18th-century engraving of a rattlesnakeSpringfield Mountain

Submitted by Judy Cook

The tragedy retold in this oldest of America’s native ballads, “Springfield Mountain,” took place in southern Massachusetts in 1761. The name of the family varies in different versions of the song. In truth it was Mirick, but Cushman, the one in John Galusha’s version, was one of the oldest family names in that part of Massachusetts. The location, Springfield Mountain, is now known as Wilbraham Mountain, near Springfield, MA. The song has passed into oral tradition, and comic versions are easily found.

John Galusha spent his life in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State – as a logger, game and fishing guide, forest ranger, and farmer. In 1940, when he was 81, he and his wife were living in a farmhouse near North Creek. It was there that Anne and Frank Warner collected “Springfield Mountain” from him. The song can be found in their wonderful book “Traditional American Songs.” I have made a few slight changes to the song.

Listen to Judy sing "Springfield Mountain:"

"Springfield Mountain" sheet musicClick here to download a PDF of the sheet music.

Lyrics

On Springfield Mountain there did dwell
A like-lie youth who was known full well,
Lieutenant Cushman’s only son,
A like-lie youth, scarce twenty-one

One Monday’s morning he did go
Down in the meadow for to mow.
He mowed around till he did feel
A P’izen serpent bite his heel.

When he received his death-lie wound
He laid his scythe down on the ground.
To return home was his intent,
Crying aloud long as he went.

His voice was heard both far and near,
But none of his friends did there appear,
Thinking that he some workman called,
Poor boy alone at last did fall.

It was seventeen hundred and sixty-one
When this sad accident was done.
May this a warning be to all
To be prepared when death does call.

Judy Cook is an author, entertainer, and folk singer. She has been living in Oberlin, Ohio, with her husband Dennis since 2013. Since 1998, she has been touring throughout both Britain and the US. She is known for her repertoire and storytelling ability in song. Judy has one book and several CDs. You can reach her through her website.

     
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