Roger McGuinn·The Folk Den

May 2015 • Acres of Clams


Francis D. Henry wrote the “Old Settler’s Song,” or “Acres of Clams” around 1874. Set to the tune of “Rosin the Bow,” it was thought to be the state song of Washington according to the The People’s Song Bulletin until it was decided the lyrics were not dignified enough. I learned “Acres of Clams” at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago around 1957 and found it recently in a book from the school.


[E] I wandered all [B7] over this [E] country
Prospecting and mining for [C#m] gold
[E] I’ve tunneled, [B7] hydraulicked and [E] cradled
And I have been [B7] frequently [E] sold
CH: And I have been frequently [A] sold
And I have been frequently [C#m] sold
[E] I’ve tunneled, [B7] hydraulicked and [E] cradled
And I have been [B7] frequently [E] sold

For one who gets riches by mining
Perceiving that hundreds grow poor
I made up my mind to try farming
The only pursuit that is sure

So rolling my grub in a blanket
I left all my tools on the ground
And started one morning to shank it
For a country they call Puget Sound

Arriving flat broke in midwinter
I found it enveloped in fog
And covered all over with timber
Thick as hair on a dog

I took up a claim in the forest
And set myself down to hard toil
For two years I chopped and I loggered
But I never got down to the soil

I tried to get out of the country
But poverty forced my to stay
Until I became an old settler
Then you couldn’t drive me away

But now that I’m used to the climate
I think that if a man ever found
A spot to live easy and happy
That Eden is on Puget Sound

No longer a slave to ambition
I laugh at the world and its shams
As I think of my happy condition
Surrounded by acres of clams

