“The Gum Tree Canoe”


"On Tom Big Bee river so bright I was born In a hut made of husks of the tall yellow corn, And there I first met with my Julia so true And I rowed her about in my gum tree canoe." The singer describes his work -- and the happy times courting in the canoe


The 1847 sheet music credits this to S. S. Steele, an attribution accepted by Patterson/Fahey/Seal -- but we all know that such attributions were less than utterly reliable. It is reported to have been sung by "A.F. WINNEMORE and his band of VIRGINIA SERENADERS." It does seem likely that the song did originate with this group; the earliest outside collection that I know of comes from 1909. - RBW

Broadside LOCSinging as104990: J. Andrews dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS

Cross references


  • LOCSheet, sm1847 420770, "The Gum Tree Canoe," G. P. Reed (Boston), 1847; also sm1885 18094, "The Gum Tree Canoe" (tune) [both attribute words to S.S. Steele and music to A.F. Winnemore]
  • LOCSinging, as104990, "The Gum Tree Canoe," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859; also as104980, as105000, as201240, "The Gum Tree Canoe"
  • NLScotland, RB.m.143(143), "The Gum-Tree Canoe," Poet's Box (Dundee), c.1890


  1. Randolph 787, "The Gum Tree Canoe" (1 text)
  2. BrownIII 269, "The Gumtree Canoe" (1 short text plus a fragment)
  3. Hugill, p. 473, "The Gumtree Canoe" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Fahey-Eureka, pp. 172-173, "The Gumtree Canoe" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Paterson/Fahey/Seal, pp. 168-170, "The Gumtree Canoe" (1 text)
  6. cf. Gardner/Chickering, p. 481, "My Gum Tree Canoe" (source notes only)
  8. Roud #759
  9. BI, R787


Alternate titles: “On Tom Big Bee River”; “The Tombigbee River”
Author: S.S. Steele ?
Earliest date: 1847 (broadside, LOCSheet sm1847 420770)
Keywords: courting home love river
Found in: US(SE,So) Australia