As our local history collection here at the Crandon Public Library continues to grow and we are able to visualize and read about the early residents of this place we call home, we are beginning to get a better understanding of the early beginnings of Crandon and Forest County. But while we have photos and documents that bring early Crandon to life, we have not been able to hear what early Crandon sounded like– hoof-beats down main street, carriage springs squeaking while passengers made the long trip between Crandon and Argonne and waking up to the 6:00 a.m. quiet of a snowfall that would be shoveled and not plowed. Some day we may uncover photos or documents of these type of events but sadly we may never hear the voices and sounds of these events. Or so we thought…
Last Wednesday evening a handful of Crandon residents were able to hear the voices and sounds of some of our early residents thanks to the efforts of Jim Leary, a co-founder of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Jim Leary and his colleagues have made accessible hundreds of original sound recordings found within the Archive of Folk Culture in the Library of Congress including materials collected at lumber camps and shanty’s right here in Forest County.
The materials were originally collected by Sidney Robertson, an independent song catcher, who traveled the upper Midwest in the 30’s and 40’s frequenting “lumber camps, dance halls and chain gangs.” (Folk Music of Wisconsin, http://csumc.wisc.edu/src/) During one of her travels she found herself in the Forest County welfare office in the company of Warde Ford, a caretaker at Crandon’s funeral home. Through her relationship with Warde, Sidney Robertson was able to meet, interview and record a handful of Crandon residents including Robert Walker, Elizabeth Walker Ford, Jerome Ford, Warde Ford, Charles Spencer, and Harry Fannin. (Leary. Folksongs of Another America, p. 26-40).
Sidney Robertson’s field notes, currently located within the Library of Congress, revealed a song composed by Ed King of Crandon, and sung by Warde Ford, simply titled Crandon.
Jim Leary thoughtfully agreed to allow us to add this song to our website acknowledging that the reason he and his colleagues study folk art is not for fortune but rather to uncover these type of hidden gems that will enhance the understanding of our local history. Thank you Jim!
Also many thanks to Jacque Hurley for donating a copy of Jim’s book Folksongs of Another America to our Wisconsin collection. It will be available for checkout soon!