it and post a number of versions.


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Subject: Lyr. Add: FLORELLA (The Jealous Lover)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 04:54 PM

Lyr. Add: Florella (The Jealous Lover)
From the "fiddler Waters," 1903, MO)

One evening when the moon shone brightly
There fell a gentle dew,
When out of a cottage
A jealous lover drew.
Says he to fair young Ellen:
'Down on the sparkling brook
We'll wait and watch and wonder
Upon our wedding day.'
'O Edward, I am weary,
I do not wish to roam,
For roaming seems so dreary;
Please, Edward, take me home.
'Hard-hearted cruel monster,
Don't draw that knife on me,
For you know not half the danger
May happen unto thee.'
But as she knelt before him
She begged him spare her life;
But in this fair young bosom
He splunged a daggered knife.
'O Edward, I'll forgive thee
Though this be my last breath.
I never was deceiving,
Though I close my eyes in death,'
He smiled not when he pressed her
To his hard and cruel heart;
He smiled not when he kissed her-
'But you and I must part.'
She died not broken-hearted,
Sickness, pain nor woe;
But soon in death she parted
From all she loved below.
Down yander beneath the valley,
Where the violets are in bloom,
There sleeps a fair young damsel,
All silent in the tomb.

A. pp. 325-326, Belden, H. M. Editor, 1940, Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, Univ. Missouri Studies Vol. XV, No. 1, Univ. Missouri Press.

Perhaps more than one source for this complex of murder ballads; surprised that they have not been posted before.

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Subject: Lyr Add: LEMO (Florella complex)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 05:24 PM

Belden, in his versions of Florella, gives two melodies. One, from the singing (1912) of Mrs. Chandler of ... St. Francis County, who had learned it as a child some fifty years before....
Belden, in notes, says, "Just what relation our song bears to T. H. Bayly's She Never Blamed Him, which was sufficiently in vogue in Civil War times to be copied into a manuscript ballad-book in Arkansas, is not clear;" a footnote notes that the lines from Bayly's song do not appear in texts of Florella from New England and the British provinces.

Lyr. Add: Lemo
Florella complex, coll. 1920, Kansas.

Down in the lonely valley
Where the violets used to bloom
There sleeps one gentle Lemo
Now silent in the tomb.
She died not broken-hearted,
Nor of sickness did she fall,
But in a moment parted
From the one who was dearer than all.
'Twas on a summer's evening,
As gently fell the dew,
Down to a lonely cottage
A jealous lover flew.
'Come, Lemo, let us wander
Down by the meadows gay;
Come, Lemo, let us ponder
Upon our wedding day.'
O Edward, I am tired,
I do not wish to roam;
For roaming is so dreary.
I pray you, take me home.'
Up stepped this jealous lover
And made one solemn vow;
'No hand on earth can save you,
For I shall slay you now.'
Down on her knees before him
She humbly begged for life.
But into her snowy bosom
He plunged the fatal knife.
'Oh Edward, I forgive you,
Although this be my last breath,
For I never have deceived you.'
Then she closed her eyes in death.
He sighed not when he pressed her
To his young but cruel heart.
He sighed not when he kissed her,
Though he knew that they must part.

Belden, same source as above, pp. 329-330, no tune.

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Subject: RE: req/ADD: Nellie Cropsy / Nell Cropsey
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 06:09 PM

Lyrics to She Never Blamed Him, Never, suggested as the original source by a reference in Belden, in thread 128252: She Never Blamed Him, Never

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Subject: Lyr Add: BLUE-EYED ELLA
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 02:13 PM

In 1912, in JAFL, Phillips Barry asked for information on this song complex, with names Jealous Lover, Florilla, Emma, Nellie, Lena, Aurilla, Ella, Abie, Summers, Weeping Willows, and said "this ballad, of unknown authorship, is current from Nova Scotia westward and southwardward through the States, New England to Kentucky and westward to Missouri. Some texts contain stanzas derived from a song "She Never Blamed Him," by Thomas A. Bayly."

Other names applied to the song have since been found, and some versions incorporate parts of Pearl Bryan.

Blue-Eyed Ella, in Cox, begins with a verse similar to Lemo, posted above.

Way down in yonder valley, where the early violets bloom,
There lies my blue-eyed Ella, so silent in the tomb.
She died not broken-hearted, nor sickness caused her death;
But she was cruelly murdered by one that she loved best.

In verse four, 'Edward' speaks of going to some foreign country-

On bended knees before him, she pleaded for her life;
But into her lily-white bosom he plunged the fatal knife.
"Your parents must forgive me for the crime I now have done;
And I'll go into some foreign country and never more return."

West Virginia, obtained 1915, but from a copy, so date not known.
J. H. Cox, editor, 1925 (Dover ed. 1967), Folk-Songs of the South, no. 38, The Jealous Lover, pp. 197-203.

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Subject: RE: req/ADD: Nellie Cropsy / Nell Cropsey
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 04:26 PM

Phillips Barry had this to say about Fair Florella and the group of songs in which the victim's name is Pearl Bryan:

"Though long supposed to have originated in America, "Fair Florella" is based on an old-country original, a sordid tale of seduction, murder and punishment, bearing the title "Murder of Betsy Smith," published in the erly part of the nineteenth century, by J. Livsey, Manchester, England.
The stanzas from "The Murder of Betsy Smith," which have entered into the composition of "Fair Florella," are as follows:"

I only have the JSTOR first page, from American Speech, vol. III, No. 6, August 1928, pp. 441-447. It shows the first four stanzas.
[ The Murder of Betsy Smith]
On the nineteenth day of August, this young man did repair
Unto the town of Manchester, to meet his Betsy there:
Says "Betsy dear, come, let us walk, down in the flowery grove,
And there the secret of my heart, to you I will disclose."
But, O, this wicked young man, a knife he did provide,
And all unknown to his true love, concealed it by his side:
When to the fatal spot they came, he thus to her did say;
"All on this night, within this grove, I will your life betray."
On bended knees she then did fall, in sorrow and dispair:
And loud for mercy she did call: her cries did rend the air:
With clasped hands and uplift eyes, she cried, "O spare my life,
And I never will ask of you to make me your wedded wife."
O then this wicked young man said, "No mercy will I show,"
Then took the knife all from his side, and pierced her body thro'.
But she still smiling said to him, though trembling with fear,
"Oh, Thomas, Thomas, spare my life! think of your baby dear."

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