Blue Juniata, The
DESCRIPTION: "Wild roved an Indian girl, bright Alfarata, Where sweeps the water of the blue Juniata." She lives free in the forest, praising her gentle lover. But now "Fleeting years have borne away the voice of Alfarata; Still sweeps the river of blue Juniata."
AUTHOR: Marion Sullivan Dix
EARLIEST DATE: 1844 (sheet music)
KEYWORDS: Indians(Am.) love river
FOUND IN: US(MW,Ro,So)
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Hudson 83, pp. 210-211, "The Blue Juniata" (1 text)
Stout 96, pp. 121-122, "Waters of Blue Juniata" (2 fragments)
Hubbard, #72, "Bright Alfaretta" (1 text)
Spaeth-WeepMore, pp. 98-99, "The Blue Juniata" (1 text, 1 tune)
WolfAmericanSongSheets, #1042, p. 71, "The Indian Girl, or Bright Alfarata" (1 reference)
ADDITIONAL: Harry Dichter and Elliott Shapiro, _Early American Sheet Music: Its Lure and Its Lore, 1768-1889_, R. R. Bowker, 1941, p. 74, describes the original sheet music
Four Songs Within a Song ("Gay is our college life, With its fun and study") (by L. D. Pomeroy, [class of 18]68) (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 14)
NOTES [491 words]: Laws condemns this as a mere "ballad-like piece," but it strikes me as very effective, as well as unusually sympathetic to Native Americans (though the girl's name is assuredly fake). Quite surprising for a piece composed in 1844 (see Spaeth, A History of Popular Music in America, p. 101).
According to Finson, pp. 260-261 n. 21, the first edition of this "lists Edward L. White as arranger, that is to say, he probably provided the 'symphonies' and accompaniments for piano. Little is known of [author Marion Dix] sullivan, save that she marries J. W. Sullivan in Boston during 1825."
Laura Ingalls Wilder quotes an unusually large excerpt of this in Little House on the Prairie (chapter 18, "The Tall Indian"). However, this particular section of the "Little House" books is of very dubious historical value -- the Ingalls family, although they did spend time in Kansas, did it very early in their careers; they moved to Kansas when Laura was only a year and a half old (Zochert, p. 22).
The sources I've consulted don't even explain why Wilder wrote Little House on the Prairie -- in her original non-fictional memoir, Pioneer Girl, she said very little about her early years (Hill, p. 7). Miller, pp. 205-207, cites family references to Little House on the Prairie as the "Indian Juvenile' -- but that doesn't explain it. All Hill can suggest (p. 8) is that Wilder, after finishing Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy, was trying to give her fictional series a clear forward motion. But, of course, the family's peregrinations were not always westward: They went west from Wisconsin before Laura was old enough to remember, then headed back east. It would have been much more logical to proceed from Little House in the Big Woods, which could be based on her *second* stay in Wisconsin, to On the Banks of Plum Creek
The bottom line is that *nothing* in Little House on the Prairie can be treated as true autobiography, since it portrays Laura as a young but conscious girl, not a toddler. We're told that Laura heard about the time in Kansas from Ma and Pa and Mary Ingalls -- but, by the time Little House on the Prairie was written (finished early 1934, according to Miller, p. 205), all three of them were dead (Charles Ingalls in 1902, Caroline Quiner Ingalls in 1924, Mary Ingalls in 1928; Zochert, pp. 221-222).
For the later "Little House" books, Laura could consult her sister Carrie, and for the very late books, also her sister Grace and her husband Almanzo Wilder, but Little House on the Prairie is nothing but a memory of others' memories. And Laura had left South Dakota in the 1890s, so those memories of memories were mostly more than forty years old.
All that is to say that I really don't trust Little House on the Prairie as an indication of the popularity of this song in 1868-1869. The flip side is, it is quite clear that Laura Ingalls Wilder knew the song in the 1930s at least. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
- Finson: Jon W. Finson, The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song, Oxford University Press, 1994
- Hill: Pamela Smith Hill, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life, South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2007
- Miller: John E. Miller, Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend, University of Missouri Press, 1998
- Zochert: Donald Zochert, Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1976 (I use the 1977 Avon paperback edition)
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