Jam on Gerry's Rock, The [Laws C1]
DESCRIPTION: Young Monroe and his crew do not wish to work on Sunday, but when a log jam forms, they turn out. The jam breaks and all are cast into the water, with foreman Monroe being drowned. In some accounts, his sweetheart dies for love and is buried with him
EARLIEST DATE: 1904
KEYWORDS: logger death drowning lumbering
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,NW,SE) Britain(Scotland) Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont,Que)
REFERENCES (57 citations):
Laws C1, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock"
Greig-FolkSongInBuchan-FolkSongOfTheNorthEast #132, pp. 1-2, "The Lumbering Boys" (1 text)
Greig/Duncan2 230, "The Lumbering Boys" (3 texts, 2 tunes)
Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman, pp. 238-239, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock"; pp. 239-240, "The Jam on Jerry's Rock" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Shay-AmericanSeaSongsAndChanteys, pp. 111-113, "Young Monroe at Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Shay-BarroomBallads/PiousFriendsDrunkenCompanions, pp. 180-182, Young Monroe at Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 213, "The Jam at Gerry's Rock" (3 texts)
Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida, #52, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Moore/Moore-BalladsAndFolkSongsOfTheSouthwest 164, "The Jam at Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia, pp. 267-268, "The Jam at Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach-FolkBalladsSongsOfLowerLabradorCoast 102, "The Jam at Gerry's Rocks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lehr/Best-ComeAndIWillSingYou 57, "The Jam on Gary's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greenleaf/Mansfield-BalladsAndSeaSongsOfNewfoundland 163, "Young Monroe" (1 text, 1 tune)
Peacock, pp. 752-753, "The Jam at Garby's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mackenzie-BalladsAndSeaSongsFromNovaScotia 153, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (2 texts)
Ives-DriveDullCareAway-PrinceEdwardIsland, pp. 33-35,247, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ives-FolksongsOfNewBrunswick, pp. 26-29, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Manny/Wilson-SongsOfMiramichi 23, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke-LumberingSongsFromTheNorthernWoods #27, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Gray-SongsAndBalladsOfTheMaineLumberjacks, pp. 409, "The Jam at Gerry's Rock" (2 texts)
Beck-FolkloreOfMaine, pp. 260-262, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text)
Flanders/Ballard/Brown/Barry-NewGreenMountainSongster, pp. 44-46, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text plus an excerpt, 1 tune)
Cazden/Haufrecht/Studer-FolkSongsOfTheCatskills 4, "The Jam at Gerry's Rock" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
Bethke-AdirondackVoices, pp. 64-65, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Thompson-BodyBootsAndBritches-NewYorkStateFolktales, pp. 259-260, "Garian's Rock" (1 text)
Warner-TraditionalAmericanFolkSongsFromAnneAndFrankWarnerColl 16, "The Jam on Gerrion's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Beck-SongsOfTheMichiganLumberjacks 51, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Beck-TheyKnewPaulBunyan, pp. 126-130, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Beck-LoreOfTheLumberCamps 69, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Walton/Grimm-Windjammers-SongsOfTheGreatLakesSailors, pp. 152-153, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks (The Foreman John Monroe or Young Monroe)" (1 text)
Cox-FolkSongsSouth 51, "The Jam at Gerry's Rock" (2 texts plus mention of 2 more)
Cox/Hercog/Halpert/Boswell-WVirginia-B, #7, pp. 137-138, "The Jam at Gerry's Rock" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
Bush-FSofCentralWestVirginiaVol3, pp. 32-35, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Rickaby-BalladsAndSongsOfTheShantyBoy 2, "Gerry's Rocks" (2 texts plus 2 fragments, 4 tunes)
Rickaby/Dykstra/Leary-PineryBoys-SongsSongcatchingInLumberjackEra 2, "Gerry's Rocks" (2 texts plus 2 fragments, 4 tunes)
Dean-FlyingCloud, pp. 25-26, "Young Munroe" (1 text)
Peters-FolkSongsOutOfWisconsin, pp. 92-93, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gardner/Chickering-BalladsAndSongsOfSouthernMichigan 109, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text plus 2 excerpts and mention of 3 more, 2 tunes)
Linscott-FolkSongsOfOldNewEngland, pp. 217-220, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp. 771-773, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text)
