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The Death of Harry Simms, song lyrics

Song: The Death of Harry Simms
Lyrics: Aunt Molly Jackson(1) and Jim Garland(2)

Music: to a varied version of the tune "Buffalo Skinners"
Year: 1932
Genre: Folk
Country: USA

Come and listen to my story,
Come and listen to my song;
I'll tell you of a hero
That now is dead and gone;
I'll tell you of a young boy,
His age it was nineteen;
He was the bravest union man
That ever I have seen.
This song was originally posted on
Harry Simms(3) was a pal of mine,
We labored side by side,
Expecting to be shot on sight
Or taken for a ride
By some life-stealing gun thug
That roams from town to town
To shoot and kill our union men
Where e'er they may be found.

Harry Simms and I was parted
At five o’clock that day.
"Be careful, my dear brother,"
To Harry I did say.
"Now I must do my duty,"
Was his reply to me;
"lf I get killed by gun thugs
Don't grieve after me."
This song was originally posted on
Harry Simms was walking up the track
That bright sunshiny day;
He was a youth of courage,
His steps was light and gay;
He did not know the gun thugs
Was hiding on the way
To kill our brave young hero
That bright sunshiny day.

Harry Simms was killed on Brush Creek(4)
In nineteen thirty-two;
He organized the miners
Into the N.M.U.(5);
He gave his life in struggle,
'Twas all that he could do;
He died for the union,
He died for me and you.

The thugs can kill our leaders
And cause us to shed tears,
But they cannot kill our spirit
If they try a million years;
We have learned our lesson
Now we all realize
A union struggle must go on
Till we are organized.


1 - Aunt Molly Jackson (1880-1960), in the Encyclopedia of Appalachia, University of Tennessee Press

2 - Jim Garland (1905 - 1978), was Molly Jackson's younger stepbrother who was a Harlan County, Kentucky, coal minter, a National Miners' Union organizer and a folk singer. He was a close personal friend of Harry Simms and he was the primary source of this story.

3 - Harry Simms Hersh (1911 - 1932) from American Studies, University of Virginia. Harry Simms was sent to Bell County to help with the miners' union. It was claimed that the Brush Creek coal operators had offered $1000 to anybody would would kill Harry Simms or Jim Garland. When Harry was shot in he stomach, he was taken to town and he was left sitting on a rock in from of the hospital, when the hospital said they wouldn't take Simms until someone would guaratee to pay his bill. When someone said they would pay the bill, the hospital looked at Harry, but he had lost too much blood by this time and died.

4 - Brush Creek, Knox County, Kentucky.

5 - N.M.U. is the National Miners Union. This link is to the University of Kentucky, Appalachian Center.