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JOE BOWERS*
Many years ago a correspondent from Idaho sent in a song called "Joe Bowers," which he said he had heard sung by a thousand miners after a hard day's work, as they loitered about the mouth of a mine before separating for the night. In 1912 I read this ballad at a smoker of the Modern Language Association at Cornell University presided over by Professor Olmsted, now of the University of Minnesota. Later Cony Sturgis came to me and said that he had seen the same song written on the walls of an old tavern not many miles from Ithaca, Since that time I have discovered that "Joe Bowers" was one of the popular songs among the Confederate soldiers of the Civil War. I have run upon men who knew it in Wyoming, in Texas, and in other Western and Southern states.
Its author, according to Judge T. J. C. Flagg, writing in the Pike County, Missouri, News> June 27, 1899, was a Pennsylvanian named Johnson, a song writer and comic singer. The song is to be found in the second edition of Johnson's Original Comic Songs, San Francisco, 1860. He was a famous performer and comic singer in the low theaters and "dance houses" of the early days, but finally lost his reason and ended his days in a lunatic asylum.
The St. Louis Republic of May 27, 1900, tells us that there was a Joe Bowers and he did have a brother Ike, a sweetheart named Sally, and he joined the Argonauts and went gold-hunting in California. Joe was born on Salt River, Pike County, Missouri, in 1829.
On the long overland way out to California as a bull driver, Joe had a lot of time to think of Sally. He told his troubles to some of his friends. According to one account his fellow traveller, Frank W.
•Words from Johnson's Original Comic Songs, San Francisco, 1860. Tune from J- H. Cox's BaU lads of the South (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press).
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III