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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 1, February 1946

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Vol. II, No. 1, February, 1946

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 Richard Canfield.”...

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