Appalachian Songcatcher: Olive Dame Campbell and the Scotch-Irish Ballad
Krim, Arthur, Journal of Cultural Geography
ABSTRACT. The discovery of old English song ballads in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky at the turn of the twentieth century has been the subject of fascination by geographers, folklorists and historians for the past century. The recent release of two dramatic films, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Touchstone Pictures) and Songcatcher (Rigas Entertainment) in 2001 has used the Appalachian ballad as a basis for the film narrative and revived interest in American folk music and the roots of the English ballad tradition in the Kentucky mountains.
While O Brother, Where Art Thou? has received national attention with Grammy awards (Gallo 2002), Songcatcher is the more authentic film for students of cultural geography. The film follows "Lillie Panleric," a New England schoolteacher in the Appalachians where she becomes fascinated with old English love ballads sung by mountain women (Holden 2001). The film is based loosely on the life of Olive Dame Campbell (1882-1954), a pioneering collector of old English ballads in the Appalachian Mountains between 1907 and 1915. Her life paralleled that of geographer Ellen Churchill Semple who was also in the Kentucky mountains during the same period with similar survey experience. It was Campbell who provided the original field notes to Cecil Sharp, the famed British folklorist, for their landmark English Folk Songs from Southern Appalachia (1917; Rehder 2004). Such direct field survey of Appalachian ballads can thus be documented from the Campbell collection as a case study in music geography of the old English ballad in America. As George Carney has proposed, the central questions of music geography are the origin, evolution and delimitation of regional musical styles, and their effect in the cultural landscape (Carney 2003, 3-4). In the case of the Appalachian ballad, the questions of how the old English folk ballads reached the mountains of eastern Kentucky and the source origins in the Scotch-Irish migrations of the Colonial period will be the focus of this case study. The Campbell ballad survey provides a working data base of some thirty-nine songs located by the place of origin and singer to map a music geography of the Appalachian ballad in the early twentieth century.
The discovery of old English ballads in the Appalachians was based on the work of Francis J. Child at Harvard College during the mid-nineteenth century. His fascination with preliterate medieval folk ballads stemmed from the popular interest in picturesque poetry of the Romantic movement (Alarik 2003, Bell 1995). Child's first work, English and Scottish Ballads was published in 1857-1860 where he cites examples as "Bonny Barbara Allen" from sources in Pepys' Diary of 1666 (Child 1860). Child compiled a more substantial edition during 1882-1898 for the five volume English and Scottish Popular Ballads (Child 1882-1898). This work codified the individual songs such as "Barbara Allen" (No. 84) and became the standard reference work of British ballad origins to the present (Child 2003). The Child collection was actually based on secondary sources, rather than direct fieldwork in Britain. Child assembled the ballads from sources forwarded to him at Harvard, such as Rev. Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, an Edinburgh collection published in 1765, where variants of the same ballad as "Barbara Allen" were noted by verse (Percy 1877 ; Filene 2000).
By 1900, the Child Ballads had become the accepted reference source for collectors in Britain and America. In the United States, ballad collecting was spurred by the creation of the American Folklore Society in 1888, with further compilation by Katherine Lee Bates at Wellesley College (Bates 1890), and direct fieldwork from living singers in New England, notably Phillips Barry in Maine as early as 1902 (Barry 1929). In the Southern Appalachians early ballad collecting was undertaken in the mountains of eastern Kentucky from the educated centers in Lexington and Louisville. A pioneering field survey had been made in 1899 by Ellen Churchill Semple, then a Vasser College graduate teaching geography in her native Louisville (Bushong 1984). Semple's field report was published in 1901 as "The Anglo-Saxon's of the Kentucky Mountains" where she observed that the area was the "mountain home where the ballad of 'Barbara Allen' was preserved by tradition." (Semple 1901, 599). Similarly in 1900, Katherine Pettit, likewise a Kentucky schoolteacher from Lexington, ventured into the eastern mountains to establish a settlement school modeled on Hull House in Chicago (Stoddart 2002). Pettit and her co-founder, May Stone of Louisville, created a summer camp for the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Knott County at the county seat of Hindman. Their efforts were realized in 1902 with the founding of the Hindman Settlement School, given fictional account by their colleague Lucy Furman in The Quare Women (1923). It was at this time that Pettit began collecting old-style love ballads she heard among the mountain women (Stoddart 2002). At the urging of George L. Kitteredge, of the American Folklore Society, Pettit submitted several Child ballads collected at the Hindman School from Josiah Combs, which were later published in the Journal of American Folklore (Kitteredge 1907; Wilgus 1967). Combs would himself become a major ballad collector, with A Syllabus of Kentucky Folk-Songs published at Transylvania University in Lexington (Shearin and Combs 1911; McLain 1958).
