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Although we think of shanty as a sea term, shanty or shanty boy is also a term used to refer to lumbermen. This is one of the best known lumberjack songs. The jam refers to a log jam on the river. The tune was popular in America and Canada. It originated in Northern New England, probably in Maine, though some sources say it's origin in Canadian.
Gerry's Rocks (Gerrish) are above The Forks, Maine and the events of the tune are related on a rock and tree on the Kennebec River. "Sagmor Town" is a corruption of Saginaw, which is probably a corruption of "Saguenay," a river and site of an Indian settlement.
|Come all ye jovial shanty boys,
Wherever you may be,
I hope you pay attention,
And listen unto me;
Concerning six brave shanty boys
With courage strong and brave,
Who broke the jam on Gerry's rocks
And met with a watery grave.
'Twas on one Sunday morning
In the springtime of the year,
Our logs were piling mountain high,
We could not keep them clear;
When our boss, he cried, Brave boys, turn out,
Set your hearts, avoid all fear,
We'll break the jam on Gerry's rocks,
And for Cragin's Point we'll steer.
Now some of them were willing,
While others did hang back,
For to go to work on Sunday
They did not think it right.
When six Canadian shanty boys
Did volunteer to go,
To break the jam on Gerry's rocks
With the foreman, young Monroe.
Now they had not rolled off many logs
When the boss to them did say,
I'd have you be on your guard;
The jam will soon give way.
He had no more than spoke those words
When the jam did heave and go
And carried away those six brave youths
And their foreman, young Monroe.
Now when their comrades at the camp
The sad news came to hear,
In search of their dead bodies
Down the river they did steer.
When to their sad misfortune,
To their sad grief and woe,
All bruised and mangled on the beach
Lies the head of young Monroe.
We picked it up most carefully,
Smoothed down his raven hair.
There was one fair form among them
Whose cries would rend the air.
There was one fair form among them,
A girl from Sag'mor town,
Whose screams and cries would rend the skies,
For her own true love was drowned.
His mother was a widow,
Near by the river side.
Miss Clark she was a very nice girl
And his intended bride.
The money that was due to him
The boss to her did pay;
She received a large subscription
From the shanty boys next day.
We buried him quite decently,
Being on the sixth of May.
Come, all you jovial shanty boys,
And for your comrade pray;
For engraved upon a hemlock tree,
Which on the beach did grow,
The day, the date, and the drowning fate
Of our comrade, young Monroe.
Folk Songs of Old New England
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