'Twas on the Napanee
DESCRIPTION: A young man leaves his parents' home to become a raftsman; he is drowned while rafting saw logs. His parents and friends mourn
EARLIEST DATE: 1941 (Beck)
KEYWORDS: lumbering death mourning work logger
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Beck 54, "'Twas on the Napanee" (1 text)
cf. "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" [Laws C1] (plot)
cf. "The Death of Harry Bradford" [Laws C12] (plot, tune)
NOTES [309 words]: In the mid-nineteenth century, a young man named Anthony Barrett was killed on the Napanee river.
Beck states that this song seems to have been composed in Canada around 1860; it was collected from a Mrs. Barrett, of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan -- possibly a relative of the deceased? - PJS
It would be difficult to prove that Barrett was the subject of this song; he is never named. Beck's text (apparently the only one known) does not give a name. It merely says that the young man was from Bedford, that he was the youngest son of living parents, that he left home on May 24 of an unnamed year and died on June 2, and that the death took place on the Napanee.
The Napanee River, and the town of the same name, are on the north side of Lake Ontario, about a fifth of the way from Kingston to Toronto. There were lumber drives in that part of Ontario in the nineteenth century. Bedford, Ontario is a small town north of Kingston, a substantial distance away from Napanee; it appears that it is in good timber country. It is alsp possible that "Bedford" might be an error for, e.g., "Belleville," the next large town west of Napanee.
Although we cannot prove that Anthony Barrett is the man intended, it seems highly likely. Anthony Barrett was the great, great, great uncle of James Barrett, who wrote to me in August 2010 and informed me that "Anthony Barrett... died rafting logs on the Napanee River, June 2, 1880. Beck states that this song seems to have been composed in Canada around 1860; but it is actually 1880, and the reference indicates that it was collected from a Mrs. Barrett, of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan -- possibly a relative of the deceased. This Mrs. Barrett of Mount Pleasant would be Anthony Barrett's sister-in-law, Margaret Barrett, wife of Martin H. Barrett."
As "'Twas on the Napene," this song is item dC36 in Laws's Appendix II. - RBW
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