“Row Us Over the Tide”


Two children come up to a boatman, asking him to "row us over the tide." The report that their mother is dead and their father has abandoned them; they have no home.


As far as I know, no version of this song reveals *why* the children want to cross the water. (Of course, the versions of the song aren't particularly coherent.) One suspects that, in the original, they interpreted crossing the tide as going to heaven.

Joan Sprung knew a report connecting this with the 1878 yellow fever epidemic (in which at least 20,000 people died, mostly along the Mississippi river between New Orleans and Memphis).

The Blue Sky Boys recording put a very different twist on this song, ending with a chorus about Jesus taking the children away to heaven. This is clearly a rewrite to give a potential tragedy a preudo-happy ending. - RBW

Cross references


  • The Blue Sky Boys, "Row Us Over the Tide" (Bluebird B-6567, 1936)
  • Clarence & Claude Ganus, "Row Us Over the Tide" (Vocalion 5312, 1929)
  • Kelly Harrell & Henry Norton, "Row Us Over the Tide" (Victor 20935, 1927; on KHarrell02)
  • Bela Lam & His Green County Singers, "Row Us Over The Tide" (Okeh 45126, 1927)
  • Lulu Belle & Scottie (Okeh/unissued, 1940)
  • Mr. & Mrs. E. C. Mills, "Row Us Over the Tide" (Brunswick/unissued, 1929)


  2. Roud #9132
  3. BI, DTrowtid


Author: E. C. Avis?
Earliest date: 1927 (recordings, Kelly Harrell, Bela Lam); Avis is said to have published the song in 1888
Found in: US