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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ballad of James Monk

My mom told me that her mom would sing a lullaby to her children about the first murder in Clearfield County, PA.  I think these are the lyrics, but I've never found a tune.  

Come all ye good people,
Who now have to view
This sad and shameful death,
I have brought myself unto;
I pray you all take warning
By my unhappy fate,
And shun vice and folly
Before it is too late.

Chorus- Alas, I am undone.

In the county of Centre
I drew my first breath,
And in that same county
I meet my shameful death;
Had I obeyed the counsel
My parents gave to me,
I would not have to suffer
Upon this shameful tree.

I hope you will remember .
James Monks is my name,
This day I confess
To my sorrow and shame,
That I shot Reuben Giles,
Whom I never saw before,
And left his body weltering
In its purple gore.

I hunted in Clearfield
In Eighteen-Seventeen
Around the head of Stump Creek
Where I had often been,
And while on my way homeward,
On Anderson Creek hill,
I stopped to drink and gamble,
Like many men do still.

I left the stone tavern
In anger at two men
For cheating me in gambling,
At least I thought so then,
And walked off in the twilight
With evil thoughts astir,
And soon I met a stranger
Who said, "Good evening. sir."

Just after I passed him,
The thought occurred to me
To kill him for his money,
There is no one here to see;
And, without further thinking.
As if from hell inspired,
I turned-took down my rifle-
And in a moment fired.

I now caught his horse
And tied him to a tree,
Then hastened to my victim,
Who faintly said to me,
“My friend, you have killed me.”
But all I would reply
Was quickly to go to him
Resolved that he must die.

The devil so possessed me,
Before he was quite dead,
With my tom'hawk I gave him
Two blows upon the head;
Then dragged him off a distance,
And stripped him of his cloth "
And like a savage left him
To wild beasts exposed.

In trying on his shoes,
I found they were too small,
I cut them in the instep,
And let my penknife fall;
This knife and an old song book,
Left here as by design,
And with his ball-pierced clothing,
Betrayed this deed of mine.

His horse and saddle bags,
They now became my prey,
His watch and pocketbook,
I also took away,
Then covered up his body
With leaves and rotten wood
Some distance from the roadside,
Where once a tree had stood.

I threw his hat away
Before I rode a mile,
Then rode on toward Karthaus,
Pursuers to beguile,
And early the next morning
I viewed my bloody store,
And thought I could conceal
This, my gun, forevermore.

I hid his bloody shirt
In the trunk of a tree,
But this too was found
And produced against me;
To show that private murder
Would never be concealed,
A dog told the secret,
And the whole was revealed.

I tried to plead "Not guilty,"
My lawyers did their best,
But proof on proof appeared,
And guilt rankled in my breast;
His bones too were produced
And presented at my trial,
And this last shocking proof
Would admit of no denial.

One more thing I'll mention
Before I'm done with time;
Some blamed Andrew Allison
For this, my cruel crime;
But since I am to suffer,
To tell a lie, I scorn,
He's innocent as the infant
Or the child yet unborn.

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