OLIVE DAME CAMPBELL
With the work of Katherine Pettit and Josiah Combs, the Hindman School became the primary center for early folklore collectors, attracting visitors to the rugged mountains of eastern Kentucky. Among these was Olive Dame Campbell who visited the school in December 1907, where she first heard a local student, Miss Ada B. Smith, sing "Barbara Allen" on the banjo (Campbell and Sharp 1917; Stoddart 2002). Although Campbell had known the song from her own childhood in Boston, the high model tone of the mountain singing style struck her unforgettably: "How far from that gentle tune was this-so-strange, so remote, so thrilling." (Yates 1999, 3). It was a seminal experience that took her back to a "dim distant past," which became the immediate inspiration for her folk song collecting (Stoddart 2002, 87).
Olive Ashford Dame was born in Medford, Massachusetts in 1882 and married John Campbell, a student at the local Andover Theological Seminary, in 1906 (Fig. 1). The young couple first moved to Demorest, Georgia in Habersham County in the foothills of the Appalachians in 1907, where John Campbell was appointed President of Piedmont College (Cantebury 1954). It was from here that the Campbells visited the Hindman School as a model for their own social service for the Russell Sage Foundation (Cantebury 1954; McLain 1958). The ballad singing experience from the Hindman School convinced Olive Dame Campbell to begin a systematic collection of old mountain ballads by noting down the melodies in "rough helps," then transcribing the tunes on a piano (Bidstrup 1954, 27; Yates 1999, 4). This was a significant innovation in ballad collecting, as neither Child, Barry, nor Katherine Pettit had made such musical notations for their collected ballad tunes, writing only the word verse variations (Fig. 2). In the Songcatcher film, however, Campbell's character uses a wax cylinder recording machine, a device actually employed by Francis Densmore in 1906 for the Smithsonian Institution in her transcription of Native American songs (Hickerson 1962). Such recording devices were not used in the Appalachian Mountains until after the First World War with the first commercial studios such as those in Atlanta, Asheville, North Carolina and Bristol, Tennessee (Malone 1968).
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Over the next eight years, from 1907 through 1915, Olive Dame Campbell collected over seventy old-style ballads from her Appalachian Mountain tours with her husband (Strangeways and Karpeles 1933). The social survey work was prepared by John C. Campbell for the Russell Sage Foundation and published after his death in 1919 as The Southern Highlander and His Homeland (Campbell 1921; Rehder 2004). This insightful work was preceded by the ballad survey of Olive Dame Campbell with Cecil Sharp in English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (Campbell and Sharp 1917), the basis of the Songcatcher film script. In 1915 Olive Dame Campbell met Cecil Sharp when she was on a home visit to Boston at the country estate of Mrs. James Storrow in suburban Lincoln (Bidstrup 1954; McLain 1958; Ware 1970). Sharp was greatly impressed by the Campbell collection and immediately realized that she had "tapped a mine" of old Irish, Scottish and English folk songs preserved in the Southern Appalachians (Yates 1999, 4). Eager to retrieve such original English folk songs himself, and despite the dangers of war in Europe, Sharp returned to the United States in 1916 and 1917 with his assistant Maude Karpeles to meet the Campbells in Asheville, North Carolina (Karpeles 1932; Karpeles 1967; Rehder 2004). It is from these wartime visits that Sharp and Campbell compiled English Folk Songs in 1917, although a popular edition of Hindman School ballads, Lonesome Tunes, had been published the previous year (Wyman and Brockway 1916; Filene 2000).
The survey collection of Olive Dame Campbell ballads can be reconstructed from the notation of singer, county, and date in English Folk Songs (1917) for ballads dated between 1907 and 1915, and in the later edition of English Folk Songs by Maude Karples (Sharp with Campbell 1932) after Sharp's death in 1926. Of the seventy ballads reportedly collected by Campbell when she met Sharp in 1915, only thirty-nine were published in English Folk Songs.
