Ballad of Martha Decker

Written August 1st, 1843, upon the death of 13-year-old Martha Decker, who drowned in the Chemung River, unknown author.

Come all ye dear people of every degree,
And give your attention one moment to me;
See how a young damsel but just in her bloom
Is called 'way by death, and lies bury'd in her tomb.
She was as the flowers that bloom in the morn,
Her parent's fond hopes are now blasted and gone;
The sweet stem is shaken, for death has it found.
The flower is forsaken, and lies on the ground.
Oh! oh cruel tyrant, why came you so soon?
Why could you not spar'd this fine flower till noon,
And let her fond parent his hopes realize,
And rob'd the cold grave of its victory and prize?
She was scarcely thirteen, obedient and kind.
Possess'd of a lady-like temper and mind;
The Youngest of all, being handsome and bright
(Her mother being dead) was her father's delight.
She started from home with her niece still more young,
To go to a sister's beyond the Chemung,
To pay a short visit, and then go and see
Her sister, the mother of her company.
They cross'd the fair river, it being yet low,
Though much rain had fallen above we do know;
They paid their short visit, and started to gain,
The next place appointed, in spite of the rain.
They placed them on horse-back and then they did seem
To be not exposed to the mud nor the stream.
A friend going with them and he did remain,
Until the other shore, in safety they'd gained.
She ended her journey and left her niece home,
And then in! great haste to return back she came,
The river had risen both riley and high,
Though little did she think, so soon she must die.
Her horse being antic, a blunder did make,
The girth of the saddle then instantly break,
And plunged this young damsel beneath the swift wave
And none there her life, was now able to save.
The neighbors ran down to the shore and did cry,
"God help her, oh! save her I fear she will die."
No boat being ready, no hand there to save,
Poor Martha must now meet a watery grave.
She rose in the water and some were so near,
As her lamentations distinctly to hear,
"Oh mercy, oh dear, is there none here to save,
And must I go down to a watery grave!"
She sank down and never alive more to rise,
Till Jesus descends in a cloud from the skies,
To awake all the nations that sleep in the ground,
Then quickly her dust will arise and be found.
The horse running home soon alarmed all her friends;
They ran to the river while wringing their hands.
Crying "Oh! my dear sister, are you in that stream,
And can we do nothing your life to redeem?
The people collected an hundred or more;
They raked the deep eddies and searched well the shore;
No traces of Martha could they find anywhere,
But still they continued their searching with care.
Lo! hear the deep valleys and hills how they mourn,
And Neptune himself ought to weep in return;
While loud peals of cannon ascend to the skies;
They're trying her slumbering body to rise.
The fish cleave the river and seem in a fright;
The birds are all flown and rise more to light.
The river is covered with boats and with men;
They're trying the body of her to regain.
But all was in vain, till four days had expired,
When three worthy people who virtue admir'd,
Espy'd her caught fast on a mill-dam below.
And quickly the news to her friends they did show,
A servant of Jesus went down in great haste,
And rescued her body from that doleful place;
She was soon convey'd to her sisters' from where
She started on Monday to go with such care.
Ah, now see the father, and hear his deep sighs,
When going to the carriage and sees where she lies;
He raises his hands up to Heaven in tears
Crying "Martha, my child, but I can't make you hear."
"Are you, my dear Martha, so altered I see,
That fondly I've dandl'd and rock'd on my knee,
Well pleased with thy prattle while roll'd in my arms,
And must you be food for the hungry worms?"
In Factoryville* church-yard her body now lies.
We hope her dear soul is in God's paradise;
Forever to sing sweet redemption from sin
By the blood of Christ Jesus made holy and clean.
Although she's now dead, may she ne'er be forgot,
Her youthful companions be solemn in thought.
To Factoryville church-yard in sadness repair,
For 'twill not be long before they must lie there.

*Factoryville was the original name of what is now Waverly, NY.