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“Logan County Court House” or “Logan County Jail” is one of several songs written about events in Logan County, West Virginia. From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, dated 24 September 1926, we find this:

“For a dual purpose The Banner herewith reproduces one of the four known variants of the song entitled “Logan County Court House.” In the first place it should be of interest to those who have never read it or any similar version. Secondly, this paper is desirous of learning something about the authorship of the song.

“Who wrote it? And when and under what circumstances? Many a Banner reader may have some information on this matter which he or she should be willing to communicate.

“The variants of this song are reproduced in Prof. John Harrington Cox’s volume of ‘Folk-Songs of the South’ published last year. The following one was sent to that author, a member of the faculty of West Virginia University, by Miss Snoah McCourt, of Ornoff, Webster county, this state:

When I was a little boy, I worked on Market Square.

O’ money I did pocket, but I never did it fair.

I rode upon the lakes and learned to rob and steal,

And when I made a great haul, how happy I did feel.

I used to wear the white hat, my horse an’ buggy fine.

I used to court a pretty girl I always thought was mine.

I courted her for beauty, her love for me was great.

And when I’d go to see her, she’d meet me at the gate.

One night as I lay sleeping, I dreamed a mighty dream.

That I was marching down on the golden stream.

I woke all broken-hearted, in Logan County jail,

And not a friend around me for to go my bail.

Down came the jailer about ten o’clock,

And the key in his hand he shoved against the lock.

“Cheer up, cheer up, my prisoner!” I thought I heard him say.

“You’re going around to Moundsville, seven long years to stay.”

Down came the jailer about ten o’clock,

And with the key in his hand he shoved against the lock.

“Cheer up, cheer up, my prisoner!” I thought I heard him say,

“You’re going around to Moundsville, seven long years to stay.”

Down came my true love, ten dollars in her hand.

“O my dearest darling, I’ve done all that I can!

And may the Lord be with you, wherever you may go,

And Satan snatch the jury for sending you below.”

Sitting in the railroad, waiting for the train,

“I am going away to leave you, to wear the ball and chain.

I’m going away to leave you. Darling, don’t you cry.

Take a glass of whiskey and let it all pass by.”

A subsequent story printed on 28 September 1926, provided more information about the song’s history:

“Publication in last Friday’s Banner of the old ‘Logan County Jail’ song, with an inquiry as to its authorship, has brought a reward in the form of an interesting letter from John C. Elkins of the sheriff’s office. This letter reveals the name of the songwriter, and gives a glimpse into his life after his soul found a measure of relief in rime and rhythm.

“Doubtless many of those who last week read the song for the first time and others who re-read it with more or less eagerness will be interested and even pleased to learn that the prisoner escaped from jail and a long term at Moundsville: went west, reformed, and entered the ministry; then in the flickering twilight of his eventful life, he came back to die amid the mountains he loved so well.

“Here is the letter dated Sept. 27, which outlines the strange story:

“Question: Who was the author of the song ‘The Logan County Jail’?

“Answer: This song was composed by a Logan county boy whose childhood had been thrilled by the horrors of the war of 1861-65. His song tells the story of his life, his crime, his sentence, his thoughts of and goodbye to the girl he left behind, the invitation to take a glass of whiskey and let all worries pass by. He climbed the prison walls and made his escape into the west. There he became a minister. Some years later, broken in health, he returned to his native county and died about 20 years ago. The song was written 50 years ago and its author was Clayton Buchanan.


“To the Banner these revelations come with an irresistible appeal; and while thanking Mr. Elkins, the regret is expressed that he did not go into greater detail in unfolding this story–a story teeming with dramatic values.”

One additional story about the song appeared in the Banner on 5 October 1926:

“What the Banner has been publishing in recent issues relative to the authorship of the ‘Logan County Jail’ song has been read with interest by Prof. John H. Cox, head of the department of English, West Virginia University. It was from his book, ‘Folk Songs of the South,’ that this song was reproduced in these columns.

“From Prof. Cox the following letter dated September 30 was received by The Banner:

“This is to thank you for the clipping from The Logan Banner concerning the origin of the song, ‘Logan County Jail.’ It is very interesting and I have no doubt it is correct. I wonder if any records of Clayton Buchanan’s trial are in Logan County courthouse? I should like very much to have the details of the crime, the trial, the escape, and the death of this man for the files of the West Virginia Folk-Lore Society, of which I happen to be the president, archivist, and general editor. Could you not prevail upon Mr. John C. Elkins either to write out or dictate to some stenographer all that he knows about the case and have it printed in The Banner? It would be a real worthwhile piece of work.

“You may be interested to know that I am at work on a second volume of West Virginia Folk-lore, a volume which we hope to make as interesting and valuable as the first. We shall be glad to have any material of any kind that may be found.

“Sincerely yours,

“John H. Cox

“34 Campus Driveway

“P.S. A transcript of the record in the courthouse, if there is one, would be especially valuable.”