“Martha Dexter”


Young Martha Dexter and her niece set out to visit the niece's mother. When they come to the river, the water is high and Martha's excitable horse throws her. She drowns. When her body is found at last, the family mourns


This is item dG34 in Laws's Appendix II.

My first reaction, upon reading the first half-dozen stanzas in Belden, was that this is basically a variant of a "Marian Parker" ballad. It has that same cloying feel. But, of course, the song is based on an earlier event, and it takes a different direction at the end. The similarity is presumably due simply to the way semi-professional balladeers treat children. - RBW

Historical references

  • Aug 1, 1824 - Death of Martha Decker near what is now Wilawanna, Pennsylvania

Cross references


  1. Belden, pp. 417-418, "Martha Dexter" (1 text)
  2. Roud #4134
  3. BI, Beld417


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1910 (Belden)
Found in: US(MA,So)