Leach-HeritageBookOfBallads, pp. 164-166, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text)
Korson-PennsylvaniaSongsAndLegends, pp. 345-346, "The Log Jam at Hughey's Rock" (1 text)
Friedman-Viking/PenguinBookOfFolkBallads, p. 418, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/Johnston-FolkSongsOfCanada, pp. 78-79, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag, pp. 394-395, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scott-TheBalladOfAmerica, pp. 175-178, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 2 tunes)
Lomax/Lomax-FolkSongUSA 50, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. 448-450, "Gerry's Rocks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Botkin-TreasuryOfAmericanFolklore, pp. 847-849, "Gerry's Rocks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hodgart-FaberBookOfBallads, p. 240, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text)
Arnett-IHearAmericaSinging, pp. 122-123, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune)
Abrahams/Foss-AngloAmericanFolksongStyle, pp. 127-128, "The Jam on Jerry's Rocks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, pp. 176-178, "The Jam on Jerry's Rock" (1 text)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 101 "Jam on Jerry's Rocks" (1 text)
DT 600, JAMGERR1* JAMGERR2*
ADDITIONAL: Robert E. Gard and L. G. Sorden, _Wisconsin Lore: Antics and Anecdotes of Wisconsin People and Places_, Wisconsin House, 1962, p. 64, "The Log Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (1 text, presumably from Wisconsin although no source is listed)
James P. Leary, Compiler and Annotator, _Wisconsin Folklore_ University of Wisconsin Press, 2009, article "The Wanigan Songbook" by Isabel J. Ebert, pp. 206-208, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (1 text, 1 tune, sung by Emory DeNoyer)
Tom Brandon, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (on Lumber01)
Warde Ford, "Foreman Monroe / Young Monroe" (AFS 4214 A1, 1939; in AMMEM/Cowell)
Marie Hare, "The Jam on Gerry's Rock" (on MRMHare01)
Mike Kent, "Jam on Jerry's Rock" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
Nicolas Keough, "The Jam at Garby's Rock" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Jim Kirkpatrick, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (AFS, 1948; on LC56)
Bill McBride, "The Jam on Gerry's Rocks" (AFS, 1938; on LC56)
Pete Seeger, "Jam on Jerry's Rocks" (on PeteSeeger02, PeteSeegerCD01)
cf. "The Death of Harry Bradford" [Laws C12] (plot, tune)
cf. "'Twas on the Napanee" (plot)
cf. "The Loss of the Antelope" (tune)
cf. "The Wreck of the Asia" (tune)
To Cent Coal ("Oh, the bosses' tricks of '76 Have met with some success") (Foner, p. 197)
The Death of Young Monroe
Foreman Young Monroe
NOTES [1065 words]: Although this is probably the best-known of all lumbering ballads, its origins have never been traced. Various sources have been claimed:
* Gray-SongsAndBalladsOfTheMaineLumberjacks, pp. xv-xvi, met a Mr. Reid who claimed his brother was part of the crew involved in the accident. Gerry's Rock was on the Penobscot River in Maine, just above Mawatum. Reportedly jams were common there until the rock was blown up. A Mr. Perkins corroborated aspects of this story. They claimed the song was composed communally. Gray-SongsAndBalladsOfTheMaineLumberjacks does not give a date for his conversations, although both men apparently lived in the area of Orono, Maine.
The attribution to Maine is accepted by Gardner and Chickering; they do not report any Michigan tradition about the origin of the song. Cox also accepts this account, and has no local lore about its origin.
A problem with the Maine attributions is that both Gray-SongsAndBalladsOfTheMaineLumberjacks texts mention Monroe's love coming from Saginaw town. Googling, I managed to find one refernce to "Saginaw, Maine," but it is on no atlas or geographical dictionary. If there was such a place, it was no more than a flyspeck -- at most a village, never a town. Saginaw in Michigan is a town, a river, and a country.
* Linscott-FolkSongsOfOldNewEngland, p. 217, was told by Samuel Young of North Anson, Maine that Gerry's, or Gerrish, Rocks are on the Kennebec River above "The Forks." Linscott's text has "Sagmor Town," and suggests that the original may have been Saguenay, a river in Quebec. This is a reasonable conjecture but would be much better for evidence. We do find "Saguenay" in Leach-FolkBalladsSongsOfLowerLabradorCoast -- but the Leach text is not particularly good (it is short, has several obvious errors, and converts the girl usually known as "Clara" to "Mary"). Nor does Leach have a local story of how the song came about.
