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-APioneerSongster citing Wilgus)
EARLIEST DATE: 1850 (Sacred Harp)
KEYWORDS: religious death clergy disease request travel children family wife
REFERENCES (13 citations):
Thompson-APioneerSongster 74, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text)
Flanders/Ballard/Brown/Barry-NewGreenMountainSongster, pp. 187-189, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore3 542, "The Lone Pilgrim" (1 text plus a fragment)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore5 542, "The Lone Pilgrim" (2 tunes plus a text excerpts)
Hudson-FolksongsOfMississippi 81, p. 209, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text)
Randolph 619, "The White Pilgrim" (2 short texts plus 2 excerpts, 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, pp. 433-434, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 619)
Abrahams/Riddle-ASingerAndHerSongs, pp. 92-93, "The Lone Pilgrim" (1 text, 1 tune)
Boette-SingaHipsyDoodle, pp. 68-69, "The White Pilgrim" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Bush-FSofCentralWestVirginiaVol5, pp. 43-44, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wolfe/Boswell-FolkSongsOfMiddleTennessee 104, pp. 158-159, "The White Pilgrim" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brewster-BalladsAndSongsOfIndiana 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
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)

cf. "The Braes of Balquidder" (most common tune)
cf. "Lily Dale" (alternate tune)
NOTES [246 words]: 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-FolksongsOfMississippi seem to imply the reverse. The best argument is perhaps the text in Brewster-BalladsAndSongsOfIndiana, 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 Wolfe/Boswell-FolkSongsOfMiddleTennessee.
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 6.0
File: R619

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