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THE ERIE CANAL
'Tifteen years on the Erie Canal, She aimed for Heaven but she went to Hell."
—Walter D. Edmonds, in Rome Haul.
The Introduction (page xxix) contains the story of how the first version of the Erie Canal ballad, as herein printed, was put together. The words demand music, and undoubtedly the song was sung. At one time the tune was recorded for me by a former towpath boy, William D. Totten of Seattle, Washington, though, unfortunately, on wax which has since crumbled. Twenty years was too long to wait. Recently I spent some time in Albany, Syracuse, and Buffalo in the eflFort to unearth the original melody. All the mule drivers are long gone, but the search did result in uncovering some scraps of old canal songs that seem to deserve perpetuation.
Canal-boat mule drivers (the towpath boys) sang for precisely the same reason that cowboys yodeled and sang when riding around the sleeping herds at night. The canal boats also moved on at night. The singers made music in order to keep awake and secure entertainment out of their monotonous duties. In Albany I found a complaint filed in 1835 against singing at night by canallers. Evidently the com-plainers lived near the banks of the canal.