Sunday, December 18, 2011

Iva Dingwall

Iva Dingwall was born in Elk River, MN in 1877. She played the barn dance fiddle music that her father played when she was growing up.  This recording of her represents the only recordings we have of a Minnesota fiddler born in the 1800's.  Thankfully she also jotted down her accounts of her fathers playing and the tunes and dances that were used.  Here is one great story-

" How often do I recall my father and mother coming to the schoolhouse at three in the afternoon to take me home because he had to play for a dance perhaps ten miles away.  We were hurriedly dressed, and if it were winter, on our way by 4 o'clock because travel was so slow with a couple of old "nags" hitched to farm sled and we must be there no later than seven.  They liked to start the fun early, and dancing usually continued on until daybreak.  Then we started back home, arriving there sometimes as late as 8 in the morning- about time for father to begin his morning chores.  It must have been very tiresome for them, sitting in the cold and driving that distance after being up all night, but for my sister and I it was fun.  Straw was placed on the bottom of the sled and blankets spread over it to make a bed.  With the old flat-irons heated and placed at our feet, we were as "snug as a bug in a rug" and slept as one of their sayings went- "just like a log" ".

You can find more of her frontier writing here.

Sally Over The Water

Steamboat Quickstep

Captain Jinks


  1. This is fantastic! Thanks for posting these recordings Mike. My friend Randy Gosa and I have been performing Sally Over the Water and Captain Jinks as a set at our "Minnesota Lumberjack Songs" shows as an homage to Iva. I had transcribed her versions from the tape at the MN History Center but it's great to hear them online.

    I did some more digging on and it looks like her maiden name was Andrews (spelled Andrus on some documents) and that her dad Dewitt B Andrews came to Minnesota from New York.

    Also, over the holidays I had the chance to interview a fascinating 102 year old woman up in Bemidji who was born in a logging camp near Cass Lake, MN. Her name is Elsye McGuire. Elsye told me about growing up in her father's logging camp in the 1910s. Her family's house was attached to the camp dining hall and her mom was the cook.

    Each Sunday the lumberjacks, who were primarily Irish-American, would come into the dining hall and play fiddles and mouth organs and sing. She said some of the men would step dance on the tables and that her and her siblings learned some of the steps from them. Elsye also learned to accompany them on piano. Fascinating stuff!

    I named some of the men I had found in my own research and she remembered the name Patty McLaughlin. Patty was mentioned in a logging history article by J.C. Ryan. Ryan recalled: "During the winter of 1918-1919 in a camp north of Mizpah, Patty McLaughlin, a witty Irishman from Northome who could play the violin and loved to sing, would go into the bunkhouse on Sundays and some evenings and would play and sing and get the boys singing with him. He knew all the old songs and sang them very well. However it was “The Banks of the Little Eau Plaine,” “Ye Noble Big Pine Tree” and “The Foreman Young Monroe” that the boys liked the best."


  2. Brian, Thanks for the the info and your continued support of this project. - Mike

    Brian Miller collects and performs Minnesota lumberjack songs. Go to and support his work by buying a disk or catch him live.