Mickey Free

DESCRIPTION: "I'm from the town of Banjor, down in the state of Maine, A native American Irishman That spakes the English plain." The singer arrives in Stilliwater and works in many logging camps (in Wisconsin). He considers taking up farming in Bashaw.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1965 (Dunn, _The St. Croix_, from an uncited source)
KEYWORDS: logger work travel farming
REFERENCES (1 citation):
ADDITIONAL: James Taylor Dunn, _The St. Croix: Midwest Border River_, reprint edition with new introduction published 1979 by the Minnesota Historical Society press, pp. 254-256, "Mickey Free" (1 text)
NOTES [402 words]: The only printed version of this seems to be Dunn's, and Dunn, unfortunately, gives very little information about this song; he says it "first made its appearance" in Taylors Falls (on the St. Croix) in 1878, and in the introduction to the revised 1979 edition of his book, says on p. xi that the song describes the life of Ed Hart. Since, however, Dunn gives no real biographical information about Hart, this is little help.
The song does seem a very Midwestern product. Other than Bangor, Maine, and Stillwater, Minnesota, every place mentioned is in northwestern Wisconsin. The spots mentioned are all in the region north of Hayward, south of Ashland, west of Spooner, and east of the St. Croix -- and all are small and require a very detailed map to locate.
Namekegon is a town and a river. The river flows through Hayward to join the St. Croix just north and east of the point where the St. Croix ceases to mark the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. Namekegon town is on Garden Lake about half way between Hayward and Ashland.
Clam Lake is a lake and down. The lake is near Siren, not far from the St. Croix, and is on the Clam River. Clam Lake the town is not on the Clam River; it is about ten miles ESE of Namekegon town.
The Yellow River (and Yellow Lake) are almost due north of Clam Lake the Lake, the lake being about five miles from the St. Croix town of Danbury.
Tototatic is a river that is a tributary of the Namekegon, and there is a Totogatic Lake north of Hayward.
Bashaw, where the singer expects to settle, is a very small town -- or perhaps "region" is the right word -- about five miles WNW of Shell Lake and not too far from the Yellow River. Since it is not very good farming country, I would suggest a slight possibility that this should be emended to Wabasha, Minnesota.
Overall, the plot of this song is pretty clear. The singer's story begins in 1853 in Stillwater. Stillwater -- founded in 1843 and incorporated in 1854 -- was in its early years a logging center and one of the chief towns of what was then Minnesota Territory. It was also the northernmost town on the St. Croix -- the only convenient way to reach the areas in Wisconsin mentioned in the song, especially in the early 1850s before the Soo Canal opened. The singer came from Maine to Minnesota in 1853, worked in the lumber camps for a couple of dozen years, and at the time the song ends is contemplating retirement. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.5
File: JTDST254

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