Ballads & Songs of Southern Michigan-songbook

A Collection of 200+ traditional songs & variations with commentaries including Lyrics & Sheet music

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6             Ballads and Songs of Michigan
Where everything like Jack's bean grows monstrous fast, they say,
And beats the rest all hollow in Michigania.
Come all ye Yankee farmer boys with metal hearts like mc
And elbow grease in plenty to bow the forest tree,
Come, buy a quarter section, and I'll be bound you'll say
This country takes the rag off, this Michigania *
Another historical element in the traditional songs of Michigan as well as in those of other parts of America is the democratic trend. Kings, queens, lords, ladies, and the court life of which they formed a part in the Old World songs have yielded their places in the New World to rich men and women, to adventurous sailors, soldiers, and farm lads; to forlorn and beautiful country girls whose lovers court them in humble settings. The old border ballads have been forgotten in songs about Jesse James, the Boston or the Detroit burglar, the county jail, and the prison laundry. The spirited ballads of the Robin Hood band in Merrie England have been sup­planted by those of the lumber camps, where the great American forests used to be and where the minstrel, instead of being the pic­turesque Allan-a-Dalc, was the camp cook, who sometimes received an extra wage for being the possessor of an agreeable tenor voice with which he could lead the singing of his fellows while he played an accompaniment on a dulcimer, a guitar, or a harmonica.
Indeed, it would be hard to overestimate the service of the lumber camps in Michigan in preserving and distributing all manner of folk music throughout the state. A brief description of these camps by one who has made a study of them runs as follows:
Into the woods flocked adventurers like bees into a hive. Many had seen service in the Civil War, and were drawn into the camps by their love of hardy out of-door, roving life with men. Many others were recent emigrants, and came eagerly to try the first chance that fortune offered in the new land of oppor­tunity. Some were natural "floaters" dominated entirely by an insatiable wander-lust. Occasionally one proved a fugitive from justice, and took lo the friendly shelter of the forest Almost every nationality was represented, with the Irish, the Scotch, the English, the German, and the Canadian French leading the lists. . . . After the evening meal, the men returned to their bunk shanty, tugged off their heavy wet German socks, hung them on the drying line over the stove, pulled on dry footwear, and sat down along the "deacon's seat" outside their bunks to "chaw tobaccer" and to swap yarns and .sing songs.0
Silas Farmer, The History of Detroit and Michigan (Detroit, 1884), pp. 335—33-» pnnts a text of a similar song, "Michigania." lie adds that many New England people were possessed of a fever to migrate to Michigan; and that this song, which was very popular, was largely influential in promoting emigration.
James Cloyd Bowman, "Life in the Michigan Woods," Michigan History Magazine, XXI (Lansing, Summer-Autumn, 193?), 275, 278. Sec also idem,

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