NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. II, No. 1, February, 1946
“BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE” AND “BARBARA ALLEN”
Helen Hartness Flanders
NEEDLESS TO SAY, THERE ARE NO BOUNDARIES for folk songs.
If some have spilled over the State line into New England
laps, we take this chance to return two of them.
The first of these songs, “Blue Mountain Lake,” is usually
called “The Belle of Long Lake,” and I have told in The New
Green Mountain Songster (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1939) how I stalked other versions of the song and its story. In
attempting to run down the actual facts of the fight narrated therein,
I have tried in vain to locate a book by a pastor of Long Lake,
called The History of Long Lake, New York. For the time being
I’ve had to accept what singers could tell me about the fight there
in the lumber camp. These accounts are probably as satisfactory as
a historical record would be, for lumbermen usually chose a song
as the way to pass along among themselves something they remembered
with pleasure as having broken the monotony and
hard work of their days in the big woods. In “Guy Reed” or “Peter
Emberly” or “The Jam on Jerry’s Rock,” the singer gives the impression
of having witnessed the tragedy.
Ballad collecting is one long-continued story. My first recording
of this song was from a man who lumbered around Long Lake
and gave the name of the boss as “Griffith.” Next, a Glens Falls
singer named the boss “Mitchell.” The third time we came upon
the “Belle of Long Lake,” the singer said, “This song is about
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