In 1841 one Solomon Northup (b.1808), a free Black man from New York State, was kidnapped from Washington City (DC) and sold into slavery. A fiddler playing with a small troop for the circus, he was transported to a Cotton plantation on the Red River in Louisiana. Sold and traded among several masters with dramatically different ideas of slave treatment, here he remained until his rescue in 1853. His status as the “Ole Bull of Bayou Bœuf” did not preclude him from field work and he suffered harsh treatment. This tune, printed in his 1855 account of the ordeal, is subtitled “A Refrain from the Red River Plantation” and is described as being sung while patting. His does not relate the origin of the song, but includes this tune with the following words.
Harper’s Creek and roarin’ ribber,
Thar, my dear, we’ll live forebber;
Den we’ll go to de Injin Nation,
All I want in dis creation,
Is a pretty little wife and Big Plantation.
Up dat oak and down dat ribber,
Two overseers and one little n….r
Description of the sound of an Indian fiddle: “Injin Nation” may refer to a settlement of remnant Chickasaw on Indian Creek in the “Great Pine Woods.” Here Solomon visited several times while guiding lumber down the creek for one of his masters. During one visit to a dance a musician produced “a sort of Indian fiddle,” whereupon he played a “continuous, melancholy kind of wavy sound , with the slightest possible variation.” (Northup, 101).