Folk Songs from the Southern Highlands - online songbook

Southern Appalachians songs with lyrics, commentary & some sheet music.

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We tried to find out something of their family history and from whom they learned their songs. It is almost impossible, from the piecemeal and imperfect information obtained, to give anything like an accurate account of the antecedents of this family of singers. They always spoke very fondly of Granddaddy Hicks who was "Uncle" Sam's grandfather on his mother's side and with whom he lived as a child. It is interesting to note that Sam and Polly are step-brother and step-sister and that they married at the ages of seventeen and twelve respectively, so Granddaddy Hicks was really granddaddy to both, but that is a story to tell later. Sam stated that Granddaddy Hicks came to Cade's Cove from Watauga County, North Carolina. Sam who was only a few years old and his mother accompanied his grandfather. The other grandchildren must have been left in Watauga County as Sam says he has many relatives there and insists that his brother, Andy, still lives near Brushy Creek on Beech Mountain, though our efforts to locate any near relatives have been unsuccessful.
The interesting thing to determine is whether they originally emigrated from England or Ireland. They hold to the statement that Granddaddy Hicks came from England when he was four years old, but "Aunt" Polly says that she is sure that there is Irish in Sam's blood, because "he knows lots of funny stories and has red hair". John C. Campbell in his exhaustive and excellement work, The Southern Highlander and Hn Homeland, bears out this statement in his general comment in regard to the racial descent of these early settlers. He says: "That the Watauga colonists were Scotch-Irish has been generally accepted, and in view of the fact that the areas from which they came was largely occupied by this race, the belief seems justified."13
While we have this somewhat indefinite information for the maternal side, it seems that the Harmons may have come from Germany for they tell the following interesting story of the first Harmon of their family: A Harmon married an English woman and emigrated from Germany to America. They established a home in Watauga County, North Carolina, and there had a family. One day they sent one of their sons to a neighbor, several miles distant, to borrow some needed article. In the meantime a cloudburst came and played havoc along the river where the Harmons lived. The home and all the family were destroyed. The boy, who had been sent away, was the only one that escaped. His name was Wilder Harmon. Tradition has it
13 John C Campbell. The Southern Highlander and Hts Homeland, Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 1921, p. 59.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III