It is from this listing that a locational sequence of the Campbell ballad survey can be made (Table 1, Fig. 3). The survey collection appears to follow from two base points, the first from the Hindman Settlement School in eastern Kentucky, and the second from the Campbell's home base at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. In chronological sequence, the ballads collected by Olive Dame Campbell include the original four in Knott County, Kentucky at the Hindman School in December 1907, seven in 1908 in Knott, Clay, and Perry counties of eastern Kentucky near the Hindman School, and one in White County, Georgia near Piedmont College. In 1909, four ballads were collected in Knott and Clay counties in eastern Kentucky and nine in Radbun County, Georgia near Demorest, and again in 1910 with two ballads from Knott and Clay counties, Kentucky and six from Habersham County near Piedmont College in Georgia, and one from Flag Pond, Tennessee. No ballads are dated for 1911 or 1912, with only one sample in 1913 from Rome, Georgia. In 1914, three ballads are listed from northeast Georgia and two in the Asheville area of North Carolina where the Campbells had relocated for the Russell Sage Foundation. In 1915, only one ballad is listed from Asheville before her return to Boston where Campbell included a Massachusetts ballad from Mrs. Isabelle A. Dame in 1914, likely her mother. For those Appalachian ballads collected by Sharp and Karpeles during 1916-1918, a published map has recently been assembled by Rehder (2004, 247).
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
The original ballads credited to Olive Dame Campbell in English Folk Songs (1917) include the core of twelve Child ballads and their variants with eighteen other ballads and folk songs for a net total of twenty-eight ballads. Of the eighteen non-Child ballads, seven had been included in the 1911 listings of Folk-Song of the North-East by Gavin Grieg for the Universities of Scotland (Grieg 1963), with the other eleven categorized as American folk songs, such as "Sourwood Mountain" and "Wagoner's Lad," both included in Lonesome Tunes (Wyman and Brockway 1916). For the published set of Campbell's ballads, nearly all were sung by women, both young and married, with only two credited to men. Thus, Campbell had specifically selected old-style love songs, a genre of the ballad folklore that appeared to have survived intact within the women's oral tradition of the Appalachian Mountain culture (McLain 1958).
With her preference for old-style love songs, the Child ballads collected by Olive Dame Campbell narrate common themes of lost love and avenged affairs. These include "Earl Brand" (Child 12), "Cruel Mother" (Child 20), "Young Hunting" (Child 68), "Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor" (Child 73), "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (Child 74), "Little Musgrave" (Child 81), "Barbara Allen/ Bonnie Barbara Ellen" (Child 84), "Gilles Collins" (Child 85), "Daemon Lover" (Child 242), and "Lady Isabell and the Elf Knight" (Child 261). The origins of Child ballads collected by Campbell can be traced by their annotated sources in English and Scottish Popular Ballads (Child 2003). The majority appear to date from eighteenth century sources as "Cruel Mother," "Lord Thomas" and "Fair Margaret" are all found in the Scottish edition of Percy's Reliques. A second set can be traced further to the seventeenth century including "Barbara Allen," "Daemon Lover (False Young Man)," "Little Musgrave" and "Lord Randall," while a third set are noted as "very ancient" from Scandinavian sources such as "Earl Brand" and "Lady Isabell" (Child 1904, 507). Beyond their dated age, the majority of these Child love ballads appear to have Scottish sources cited in Percy's Reliques (1765), as "Lord Thomas" or noted directly as Scottish songs, as "Bonny Barbara Allen" by Pepys in the seventeenth century. Such Scottish sources point to the possible origins of the Appalachian settlers in eastern Kentucky and northeast Georgia where Campbell had found her singers, and offer insight to the potential population sources of American migration from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The original homeland of the Appalachian Mountain ballad tradition has been a source for debate and inquiry since the first ballad surveys in the early twentieth century. The central problem to early collectors was how such ancient song ballads reached the remote mountains, and who brought these ballads from Britain and Ulster. The initial inquiry was centered on the cultural composition of the ballad singers within the English language tradition. Semple presumed the population to be "chiefly English and Scotch-Irish" of the "purist Anglo-Saxon stock" (Semple 1901, 592). Similarly, Campbell and Sharp also assumed an eighteenth century English and lowland Scotch origin of the families found in the Appalachian Mountains (1917). However, John Campbell, writing posthumously in The Southern Highlander, observed that many of the mountain peoples traced their family origins directly to Scotch-Irish migration through Pennsylvania in the Colonial period (1921). In such cases, Campbell interviewed several Kentucky highland families who traced their genealogies to earlier settlement in the North Carolina Piedmont (Campbell 1921). Campbell posited "three reservoirs" of Scotch-Irish or Ulster Scotch settlement in the mid-eighteenth century: the first from central and western Pennsylvania, the second down the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, to a third reservoir in the Carolina Piedmont, with a final migration to Kentucky and Tennessee through the Cumberland Gap after the Revolution (Campbell 1921, 53-68).
