A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 319


The Ghost of Henry Wilson

Hi, everyone, it’s me, President Nolan, back with an important announcement. President of what, did someone ask??? President of WOOOF, of course – Wilson Out Of Obscurity Forthwith. And not only president, but the founder of WOOOF. Admittedly, though, the only member of the organization at this present time.

For those not up to speed with Wilson, he was vice president of the United States under Ulysses Grant, and the Farmington connection is that he was born here on Feb. 16, 1812, making next year the 200th anniversary of his birth.

So what is the town doing to mark the auspicious occasion? Ordering miles of bunting and Henry Wilson flags to be draped from every light pole? Planning to erect a giant Henry Wilson statue? Resurrecting the Henry Wilson Winter Carnival? (Ah, remember Big Cake, as recorded in this very column a quarter of a century ago?)

Maybe all, or maybe some of the above, but I must say town fathers are leaving it a bit late – the 200th anniversary year is less than 10 weeks away. So the correct answer is probably: None of the Above. Thus it falls to WOOOF to rescue Wilson from oblivion once again, and this time it will be with…drum roll…Henry Wilson – the Musical…which will be performed next June for that fine band of dodderers better known as Farmington Historical Society.

Since Dottie Bean press ganged me into this chore, I mean duty, a few weeks ago, I have been penning new material which is intended to show Wilson, warts and all, for who among us is perfect? Few of us, certainly, have taken a spy for a mistress and blabbed military secrets to her that almost led to our capture in the first major battle of a war, but what the heck! That whole debacle, and more is covered in The Ballad of Henry and Wild Rose, which is almost finished, and will be given an airing in Farmington Corner in December.

Around Henry’s actual birthday, too, my plan is to include another new song, Slavery in New Hampshire which details his years in Farmington and how they led to his dogged pursuit of Emancipation.

Today, though, as Halloween approaches I must unfurl The Ghost of Henry Wilson, which, like the previous song has a chorus that depends upon fervent audience participation.

(Good luck with that, after calling everyone a dodderer! - Editor)

The background is that VP Wilson, while slogging away on his three part work, The Rise and Fall of Slave Power in the United States, used to nip off a couple of times a day to the Italian marble baths installed in the bowels of the U.S. Senate for the enjoyment of the privileged. Tubbing, they called it, and modern day psychobabblers would insist that Wilson was really washing away the guilt of his association with the Southern spy, Wild Rose O’Neal.

Anyway, talking of dodderers, Wilson fell asleep in his tub, the water got frozen, and he developed a terrible bout of influenza, which pushed him into having another stroke, which killed him while he was back working on his treatise on slavery. Wilson is now featured in the official U.S. Senate Book of Ghosts as the emanation of a disembodied sneeze on quiet nights in that building.

In the best folk traditions, I adapted the tune of the late Matt McGinn’s Dundee Ghost for the Henry song, and, as mentioned above, there is a chorus - one that should be sung (next June) with awe and trepidation. So, without further ado, here is Farmington Corner’s nod to Halloween, and WOOOF’s tribute to Henry.


The Ghost of Henry Wilson


1. When Henry was alive,

Back in 1875,

He was always squeaky clean,

For he went tubbing twice a day,

Scrubbing all his sins away,

Til that fateful eve just after Hallowe’en.



Do you feel that icy breeze?

Did you hear that awful sneeze?

Do you see that eerie light?

Just along the corridor

Of the lower Senate floor,

Henry Wilson’s ghost is out tonight,

Oooooo, oooooo, oooooo,

Henry Wilson’s ghost is out tonight.


2. It was early in November,

As historians remember,

The tubbing Mr. Wilson nodded off,

And his water turned real chilly

Made old Henry pretty ill, he

Exhibited a fearful wheeze and cough.




3. On November twenty-two,

While still battling the flu,

Henry had a stroke and passed away

While he was working in the Senate

Now his ghost, I’m sure ye ken it,

Haunts the building right up to the present day.




So there you have it…the first of the three new songs from Henry Wilson – the Musical, with this trio of songs joining a previous three: The Henry Wilson Blues, Poem Poem on the Grange, and the magnificent anthem with which we will close the June performance, Henry Wilson Has Two Names. It has a soaring Jacobite chorus, dear dodderers.


Oct. 23, 2011

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