White Pilgrim, The

DESCRIPTION: "I came to the tomb where the white pilgrim lay And pensively stood by his tomb, And in a low whisper I heard someone say How peaceful he sleeps there alone." The pilgrim's farewell to his family after his call, and his courage in death, are recalled
AUTHOR: Rev. Jonathan Ellis (1838) (Source: Thompson-Pioneer citing Wilgus)
EARLIEST DATE: 1850 (Sacred Harp)
KEYWORDS: religious death clergy disease request travel children family wife
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE,So)
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Thompson-Pioneer 74, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text)
Flanders-NewGreen, pp. 187-189, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownIII 542, "The Lone Pilgrim" (1 text plus a fragment)
BrownSchinhanV 542, "The Lone Pilgrim" (2 tunes plus a text excerpts)
Hudson 81, p. 209, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text)
Randolph 619, "The White Pilgrim" (2 short texts plus 2 excerpts, 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen, pp. 433-434, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 619)
AbrahamsRiddle, pp. 92-93, "The Lone Pilgrim" (1 text, 1 tune)
Boswell/Wolfe 104, pp. 158-159, "The White Pilgrom" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brewster 97, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text in two parts, the second tells the sorrows of the widow)
ADDITIONAL: Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), p. 205, "(The White Pilgrim)" (1 fragment)

Roud #2841
RECORDINGS:
Aunt Molly Jackson, "The Lone Pilgrim" (AAFS 2580 B, 1939)
Buell Kazee, "The White Pilgrim" [fragment] (on Kazee01)
Bascom Lamar Lunsford, "The Lone Pilgrim" (AAFS 1826 A3, 1935)
Doc Watson & Gaither Carlton, "The Lone Pilgrim" (on Watson01)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Braes of Balquidder" (most common tune)
cf. "Lily Dale" (alternate tune)
NOTES: It's not absolutely clear whether this was originally called "The White Pilgrim" or "The Lone Pilgrim"; Randolph's notes imply the latter, but the notes in Brown and Hudson seem to imply the reverse. The best argument is perhaps the text in Brewster, which is exremely full (seemingly a basic text and a sequel), which was learned probably around 1870 by O. F. Kirk; in that, it's called the "White Pilgrim."
At least two authors are listed: The Reverend Ellis (elsewhere called Elder John Ellis), mentioned above, fl. 1789; he is said to have set it to the tune Lily Dale; he's also listed as writing it in 1838. But the Sacred Harp (in which it's listed as "The Lone Pilgrim") credits it to B. F. White in 1850.
A reasonable supposition is that Ellis wrote the words and White set a new tune, but that's not proof of anything.
Randolph also mentions a clergyman called "The White Pilgrim" (after his clothing, not his skin color) who lived before the Civil War. Paul Stamler found a reference to a "White Pilgrim" named Joseph Thomas who lived around 1835. He is also mentioned in Boswell/Wolfe.
For complete arguments, see D. K. Wilgus's article "The White Pilgrim: Song, Fact, and Legend" -- an item I, unfortunately, have not seen. - RBW
It's clear that "The White Pilgrim" and "The Lone Pilgrim" are essentially the same song, although one is told in third person while the other is in first. - PJS
Last updated in version 4.1
File: R619

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.