“Silver Jack”


Robert Waite condemns the Bible as fictitious and Jesus as "just a common man." Silver Jack proceeds to beat the "infidel" until he admits the error of his ways.


John "Silver Jack" Driscoll seems to have been the subject of this ballad; a quarrelsome, fighting man from the Saginaw valley of Michigan, he apparently fought too hard one time, and was sent to prison. To quote T. G. Belanger: "He died with his boots off, in the Ottawa Hotel, in L'Anse, Michigan, April 1, 1895. Beside him ...were found the following: a bottle of cough medicine, $85.00 in bills, and a note: 'This will be enough to bury me.'" - PJS

This particular example of Christian charity and peacefulness is suspected by both Hudson and Lomax (without supporting evidence) of having been originally published in a newspaper. Given its anti-intellectual tone (stanza 1 describes Waite as "Kind of cute and smart and tonguey; Guess he was a graduate"), I am inclined to doubt this. - RBW

I'm not; newspapers could be rabidly anti-intellectual. Read the _Chicago Tribune_ during the McCormick era, or the early Hearst press. - PJS

But would any newspaperman claim that "the spread of infidelity Was checked in camp that day"? - RBW

Cross references


  1. Laws C24, "Silver Jack"
  2. Rickaby 32, "Silver Jack" (1 text)
  3. Hudson 78, pp. 206-207, "Silver Jack" (1 text)
  4. Lomax-FSNA 60, "Silver Jack" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Beck 38, "Lumberjack's Revival" (1 text)
  6. DT 606, SILVRJAK(*)
  7. ADDITIONAL: Hal Cannon, editor, _Cowboy Poetry: A Gathering_, Giles M. Smith, 1985, pp. 21-23, "Silver Jack" (1 text)
  8. Roud #705
  9. BI, LC24


Alternate titles: “Religion in Camp”; “Silver Jack the Evangelist”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1915 (article, John A. Lomax)
Keywords: Bible fight
Found in: US(MW,NW,Ro,SE,So)