“The Wild Mustard River (Johnny Stile)”


Johnny catches his foot among the logs while breaking up a jam; he is swept away as the jam breaks up. His badly torn body is recovered and buried by his fellow workers


Fowke believes, on the basis of the distribution of variants, that this song originated in Ontario, but cannot cite an incident on which it is based.

Patrick Doyle of Halifax may have the solution. His great uncle Johnny Doyle died July 6, 1906 on a log drive in Ontario. He tells me that the river was the Moose River.

Based on his family's history (http://members.tripod.com/~CyberBart/doylhist.htm), it appears that Doyle would have been between 29 and 31 years old at the time. - RBW


  • Tom Brandon, "Johnny Stiles" (on Lumber01)
  • Joe Kelly, "Johnny Doyle" (on Lumber01)
  • Carl Lathrop, "The Wild Mustard River" (AFS, 1938; on LC56)


  1. Laws C5, "The Wild Mustard River (Johnny Stile)"
  2. Fowke/Mills/Blume, pp. 177-179, "Johnny Doyle" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Beck 56, "Wild Mustard River" (4 texts, one called "The Old Tamarack Dam"; 1 tune)
  4. Gardner/Chickering 111, "The Wild Mustard River" (1 text)
  5. Fowke-Lumbering #30, "Johnny Stiles" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  6. Manny/Wilson 100, "The Wild Mustard River" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. DT 714, WILDMUST*
  8. Roud #637
  9. BI, LC05


Alternate titles: “The Old Tamarack Dam”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1934 (Detroit News, reprinted in Gardner/Chickering)
Keywords: logger death drowning
Found in: US(MW) Canada(Mar,Ont)