“The Blue Juniata”

Author: Marion Sullivan Dix
Earliest date: 1844 (sheet music)
Keywords: Indians(Am.) love river
Found in: US(So)

Description

"Wild roved an Indian girl, bright Alfarata, Where sweeps the water of the blue Juniata." She lives free in the forest, praising her gentle lover. But now "Fleeting years have borne away the voice of Alfarata; Still sweeps the river of blue Juniata."

Notes

Laws condemns this as a mere "ballad-like piece," but it strikes me as very effective, as well as unusually sympathetic to Native Americans (though the girl's name is assuredly fake). Quite surprising for a piece composed in 1844 (see Spaeth, _A History of Popular Music in America_, p. 101). - RBW

Laura Ingalls Wilder quotes an unusually large excerpt of this in _Little House on the Prairie_ (chapter 18, "The Tall Indian"). This particular section of the "Little House" books is of very dubious historical value -- the Ingalls family actually moved to Kansas when Laura was only a year and a half old (see Donald Zochert, _Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder_, Avon, 1976, p. 22. The sources I've consulted don't even explain why she wrote _Little House on the Prairie_; it would have been much more logical to proceed from _Little House in the Big Woods_, which could be based on her *second* stay in Wisconsin, to _On the Banks of Plum Creek_). We're told that Laura heard about the time in Kansas from Ma and Pa and Mary Ingalls -- but, by the time _Little House on the Prairie_ was written, all three of them were dead. For the later "Little House" books, Laura could consult her sister Carrie, and for the very late books, also her sister Grace and her husband Almanzo Wilder, but _LIttle House on the Prairie_ is nothing but a memory of others' memories.

All that is to say that I really don't trust _Little House on the Prairie_ as an indication of the popularity of this song in 1868-1869. The flip side is, it is quite clear that Laura Ingalls Wilder knew the song in the 1930s at least. - RBW

References

  1. Hudson 83, pp. 210-211, "The Blue Juniata" (1 text)
  2. Spaeth-WeepMore, pp. 98-99, "The Blue Juniata" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Roud #4494
  4. BI, Hud083