“McAfee's Confession”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1903 (Belden)
Keywords: homicide orphan adultery execution
Found in: US(Ap,MW,SE,So)


McAfee, the singer, is raised by an uncle after being orphaned. As a youth he runs away and turns wild. Married to a good woman, he has an affair with Hettie Stout and murders his wife by giving her poison instead of medicine. He is condemned to die


Laws lists this as a native American ballad, but there is British influence; Pound notes that her text concludes with a wish by McFee that he had "ten thousand pounds" to bring her back to life. This may be a moralizing addition, but clearly from a British source. - RBW

Historical references


  1. Laws F13, "McAfee's Confession"
  2. Belden, pp. 317-321, "McAfee's Confession" (2 texts plus references to 4 more, 1 tune)
  3. Randolph 133, "McFee's Confession" (2 texts plus a long excerpt, 1 tune)
  4. Eddy 129, "McAfee's Confession" (1 text)
  5. Gardner/Chickering 138, "McAfee's Confession" (1 text)
  6. LPound-ABS, 68, pp. 153-154, "Young McFee" (1 text)
  7. JHCox 37, "McAfee's Confession" (2 texts plus references to 5 more, 1 tune)
  8. JHCoxIIB, #6A-B, pp. 133-136, "McAfee's Confession" (1 text plus a fragment, 1 tune)
  9. SharpAp 79, "Macafee's Congession, or Harry Gray" (4 texts, 4 tunes)
  10. Burt, pp. 22-24, "McAfee's Confession" (1 text)
  11. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 136, "MacAfee's Confession" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. DT 630, MCAFEECN*
  13. Roud #449
  14. BI, LF13