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“Don’t Leave the Farm, Boys”

‘Oh, well,’ Laura sighed, summing up her idea of the situation in a saying of her Ma’s: ‘We’ll always be farmers, for what is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.’ – And then Laura smiled, for Manly was coming from the barn and he was singing… –The First Four Years, “A Year of Grace”

Don’t Leave the Farm, Boys was one of many songs written during the homesteading years which urged young men to remain on the farm rather than seek an uncertain future in cities or by heading out to explore the west. The song was included in the singing school book used by Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder in De Smet; perhaps this was their first exposure to it.

In These Happy Golden Years, one of the town activities participated in by Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder during their courtship days was singing school. There was a singing school held in De Smet from February through April 1884, conducted by a Mr. Forbush. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that singing school was taught by Mr. Clewett; Frank Clewett had taught the De Smet (academic) school during the spring 1883 term. A homesteader in neighboring Clark County, Mr. Clewett often lived in De Smet before moving to California in the 1890s. It is possible that he taught a singing school that was never mentioned in the local newspapers.

Laura’s singing school book was called The Conqueror; it was written by C.E. Leslie and R.H. Randall and was published in 1880 by The Chicago Music Company. Leslie wrote a number of hymnals and singing school books, and he traveled widely, promoting his program and holding classes in a number of states. Many of the songs in The Conqueror were composed by Leslie or Randall. Laura’s singing school book originally cost seventy-five cents and is today on display at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. The book begins as Wilder wrote in These Happy Golden Years, with an explanation of notes, rests, and clefs. It then continues with simple exercises, starting with “do re mi fa sol la si do” and moving on to simple songs.

Laura Ingalls Wilder went into more detail about singing school in both the Pioneer Girl manuscripts and the manuscript for These Happy Golden Years. Obviously an important and pleasant memory from her young adulthood, she included complete lyrics for a number of songs which were omitted from the published These Happy Golden Years. The copy of “Don’t Leave the Farm, Boys” from The Conqueror was arranged by Charles Edward Pollock from Jefferson City, Missouri. Wilder included the song in her handwritten Pioneer Girl manuscript, but it does not appear in subsequent versions.

(from The Conqueror)

1. Come, boys, I have something to tell you,
Come near, I would whisper it low;
You are thinking of leaving the homestead,
Don’t be in a hurry to go
The city has many attractions,
But think of the vices and sins
When once in the vortex of fashion,
How soon the course downward begins.

[chorus] Don’t be in a hurry to go, don’t go;
Don’t be in a hurry to go, don’t go.
Better risk the old farm a while longer,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.

2. You talk of the mines in Australia,
They’re wealthy in gold without doubt,
But ah! there is gold in the farm, boys,
If only you’ll shovel it out.
The mercantile trade is a hazard,
The goods are first high and then low,
Better risk the old farm a while longer,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.

3. The great busy West has inducements,
And so has the busiest mart;
But wealth is not made in a day, boys,
Don’t be in a hurry to start.
The bankers and brokers are wealthy,
They take in their thousands or so.
Ah! think of the frauds and deceptions,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.

4. The farm is the safest and surest,
The orchards are loaded today;
You’re as free as the air of the mountains,
And monarch of all you survey.
Better stay on the farm a while longer,
Tho’ the profits come in rather slow.
Remember you’ve nothing to risk, boys,
Don’t be in a hurry to go.

(from The First Four Years)

You talk of the mines of Australia,
They’ve wealth in red gold, without doubt;
But, ah! there is gold in the farm, boys–
If only you’ll shovel it out.

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Click on the above images to view a copy of 1871 sheet music of “Don’t Leave the Farm, Boys.”



“Don’t Leave the Farm, Boys” (FFY years 1, 4; PG)
     “You talk of the mines of Australia”