* Rickaby-BalladsAndSongsOfTheShantyBoy says that all his informants assigned it to Canada or (more commonly) Michigan -- although the name "Saginaw" could have influenced this.
* Fowke-LumberingSongsFromTheNorthernWoods, while declaring it the best-known lumbering song in Ontario, has no local traditions about it.
Korson, Pennsylvania Songs and Legends, pp. 345-346, has a version in which the site is Hughey's Rock who came from "Young Woman's Town," but there is no indication of where these might be.
* Eckstorm, after extensive research, concluded that there was a Gerry's Rock on the East Branch of the Penobscot River but could not link the event to an actual event. Her research is on pp. 193-194 of Eckstorm/Smyth and is summarized by Laws on pp. 59-60 of Native American Balladry. Eckstorm also contended that the author was a Canadian. On the latter point, I think her evidence clearly inadequate, although Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman seems to have accepted it.
Eckstorn and Barry would later mention a location near Loganville on the St. John in Nova Scotia.
* Beck and Holbrook (cited by Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman and Cazden/Haufrecht/Studer) claim a Garry's Rock on the Tittabawasee River -- which just happens to be a tributary of Michigan's Saginaw River; the nearest town is Edensville. Holbrook also reported a Garion's Rock in Ontario.
There seems to be a general sense that the song comes from the 1860s. This does not preclude a setting near Saginaw, Michigan. According to Bruce Catton, Michigan: A History, Norton, 1976, 1984, Saginaw was a well-established town by then. There was a trading post there before 1819 (Catton, p. 69), and fort was built there in 1822 (Catton, p. 72), although quickly abandoned. By the 1830s Saginaw was established (Catton, p. 113) and becoming a "sawmill principality" (Catton, p. 103). Catton also makes the interesting note on p. 103 that so many Maine loggers came to the Michigan woods that they named a town "Bangor," after the Maine settlement of the same name.
With respect to this dating, I would note that the song is often sung to a tune related to "Peter Amberley" [Laws C27], which is based on an event reliably dates to the early 1880s.
If you put a gun to my head and forced me to guess, the fact that the song is so common argues that it is early, and that argues for Maine or eastern Canada. This still leaves a problem with place names, though. The Penobscot and Kennebec both flow into the Atlantic. The Saguenay flows into the Saint Lawrence in Quebec, flowing almost due east from Lake Saint John to reach the larger river at Tadoussac. This is far to the north of the Maine rivers, on the wrong side of the Saint Lawrence, which at this point has entered its estuary and is over a dozen miles wide. A girl from the Saguenay is not at all likely to be alone on the Penobscot or the Kennebec. Thus it is impossible to make all the data fit a Maine setting.
It does seem possible that we might learn something from studying local variants. An obvious place to start is the name of the dead girl. Breaking this down by name and the state or province in which informants lived, I find the following (among others):
-- Clara Dennison: Dean-FlyingCloud (MN), Peters-FolkSongsOutOfWisconsin (WI), Rickaby-BalladsAndSongsOfTheShantyBoy A (MN)
-- Clara of Denville Town: Walton/Grimm-Windjammers-SongsOfTheGreatLakesSailors (MI?)
-- Clara Fenton: Fowke-LumberingSongsFromTheNorthernWoods B (Que)
-- Clara Vernon: Beck (ME?), Gray-SongsAndBalladsOfTheMaineLumberjacks A (ME?), Cox (WV)
-- Clara Verner: Fowke-LumberingSongsFromTheNorthernWoods A (Ont)
-- Clara [no last name]: Manny/Wilson-SongsOfMiramichi (N.B.), Gardner/Chickering-BalladsAndSongsOfSouthernMichigan (MI), Cazden/Haufrecht/Studer B (NY)
-- Clary Benson: Warner-TraditionalAmericanFolkSongsFromAnneAndFrankWarnerColl (NY)
-- Clary Wells: Cazden/Haufrecht/Studer A (NY)
-- Mary [no last name]: Leach (Labr)
-- Miss [no first name] Clark: Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag (OR? from James Stevens), Gray-SongsAndBalladsOfTheMaineLumberjacks B (ME?), Linscott (ME), Rickaby-BalladsAndSongsOfTheShantyBoy B (WI)
This is only a small sampling of versions, but there appears to be a "Clara Dennison" group from the Upper Midwest, and a "Clara Vernon" group from Maine. Further investigation, adding in perhaps the tune, and the name of the nearby town/river, might allow us to construct enough of a stemma to learn something. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.0
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 2021 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.