The Carmack Song
The Carmack Song 1:400:00/1:40
Charles Hamlin, a miner on Last Chance Creek in the Yukon, hosted a dance at the Last Chance Roadhouse during the fall of 1897. Music for the dance was provided by fiddle player, "Three Tune" Eddie Draper. Eddie's entire repertoire consisted of three songs but Hamlin was thankful for any live music. A miner with an instrument was a valuable comrade. Mountain canary is another name for a burro.
Lynn Smith was serenaded by friends with this 200-year-old British military tune as he boarded the train in Anderson, Indiana the summer of 1898 . Smith was going to the Klondike. One of the many young ladies who came to bid him good-bye remarked, "It is just too bad." Smith mined, was a jeweler, and finally a US Marshall in Fairbanks.
While some miners struck it rich others were not so fortunate. The December 10, 1898, issue of the Klondike Nugget reported that, “The audience refused to be satisfied until Mr. [Fred N.] Tracy had obliged with ‘The Klondike Vale’— which is destined to be a great favorite with Dawson audiences.”
June Baldridge of Dodge Center, Minnesota, born in 1924, was 70 years old when she provided this touching song by cassette tape. Mrs. Baldridge recalls learning the song as a child but is unsure of its origin. Several groups of adventurers from Minnesota stampeded north during the gold rushes. A search of five years of turn-of-the-century Minneapolis Tribune personal columns yielded nothing. Still, it has the ring of truth.
Many a man made a promise like this to his wife or sweetheart as he left home to join the gold rush. Horace Conger sold his pharmacy in Kasota, Minnesota and took passage to Valdez, Alaska. Writing to his wife from Valdez on March 8, 1898, he said, “I hope and pray two years will find me on my way home with enough [wealth] to take us to Paris and to live on for the balance of our lives.” A year-and-a-half later he was in St. Michaels at the mouth of the Yukon River ready to return home—with no gold.
The fiddle sounds lonely as it begins this waltz but in 1897 at the Last Chance Roadhouse it was the only instrument and the dancers were glad to have "Three-tune" Eddie Draper available. Charles Hamlin, author of Old Times in the Yukon included this tune, which he described as "dreamy," with "Mountain Canary" (see track #2) . The song appeared in an 1848 Christy Minstrel collection of songs with only "M.T." given as the composer.
Two tunes are artfully combined to show similarities and to remind us that tunes often have a history. Josiah Spurr, recalling a dance, recited words to "Irish Washerwoman" in his 1900 book, Through the Yukon Gold Diggings. Current published versions of the tune have no words. The search, however, led to "Irishman's Shanty" with words more nearly like those given by Spurr. "Irish Washerwoman," a Scotch-Irish tune was documented in 1792 and is traditionally played in a major key. The two minor key interludes in this performance are from, "Irishman's Shanty," a song published in 1859. The two are obviously related.
George Botsworth, the composer of this rag was obviously influenced by the style of Scott Joplin. Ragtime has become a favorite mood-setter today for anything gold rush even though show pianists of 1898 were more apt to be playing a fancy "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers," or "Buffalo Gals," since Joplin didn't publish his first rag until 1899. While he is not as well known as Joplin, Botsworth wrote several ragtime solos. This is the only one known to be related to the gold rush.