The historic pattern of Scotch-Irish settlement had been mapped by Charles Hanna as early as 1902, plotting obvious centers in southeast Pennsylvania, the Shenandoah Valley and the Carolina Piedmont dating to the mid-eighteenth century (Hanna 1902; see Fig. 4). He noted that the expansion of the Scottish plantations in Ulster, beginning in 1610, had reached an economic climax in 1730 with the collapse of the linen trade, resulting in a migration of some 200,000 Scotch-Irish from Northern Ireland to the American colonies between 1731 and 1768 (Hanna 1902; Rehder 2004). This figure has recently been computed at 275,000 for the period 1701-1775 when the American Revolution halted the Scotch-Irish migration (Devine 2003). It is from such mid-eighteenth century Scotch-Irish migration that the ballads appear to have been derived. Such evidence was found by John Harrison Cox who traced Ulster-Scotch migration from Virginia into Randolph County, West Virginia before the Civil War (Cox 1925). A countervailing view was offered by native Kentucky collector Josiah Combs who noted it was the English "who peopled the Highlands" after the Revolution (Combs 1925 , 14-15). This belief in the English settlement of the Highlands was also supported by other native Kentucky observers as William Roscoe Thomas, who found the source areas in North Carolina and Virginia for families with a "majority of English surnames" (Thomas 1930, 82-84).
[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]
The question of English or Scotch-Irish origins of the Appalachian ballad tradition remained unresolved until the systematic study of American folk geography after the Second World War. Fred Kniffen, Henry Glassie, and Wilbur Zelinsky have all offered detailed field surveys of folk migration in the Southern Appalachians which mapped the settlement routes of the trans-Appalachian frontier (Kniffen 1965; Glassie 1968; Zelinsky 1973; Rehder 2004; see Fig. 4). Glassie and Zelinsky both noted that the primary house type of the Appalachian frontier was the log cabin, derived from Pennsylvania German and early Swedish building practices (Glassie 1968; Zelinsky 1973). This log building tradition, combined with related musical traits as the German-derived "dulcimer" documented by Charles Seeger (1958), pointed to a significant migration of Scotch-Irish settlers from eastern Pennsylvania and down the Great Road of the Shenandoah Valley to Virginia and North Carolina in the mid-eighteenth century. In a related study, James Lemon (1972) found a similar pattern in The Best Poor Man's Country of Scotch-Irish migration from the immigrant ports of Philadelphia and New Castle, Delaware, through the German farm country of southeast Pennsylvania, down the Shenandoah Valley into southwest Virginia (Lemon 1972). This pattern has been confirmed by Robert Mitchell who studied the settlement sequence of the Shenandoah Valley, where the migrants were "primarily of German or Scotch-Irish origin" (Mitchell 1972).
Among the most distinctive features of the Appalachian ballad singers has been the notation of their archaic English dialect. Ellen Churchill Semple was among the earliest observers to note that in eastern Kentucky, "people speak the English of Shakespeare's time" (Semple 1901), an observation repeated by Margaret Morley who commented that such "quaint speech" related to Scotch-Irish settlement in the Carolinas (Morley 1913, 140-41; 171-81). This distinctive dialect was also heard by Olive Dame Campbell and Cecil Sharp, as well as native observers such as Combs, who noted the "old-fashioned" or "Elizabethian" speech pattern of the mountain region (Campbell and Sharp 1917, iv; Combs 1967 , 18). Semple had offered her theory that the isolation of people in the Kentucky mountains had "forced them to revert to earlier usages" (Semple 1901, 622). This thesis was expanded by Sharp, noting that the Appalachian speech pattern appeared to originate in the Border County between Scotland and England and had "become more archaic and primitive in character since the original emigrants arrived in this country owing to the extreme isolation of the country [Southern Highlands] in which they resided" (Campbell 1921, 70).
