English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

122 Songs and Ballads, and 323 Tunes With Lyrics & sheet Music - online book

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iv                                Introduction
I spent nine weeks only in the mountains, accompanied throughout by Miss Maud Karpeles, who took down, usually in shorthand, the words of the songs we heard, while I noted the tunes. Mr. John C. Campbell, the agent for the Southern Highland Division of the Russell Sage Foun­dation, went with us on our first expedition and afterwards directed our journeyings and, in general, gave us the benefit of his very full knowledge of the country and its people. Our usual procedure was to stay at one or ether of the Presbyterian Missionary Settlements and to make it our centre for a week or ten days while we visited the singers who lived within a walking radius. In this way we successively visited White Rock, Allanstand, Alleghany and Carmen, Big Laurel and Hot Springs, in North Carolina, and thus succeeded in exploring the major portion of what is known as the Laurel Country. Afterwards we spent ten days at Rocky Fork, Tenn., and a similar period at Charlottesville, Va. I should add that had it not been for the generous hospitality extended to us by the heads of the Missionary Settlements at which we sojourned, it would have been quite impossible to prosecute our work.
The present inhabitants of the Laurel Country are the direct de­scendants of the original settlers who were emigrants from England and, I suspect, the lowlands of Scotland. I was able to ascertain with some degree of certainty that the settlement of this particular section began about three or four generations ago, i.e. in the latter part of the eight­eenth century or early years of the nineteenth. How many years prior to this the original emigration from England had taken place, I am unable to say; but it is fairly safe, I think, to conclude that the present-day residents of this section of the mountains are the de­scendants of those who left the shores of Britain some time in the eighteenth century.
The region is from its inaccessibility a very secluded one. There are but few roads—most of them little better than mountain tracks— and practically no railroads. Indeed, so remote and shut off from outside influence were, until quite recently, these sequestered mountain valleys that the inhabitants have for a hundred years or more been completely isolated and cut off from all traffic with the rest of the world. Their speech is English, not American, and, from the number of expressions they use which have long been obsolete elsewhere, and the old-fashioned way in which they pronounce many of their words, it is clear that they are talking the language of a past day, though exactly of what period I am not competent to decide. One peculiarity is perhaps worth the