The jealous lover lures (Florella/Pearl Bryan) into the woods with the promise that they will discuss wedding plans. Once there, he stabs her. When captured, he is imprisoned for life
The antecedents and relationships of this ballad are immensely complex, and cannot be described here. There are many related pieces.
There is some debate over whether the ballad is in fact a "native American" piece. Although most of its present forms are uniquely American, Barry points to a connection with the British piece, "The Murder of Betty Smith." For this song, see e.g. the broadside NLScotland, L.C.Fol.73(126), "Murder of Betty Smith," Robert McIntosh (Glasgow), c.1850.
(Belden also mentions a possible connection to T. H. Bayley's "She Never Blamed Him." This seems a stretch even in the versions where the girl forgives the murderer.)
Given the number of similar songs, the reader is advised to check references under Laws F2, Laws F3, "The Jealous Lover II," etc.
Fuller details on the story of Pearl Bryan may be found in the entry on Pearl Bryan (I) [Laws F2].
Laws breaks this ballad up into three subgroups. F1A is "The Jealous Lover" (Florella, Floella, Blue-Eyed Ella, etc.); F1B is the Pearl Bryan group; F1C is the Nell Cropsey song. I decided to "lump" the songs, however, as they differ in very little except names.
The "Pearl Bryan" versions of this song (Laws F1B) are told from other Pearl Bryan songs by a first verse similar to this:
Way down in yonder valley
There the violets fade and bloom,
There lies our own Pearl Bryan
In a cold and lonesome tomb. - RBW
Peacock is another who believes "this is an American ballad freely based on an English broadside and a sentimental English song by T.H. Bayly called She Never Blamed Him [sic], written in the 1820's and widely popular during the American Civil War." You can read the lyrics of "She Never Blam'd Him, Never," by Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797-1829), on the Library of Congress American Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets site, digital id as203280. Judge the likelihood for yourself.
Here's a description of "She Never Blam'd Him, Never": He visits and she receives him, vainly trying "to look the same." Though she was dying, only losing him made "her sweet voice ... faulter." She never blamed him for luring her "from the isle where she was born" into "the cold world's cruel scorn." He leaves and "she heard the bugle's sound... and strangers found her Cold and lifeless on the ground."
In any case, T.H. Bayly's name has appeared in this index in connection with other songs [sometimes as Bayley]. What kind of poet writes songs that do pass into tradition? You can find out more about him and his songs in Andrew Lang's _Essays in Little_ - BS