The distinctive Appalachian speech pattern was included in the American Midlands Region by dialect geographer Hans Kurath. He mapped a pronounced Scotch-Irish element extending from southeast Pennsylvania to the Carolina Piedmont and west to Kentucky and Tennessee, marked by key words such as "sook" for cow herding (Kurath 1949). Most recent observers have accepted a Scotch-Irish element as a basis for an archaic speech pattern in the Appalachian Highlands, while dismissing the notion of a preserved Elizabethian speech as a popular myth created by outsiders in the late nineteenth century (Montgomery 1998; McCrum et al. 2002). Nevertheless, Appalachian scholars such as Harriette Arnow have noted that the language of the Cumberland frontier was an "older purer English" based on the Scots dialect at the time of the Ulster settlements in Northern Ireland (Arnow 1963, 134). Similarly, Cratis Williams has coded the Appalachian American English as a direct tradition dating from the "Scottish past" (McCrum et al. 1986, 160). Most recently Michael Montgomery has analyzed elements of Scotch-Irish speech from wills and inventories of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and concluded that there is "a strong link in the grammatical systems of Scotch-Irish English and Appalachian English" (Montgomery 1997, 212). The latest historical studies of Appalachia by Richard Drake and John Rehder appear to confirm the underlying Scotch-Irish speech sources dating to the migration of the eighteenth century, preserving an older version of Scotch-English (Drake 2001; Rehder 2004).
OLD STYLE BAPTISTS
Related to the Scotch-Irish Appalachian speech patterns and ballad tradition, is the distinctive religious culture of the Old Style Baptists in the Southern Highlands. Semple found that the Baptists were the leading religious denomination in the Kentucky mountains with four recognized sects, each distinct from the other (Semple 1901). Campbell and Sharp observed that among the ballad singers, "The majority we met were Baptist, but we met Methodists, and also, a few Presbyterians, and some who were attached to what is known as the 'Holiness' sect, with whom, however, we had but little truck, as their creed forbids the singing of secular songs." (Campbell and Sharp 1917, v). Josiah Combs observed that the Highland faith "has always been, and is, that of Primitive Baptist," although the earlier Scots Ulsterites had been Scottish Presbyterians (Combs 1967 , 15).
While the Baptist denominations were the primary religious faith of the Appalachian region in the early twentieth century, the original Scotch-Irish settlers had been Presbyterians. Hanna had documented the formation of Scotch Presbyterian churches from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas and into Kentucky during the mid-eighteenth century (Hanna 1902). However, the conversion to Baptist denominations appears to have taken place during the Second Great Awakening between 1780 and 1830 (Rohrbaugh 1978). In her study of the Appalachian Mountain religion, Deborah McCaully observed that the Scotch-Irish settlers in Kentucky intermingled their evangelical Presbyterian heritage with the revival culture of the Baptists from North Carolina during the Great Awakening, to form the basis of the frontier religion (McCaully 1995). The most detailed study of Appalachian Baptist culture, by Jeff Todd Titon, examined the religious history of upper Shenandoah Valley where an itinerant German preacher, John Koontz, converted many families to the Old Light (Calvinist) Baptist faith beginning in 1770 (Titon 1988). Kenneth Keller has proposed that the transformation of Ulster Presbyterians to the Baptist faith was based on the emotive process of "personal conversion" in the Great Revival of the early nineteenth century (Keller 1991, 82). As Titon studied the present day preaching and church singing, he surmised that the Primitive and Old Style Baptist song traditions appear to trace back to seventeenth and eighteenth century psalm singing, but in a slower, "quite distinctive" melody form without the ornaments of expected church music (Titon 1988, 226). Such a singular singing style is also reported by Beverly Bush Patterson in her study of Old Baptist songs of North Carolina, where the singing in slow tempos seems to derive from the prohibition of instrumental accompaniment in church services, matching with the old-style ballad singing (Patterson 1995). While the fiddle was imported from Ireland and Scotland in the mid-eighteenth century, and the African-American banjo added from the Virginia Tidewater in the nineteenth century, it was the unaccompanied, solo singing style of the ballad tradition that fascinated the attention of outside collectors (Cohen 1964; Malone 1968).
