“Elswick’s” Farewell

by

Wilson Douglas

from http://tunearch.org/wiki

This tune has been described as “an old bagpipe tune” from the repertoire of W.Va. fiddler French Carpenter who stated his ancestor (the Elzic or Elzick of the title) played the melody as a farewell before marching off to fight in the Civil War. Elzic went missing in the conflict and never returned, but the tune survived and entered local tradition as “Elzic’s Farewell.”

Wilson Douglas, a younger fiddler distantly related to his mentor French Carpenter (his grandfather and Carpenter’s father Saul were half-brothers), thought that Elzic was from Wood County, W.Va. In fact, this is a bit of fanciful embroidery on the part of Douglas and/or Carpenter. The tune’s origins have been researched by Jim Comstock of Richwood, W.Va., and were published by him in the West Virginia Songbag (1974).

The tune was actually written by one Harvey G. Elswick who was born in Pike County, Kentucky in 1838, and who did serve in a unit from that state during the Civil War. After that conflict Elswick returned to Pike County, but in 1875 he and his family removed to Kanawha County, West Virginia, to live on 80 acres in Malden and Elk districts, and it was there that he wrote the melody now known as “Elsic’s Farewell” in April, 1889.

Harvey lived on until 1915 and was buried at the Elswick Cemetary at Quick, Kanawha County. Comstock cites the researches of a descendent, the Rev. Albert Elswick of Wallkill, New York, into the Elswick family and finds that Harvey Elswick played the tune at the request of his mother, who was on her deathbed. Complying with her request to “play his fiddle for her once more before she died,” Elswick was inspired to play the tune as his farewell.

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