“Oh Boys, Carry Me Along”
When you get the snow swept up, Laura, Bring me the fiddle,’ he said. ‘Soon as I can thaw out my fingers, we’ll have a tune to drown the yowl of that wind’… — The Long Winter, Chapter 4, “October Blizzard”
This is one song that Laura Ingalls Wilder combined the lyrics of with another song in the Little House books. Two lines from the chorus of “Oh Boys, Carry Me Along” are included as the last two lines of “The Floating Scow of Old Virginia,” sung in The Long Winter during the October blizzard. While the two songs have similar themes, lyrics used in the existing manuscript for The Long Winter are the same as those used in publication, and it is not known how the two songs came to be combined by Wilder.
Stephen Foster’s “Oh Boys, Carry Me Along” was based on songs Foster heard at church services he attended as a child with the Foster family’s “bound girl,” Olivia Pise. In June 1851,Foster offered this song to the Christy Minstrels for them to sing for two weeks prior to copyright and publication, plus he gave them exclusive rights to perform the piece. Foster even wrote E.P. Christy with instructions as to how the piece should be performed: in a pathetic, not comic, manner. The music was first published by Firth, Pond, & Company in 1851 as a “plantation melody” by Stephen Foster.
Stephen Foster Collins (1826-1864) was born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, east of Pittsburgh. A musically gifted child, Stephen was educated in the private schools of Pennsylvania and worked as a bookkeeper for a steamship company in Cincinnati as a young adult. It was during this period that Foster made arrangements with several publishers to be paid royalties on future songs, usually 2 cents per copy. Foster married in 1850 and the couple had one child, a daughter.
In today’s music business, Foster would have earned millions from performances and sale of his music, but in the 1850s and 60s, it was a hard way to earn a living. Following an accident in New York in January 1864, Stephen Foster died with only thirty-eight cents in his pocket. His music lives on, in over two hundred songs and instrumentals from a twenty-year period.
Stephen Foster songs mentioned in the Little House books include: “Oh! Susanna,” “Uncle Ned,” “Nelly Was a Lady,” “Oh Boys, Carry Me Along,” “De Camptown Races,” “Old Folks at Home,” and “My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night.”
1. Oh carry me ‘long, der’s no more trouble for me;
I’s gwine to roam in a happy home
Where all de niggas am free.
I’ve worked long in de fields; I’ve handled many a hoe
I’ll turn my eye, before I die
And see de sugarcane grow.
[chorus] Oh! boys, carry me ‘long
Carry me till I die.
Carry me down to de buryin’ groun’
Massa, don’t you cry.
2. All ober de land I’ve wandered many a day
To blow de horn and mind de corn
And keep de possum away.
No use for me now – so darkeys bury me low
My horn is dry, and I must lie
Wha de possum nebber go.
3. Farewell to de boys wid hearts so happy and light
Dey sing a song de whole day long
And dance de juba at night.
Farewell in de fields ob cotten, ‘bacco and all
I’s gwine to hoe in a blessed row
Wha de corn grows mellow and tall.
4. Farewell to de hills, de meadows covered wid green
Old brindle Boss and de old gray hoss,
All beaten, broken, and lean.
Farewell to de dog dat always followed me round.
Old Snasho’ll wail and droop his tail
When I am under de groun.
OH BOYS, CARRY ME ALONG
(from The Long Winter)
…So carry me ‘long and carry me ‘long
And carry me till I die…
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Click on the above images to view a copy of original sheet music of “Oh Boys, Carry Me Along.” This image is of music copyrighted in 1851 by Forth, Pond, & Company.
This music is archived in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708-0185 USA.. The Historic American Sheet Music Program provides access to music published in the United States between 1850 and 1920.
“Oh Boys, Carry Me Along” (TLW 4)
“…So carry me ‘long and carry me ‘long”