The distinctive Old Style Baptist singing style, "so strange, so remote" is what originally inspired Olive Dame Campbell to begin her field surveys when she first heard "Barbara Allen" at the Hindman School in 1907 (Stoddart 2002, 87). The same "peculiarity" of singing captivated Sharp when he went into the Appalachians in 1916, where the "habit of dwelling arbitrarily upon certain notes" produced an improvisational freedom of ballad singing that he described as "well-nigh magical" to his English ears (Campbell and Sharp 1917, x). This fusion of old style ballad singing and Baptist hymnals has been termed by John Cohen as "The High Lonesome Sound," a distinctive feature in Appalachian Mountain music (Cohen 1960, 2; Cohen 1965, 1; Malone 1968, 15). The central feature is the modal or Dorian scale in five or six tones that Bruno Nettl has traced to pre-Renaissance musical forms, giving the ballad singing a distant and "detached" sound (Nettl 1962, 42). The survival of these medieval modal ballads appears to center on the oral tradition passed by women. Semple noted that "women are the chief exponents of mountain minstrelsy, and the accuracy of their memories for these long poems is suggestive of Homeric days" (Semple 1901, 622). Campbell and Sharp likewise found that the mountain women were the best informants of the ballad songs (Rehder 2004). In his study of American folk songs, Alan Lomax surmised that this archaic song ballad tradition survived among women because the stories focused upon "sexual conflict viewed through feminine eyes," providing cherished escape from the hard labored life of women in the backwoods (Lomax 1960, xxi).
The ballad collecting surveys pioneered by Olive Dame Campbell at the turn of the twentieth century established the scholarly standards for Appalachian song tradition in both America and Great Britain through her association with Cecil Sharp and their compilation of English Folk Songs. Her innovation of taking musical notation advanced the technique of song ballad collection beyond the verse transcription that had been used since the eighteenth century. It was the ballad collection of old-style love songs among women that proved to be the key to the Campbell field survey. Her interest in the classic Child love ballads was the interest that sparked that of Cecil Sharp to rediscover a lost world of British folk songs in the Southern Appalachians. When they met in Massachusetts in 1915, Campbell offered Sharp some seventy songs she had collected from 1907, of which only thirty-nine were published in English Folk Songs. It is from this limited list that the reconstruction of her field survey itinerary can be made. The pattern shows the gradual extension from her original focus at the Hindman School to include adjacent counties in eastern Kentucky and the areas surrounding Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia (see Fig. 4). Only limited surveys were made in Tennessee and North Carolina, and none in Virginia or West Virginia. Much of this survey bias was related to the fieldwork of her husband, John C. Campbell, and his work for the Russell Sage Foundation in the Southern Highlands.
Although her interest was in Child-type ballads surviving in the Appalachian Mountains, these ballads are themselves of a unique time and place. While Campbell and Sharp titled their original collection, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1917), the majority of the collected ballads now appear to be of Scotch-Irish or Ulster Scots origin. The question of how these ancient story songs reached the Appalachian Mountains has begged scholars' interest from the initial survey work in the early twentieth century. Both Campbell and Sharp speculated on the underlying Scottish origins of the old-style Child ballads preserved in the mountains, but the mechanism of their survival has only recently been accepted.
Beyond the immediate question of Scotch or Irish or English origins is how the seventeenth century period Child ballads were preserved in the Appalachian Mountains of the early nineteenth century, presuming a time delay of 150 years from initial migration to frontier settlement. The majority of the classic Child ballads appear to date from the early eighteenth century, before the Ulster migration to America, and well before the Appalachian Mountain region was opened to settlement. The earliest may date from the mid-seventeenth century taken to Ulster in the first wave of the Plantations from Scotland, as "Bonny Barbara Allen." Yet, the modal Dorian scale of these ballads points to a more archaic medieval style that likely dates before the sixteenth century, and opens the time gap of some two centuries from Ulster to America. Indeed, much of eastern Kentucky, including Knott County, was not fully settled until the opening of the Cumberland Gap after 1790 and continuing into the 1820s (Mullins 1995, 13-15).
