In this article, writing under her pseudonym of Annie Moore, Annie Dix Sullivan Urann provides a biographical sketch of her mother, Marion Dix Sullivan. The children were probably Annie and her younger siblings, John Henry and Frances Ellen (the latter, later the wife of Gen. Edward A. Wild).

The Blue Juniata

by Annie Moore [Annie Dix Sullivan Urann]

Forty years ago every one [sic] knew the song "Blue Juniata."

It was a simple song, but it took the popular fancy, and children were named for "Alfarata," the Indian girl, and so were boats; but the name was gradually changed to Alfaretta, or Alfretta. The Rev. Dr. Edward E. Hale, in "G. T. T., or the Wonderful Adventures of a Pullman," speaks of it as a "pretty specimen of that school of song that may be called the 'American.'" The words ran:

"Wild roved an Indian girl,
Bright Alfarata,
Where sweep the waters
Of the blue Juniata.
Swift as an antelope
Thro' the forest going,
Loose were her jetty locks
In wavy tresses flowing.

"Gay was the mountain
Of bright Alfarata,
Where sweep the waters
Of the blue Juniata.
'Strong and true my arrows are
In my painted quiver,
Swift goes my light canoe
Adown the rapid river.

"'Bold is my warrior good,
The love or Alfarata,
Proud waves his snowy plume
Along the Juniata.
Soft and low he speaks to me,
And then his war-cry sounding,
Rings his voice in thunder loud,
From height to height resounding.'

"So sang the Indian girl,
Bright Alfarata,
Where sweep the waters
Of the blue Juniata,
Fleeting years have borne away
The voice of Alfarata;
Still sweeps the river on,
Blue Juniata."

The Juniata is a wild and beautiful river, formed by the union of three smaller rivers that rise in the Alleghany Mountains, and unite near Huntington, Penn. The main stream is one hundred and fifty miles long, and it flows through the picturesque Juniata Valley, until it loses itself in the broad Susquehanna River, about a mile from Duncannon. . . .

The Pennsylvania Railroad follows the Juniata in its windings, and passes through some of the loveliest scenery in the State. At one point the valley divides into two ravines. Here the railroad crosses both ravines upon a high embankment, and forms the wonderful "Horse-Shoe Curve," the sides of which are parallel to each other, so that two trains travelling the same way appear to be going in different directions. This is at Kittanning Point. . . ."

The song "Blue Juniata" was composed by Mrs. Marion Dix Sullivan, the wife of Mr. John W. Sullivan, of Boston. Mrs. Sullivan was born in 1802, in Boscawen, N. H., near the beautiful Merrimack River. She was the daughter of Col. Timothy Dix, and the sister of General John A. Dix, of New York. She died in 1860.

Some years before the song was published, Mrs. Sullivan was travelling with her children and a party of friends from Massachusetts, to what was then the far West, -- Ohio. Circumstances had led her husband to seek a home for his family in the West, and he had preceded them by a few weeks, in order to make arrangements.

Some part of their journey was made on the canal. By the children of the party this was considered a delightful mode of travelling. The somewhat homelike aspect of the cabin in contrast to railway cars, charmed them. From the windows on both sides many interesting things might be seen, sometimes houses and their inhabitants, and always the canal-horses and their driver.

Particularly attractive were the novel arrangements for sleeping, -- the curious berths or shelves that were hung up against the walls every night, and taken down again every morning. Then the joy of being permitted to sleep in the topmost one, to ascend to which required something of the skill and agility of a practiced gymnast.

One night the sleeping company was awakened by a sudden jar and crash, but returned to its slumbers on being assured that it was nothing.

The boat had "only struck a rock."

But those who first opened their eyes the next morning saw the cabin-floor covered with water, deep enough to float boots and shoes and other small things; and they also saw the stewardess, who had gone to sleep that night on a mattress on the floor, now sound asleep, on the cabin-table.

It was found advisable after this to forsake the canal-boat, and take up with a rather dilapidated stage-coach, the only resource at this point. This change involved some discomforts, but they were more than counter-balanced by the charm of the journey over the mountain road.

It was under these circumstances that Mrs. Sullivan first saw the Juniata, and found the inspiration for her song.

After a few years in Ohio, Mr. Sullivan's health failed, and he was obliged to go away to regain it. During his absence of two years or more, Mrs. Sullivan, by teaching music and languages, supported herself and her three children, keeping them at the best schools in the neighborhood. She had a kind and beautiful face, and a peculiarly genial manner, and she found warm friends everywhere.

She wrote many songs, always without effort. They seemed to "come to her," the words and music together.

In those days "Music, heavenly Maid," was extremely "young" in the West, and in the dearth of musical "entertainments" of any kind, Mrs. Sullivan's house was always open to her friends, and there she sang her songs, to the guitar, with a sweet voice and much feeling, to attentive and delighted listeners.

After her return to Boston, she published quite a number of songs, among which "The Field of Monterey," written at the time of the Mexican War, "The Good Physician," a sacred song, and "Marion Day" were well-known and liked, but the popular favorite was always the "The Blue Juniata."

-- in Youth's Companion, March 1888

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Copyright 2019 by Deidre Johnson . Please do not reproduce without permission.