“Woodman, Spare That Tree”


"Woodman, spare that tree, Touch not a single bough, In youth it sheltered me, And I'll protect it now." The singer relates how his grandfather planted it and how his family delighted in it. "While I've a hand to save, Thy axe shall harm it not."


The original sheet music of this piece contains a letter from Morris to Russell describing how the words came to be written. Apparently the piece is biographical; Morris was with a friend when said friend saw a tree on his childhood home being threatened. A payment of $10 ensured the tree's continued existence.

In later years Russell claimed that he was the friend and that the tree grew on Morris's home. However, Russell was rather given to exaggeration; if we are to believe anyone, we should probably believe Morris. - RBW

Broadside LOCSinging as115220: 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.

The dating for broadside Bodleian Firth b.26(503), before 1835, is at best questionable. Here is a quote from the Lesley Nelson-Burns site Folk Music of England Scotland Ireland, Wales & America collection: "The words to this song are a poem written by George Pope Morris in 1830. The music was written by Henry Russell. The song was published in 1837.... " - BS


  • Bodleian, Firth b.26(503), "Woodman Spare That Tree," G. Walker (Durham), 1797-1834; also Harding B 11(1186), Firth b.25(540), Harding B 11(4316), Harding B 11(4315), Harding B 11(4314), Harding B 45(23) View 2 of 3, Harding B 15(392a), Firth b.25(68), Harding B 11(64), Firth b.26(361), Firth b.28(36) View 2 of 2, Johnson Ballads 342, Harding B 11(4313), Harding B 15(391b), "Woodman Spare That Tree"; Firth b.25(600/601) View 1 of 2, "Woodman Spare The Tree"
  • LOCSheet, sm1840 371290, "Woodman! Spare That Tree!," Firth and Hall (New York), 1840 (tune)
  • LOCSinging, as115220, "Woodman, Spare That Tree," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859; also as204080, "Woodman, Spare That Tree"


  • Jack Mahoney, "Woodman Spare That Tree" (Columbia 15712-D, 1932; rec. 1931)


  1. RJackson-19CPop, pp. 246-252, "Woodman, Spare That Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 23-26, "Woodman, Spare That Tree" (1 text, 1 tune, plus the parody "Barber, Spare Those Hairs")
  3. Silber-FSWB, p. 253, "Woodman, Spare That Tree" (1 text)
  4. Roud #13833
  5. BI, RJ19246


Author: Words: George Perkins Morris / Music: Henry Russell
Earliest date: 1837
Found in: US