The key to ballad preservation appears to be a series of cultural reservoirs, or settlement cores, that held the old style ballads intact, then releasing them as cultural traits with the opening of new frontiers. The sequence is tentatively described as follows: (1) Highland Scotch and Border British migration to Ulster Plantations in Ireland during mid-seventeenth century, bringing the Scottish ballads and their fiddle music, (2) the secondary migration from Ulster to the American Colonies in the mid-eighteenth century through southeast German-settled Pennsylvania and Delaware, acquiring log cabin construction and the stringed dulcimer, (3) a third migration down the Shenandoah Valley in the mid-eighteenth century to southwest Virginia and the North Carolina Piedmont, and (4) finally the trans-Appalachian migration through the Cumberland Gap in the late eighteenth century and into the Appalachian Highlands of Kentucky and West Virginia by the early nineteenth century, converting from Scotch Presbyterian to Old Style Baptist and acquiring the banjo from the Virginia Tidewater. In each case a cultural "reservoir," as John Campbell noted, incubated the ballad singing from change, adding an overlay of German dulcimers and the African-American banjo. The result was the remarkable preservation of "Barbara Allen," a Scottish song ballad from 1666 from remote Knott County, Kentucky, settled only in 1810, sung on the banjo as first heard by Olive Dame Campbell in 1907, a temporal distance of some 240 years.
The success of O Brother, Where Art Thou? and of Songcatcher as film soundtracks has revived popular interest in Appalachian roots music. The high lonesome sound of ballad singing once again struck the national audience with the sense of a "dim and distant past" as had Olive Dame Campbell, now almost a century ago. Possibly the traumatic shock of 9/11 in 2001 triggered a cultural yearning for authentic American music and the songs of loss and regret that the old-style ballads articulate. Those who sing the Songcatcher soundtrack, Rosanne Cash, Dolly Parton and Gillian Welch, voice the modal sounds of medieval music that has preserved the old love ballads among mountain women. The revelation is that these song ballads are a signature of the Ulster Scotch-Irish migration into Southern Appalachia during the eighteenth century, carrying the cultural traits of the old love ballads across the Atlantic, down the Shenandoah to the Piedmont, through the Cumberland Gap and into the Appalachia Highlands where they remained intact for a full century. Their discovery by Olive Dame Campbell, Katherine Pettit, Ellen Churchill Semple and others at the turn of the twentieth century, sparked the revival of ballad singing that has continued with the current wave of roots renaissance, that has maintained a cultural geography of archaic vocal music in the mountain core of Appalachia.
My appreciation to George C. Carney at Oklahoma State University for the invitation to present a paper on Olive Dame Campbell at AAG New Orleans 2003, to Jeff Browse at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina for his generosity, and to Deborah J. Thompson at the University of Kentucky for suggestions on the Old Baptist culture. The Francis Loeb Music Library and the Francis Child Memorial Room at Widener Library, Harvard University were most helpful in their assistance to research efforts.
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APPALACHIAN BALLADS COMPACT DISK RECORDINGS
Anglo-American Ballads, Vol. 1. 1999. Library of Congress Rounder Records, CD 1511.
Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland. 2000 . Rounder Records, 11661-1776-2.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000. Mercury, 088-170-069-2.
Oral History RE: John C. Campbell Folk School. 2002. John C. Campbell Folk School [Olive Dame Campbell].
Pete Seeger, American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 2. 2003. Smithsonian Folkways, SFW CD 40151.
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Arthur Krim is a member of the faculty at the Boston Architectural College, Boston, MA 02115.
Table 1. Ballads Collected by Olive Dame Campbell, 1907-1915 Date Location Ballad Singer 1907/Dec. Knott Co. KY Hindeman School (#) Barbara Allen Miss Smith 1907/Dec. Knott Co. KY Hindeman School ([dagger]) Foolish schoolgirl Boy 1907 Knott Co. KY Hindeman School (#) Young Beichen schoolgirl  Knott Co. KY [Hindeman School] Come All You Fair & two girls Tender Ladies 1908 Knott Co. KY ([dagger]) Jack A Mrs. Combs Sailing 1908 Knott Co. KY Pretty Peggy O Mrs. Combs 1908 Knott Co. KY ([dagger]) Locks & Mrs. Combs Bolts 1908 Clay Co. KY False Young Man Mrs. Hensley (#) [Daemon Lover] 1908 Clay Co. KY Wagoner's Lad Miss Robinson 1908/Aug. Perry Co. KY Come You Young & Mrs. Concle Handsome Girls 1908 White Co. GA Ten Commandments Miss Dell 1909/May Radbun Co. GA (#) Earl Brand Mrs. Moore 1909/May Radbun Co. GA (#) Cruel Mother Mrs. Moore 1909/May Radbun Co. GA ([dagger]) Loving Mrs. Moore Reilly 1909/May Radbun Co. GA ([dagger]) Awful Mrs. Moore Wedding 1909/[May] Radbun Co. GA Seven Long Years Mrs. Moore 1909/May Radbun Co. GA ([dagger]) Brisk Mrs. Moore Young Lover [1909/May] Radbun Co. GA (#) Lord Thomas & Miss Moore False Knight 1909/July Radbun Co. GA (#) Lady Isabell & Mrs. Robinson False Knight 1909/July Clay Co. KY (#) Lady Isabell & Mrs. Bishop False Knight 1909/July Clay Co. KY (#) Daemon Lover Mrs. Bishop 1909 Clay Co. KY (#) Little Musgrove Miss Brewer & Lady Barnard 1909/Aug. Knott Co. KY Poor Omie Wise Mr. Smith 1910 Clay Co. KY (#) Fair Margaret & Mrs. Hensley Sweet William 1910/May Habersham Co. GA (#) Barbara Allen Mrs. McKinney 1910/May Habersham Co. GA ([dagger]) Edwin in Miss McKinney the Lowlands 1910/May Habersham Co. GA ([dagger]) Jack A Miss McKinney Sailing 1910/June Habersham Co. GA (#) Lord Randall Miss McKinney 1910/Aug. Knott Co. KY Hindeman School ([dagger]) Cruel's Mr. Smith Ship's Carpenter 1910/Aug. Flag Pond, TN Rejected Lover Mrs. Crane 1913/May Rome, GA Sourwood Mountain Mr. Smith 1914/Feb. Habersham Co. GA (#) Barbara Allen Miss Gray 1914 Chicopee Co. GA (#) Barbara Allen Miss McCoy 1914/April Walker Co. GA (#) Young Hunting Mrs. Hall 1914/Oct. Carmen, NC (#) Young Hunting Mrs. Sothland 1914 Henderson Co. NC (#) Giles Collins Miss McKinney (#) [Lady Alice] 1914 Massachusetts (#) Lord Thomas & Mrs. Dame Fair Eleanor 1915 Asheville, NC Ten Commandments Miss Dicky (#) Child Ballad. ([dagger]) Greig Folk Song. Fig. 2. "Barbara Allen" musical notation 1907. English Folk Songs from Southern Appalachia (1917). Courtesy of the Penguin Group, Inc. Barbara Allen Sung by Miss ADA B. SMITH at Knott Co., Ky., Dec. 16, 1907 1. 'Twas in the mer-ry month of May, The green buds were swel-ling, Poor Wil-liam Green on his death-bed lay For the love of Bar-b'ra El-len. 2 He sent his servant to the town To the place where she was dwelling, Saying : Love, there is a call for you, If your name is Barbara Ellen. 3 She was very slowly getting up And very slowly going, And all she said when there she come: Young man, I believe you're dying. 4 O yes, I know I'm very bad, And never will be any better Until I have the love of one, The love of Barbara Ellen. 5 He turned his pale face toward the wall, And death was in him dwelling. Adieu, adieu, adieu to my dear friends. Be kind to Barbara Ellen. 6 When she got in about two miles of town, She heard the death bells ringing. She says : Come around, you nice young men, And let me look upon you. 7 O mother, O mother, come make my bed, Come make it both soft and narrow For Sweet William died to-day, And I will die tomorrow. 8 O father, O father, come dig my grave, Come dig it both deep and narrow, For sweet William died in love, And I will die in sorrow.…
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Publication information: Article title: Appalachian Songcatcher: Olive Dame Campbell and the Scotch-Irish Ballad. Contributors: Krim, Arthur - Author. Journal title: Journal of Cultural Geography. Volume: 24. Issue: 1 Publication date: Fall-Winter 2006. Page number: 91+. © 2008 JCG Press. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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