The Folk Den Archives

  • Acres of Clams
  • The Rainbow
  • The Crawdad Song
  • Paddy and the Whale
  • The Ash Grove
  • The Cherry Tree Carol
  • Little Moses
  • Henry Lee
  • Risselty Rosselty Now Now Now
  • Tell Ole Gil
  • Hard Times of Old England
  • Peg & Awl
  • Take A Drink On Me
  • The Lazy Farmer Boy
  • Engine 143
  • Winter’s Almost Gone
  • The Month of January
  • It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
  • She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain
  • Swannanoa Tunnel
  • Jimmy Brown
  • I Heard The Voice Of Jesus
  • I’ve Been Working On The Railroad
  • We Are Crossing The Jordan River
  • Early One Morning
  • Swing Low Sweet Chariot
  • The Moonshiner
  • Banks of Newfoundland
  • John Hardy
  • We Three Kings
  • Away With Rum
  • Darling Clementine
  • Give Me Oil In My Lamp
  • Isn’t It Grand?
  • Jacob’s Dream
  • When Jones’s Ale Was New
  • Down In The Valley
  • Let My People Go!
  • Paddy West
  • Titanic
  • Eddystone Light
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlmen
  • The Cobbler
  • Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair
  • Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie
  • The Coast of Peru
  • Paul & Silas
  • Leave Her Johnny Leave Her
  • To Welcome Poor Paddy Home
  • The Squirrel
  • Polly Vaughn
  • Henry Martin
  • Barbara Allen
  • Back To Sea
  • The Bears Went Over The Mountain
  • Pay Me My Money Down
  • Rolling Down To Old Maui
  • Whoa Back Buck
  • I’m On My Way
  • All The Pretty Little Horses
  • Big Rock Candy Mountain
  • Black Mt. Rag / Soldier’s Joy
  • She Never Will Marry
  • Randy Dandy Oh
  • Take This Hammer
  • Christmas Is Coming
  • Frozen Logger
  • I’ll Fly Away
  • Drill Ye Tarriers
  • When I First Came To This Land
  • Old Chisholm Trail
  • A Roving
  • Dry Bones
  • Old Plank Road
  • My Home’s Across The Smokey Mountains
  • Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
  • No Payday In Detroit
  • Go Tell It On The Mountain
  • 500 Miles
  • Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho
  • Darlin’ Corey
  • Skip To My Lou
  • Going Down The Road Feeling Bad
  • I Know Where I’m Going
  • Come And Go With Me To That Land
  • Cripple Creek
  • Blow The Man Down
  • Old Joe Clark
  • Away Rio
  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • Old Blue
  • The Ballad of the Boll Weevil
  • Fair and Tender Ladies
  • Sugar Baby
  • The Coo Coo
  • King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki Me O
  • The Butcher’s Boy
  • Glory Glory
  • The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
  • The House Carpenter
  • This Little Light Of Mine
  • Joy To The World
  • Housewife’s Lament
  • Whup Jamboree
  • Perry’s Victory
  • Every Time I Feel The Spirit
  • Katie Morey
  • Pretty Polly
  • Molly Malone
  • Greensleeves
  • Wade in the Water
  • Mary Had A Little Lamb
  • St. Clair's Defeat
  • Children Go Where I Send Thee
  • Oh Mary Don't You Weep
  • Ruben Ranzo
  • There's A Hole In The Bucket
  • Red River Valley
  • Erie Canal
  • On Top Of Old Smokey
  • Old Riley
  • So Early In The Spring
  • Wanderin'
  • Follow The Drinking Gourd
  • Let The Bullgine Run
  • Cindy
  • The First Noel
  • The John B's Sails
  • Spanish Ladies
  • Oh Freedom
  • Haul Away Joe
  • Down by the Riverside
  • Salty Dog Blues
  • Gypsey Rover
  • Ezekiel Saw A Wheel
  • Drunken Sailor
  • Silver Dagger
  • The Gallows Pole
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Heave Away
  • Banks of Ohio
  • Shenandoah
  • Go Tell Aunt Rhodie
  • He's Got The Whole World In His Hands
  • Squid-Jigging Ground
  • 12 Gates To The City
  • Wild Mountain Thyme
  • Pretty Saro
  • St. James Infirmary
  • When the Saints Go Marching In
  • Away In A Manger
  • I Am A Pilgram
  • Wildwood Flower
  • Railroad Bill
  • Delia's Gone
  • All My Trials
  • Tarrytown
  • Michael Row the Boat Ashore
  • Rock Island Line
  • Roddy McCorley
  • Spanish is the Loving Tongue
  • Waltzing Matilda
  • I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  • Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • America For Me
  • Streets of Laredo
  • Bring Me a Little Water, Sylvie
  • Nancy Whiskey
  • Water is Wide, The
  • House of the Rising Sun, The
  • Colorado Trail, The
  • Catch The Greenland Whale
  • The Riddle Song
  • Stewball
  • Twelve Days of Christmas, The
  • Makes A Long Time Man Feel Bad
  • Coffee Grows On White Oak Trees
  • Cumberland Mountain Bear Chase
  • Cruel War, The
  • Star Spangled Banner
  • Willie Moore
  • Kilgary Mountain
  • Lilly of the West
  • Dink's Song
  • Greenland Whale Fisheries
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • I Saw Three Ships
  • Ain' No Mo' Cane On De Brasis
  • Fair Nottamun Town
  • Sail Away Lady
  • Trouble In Mind
  • Get Along Little Dogies
  • Liverpool Gals
  • Alabama Bound
  • Blood Red Roses
  • Old Texas
  • 900 Miles
  • Brazos River, The
  • Bonny Ship the Diamond, The
  • John The Revelator
  • Mighty Day
  • Home On The Range
  • John Henry
  • Pushboat
  • James Alley Blues, The
  • Handsome Cabin Boy, The
  • Bound To Australia
  • Finnegan's Wake
  • Brandy Leave Me Alone
  • Cold Cold Coast of Greenland, The
  • Mary Had A Baby
  • Wagoner’s Lad
  • Wild Goose
  • Go To Sea Once More
  • South Australia
  • This Train
  • East Virginia
  • Wayfaring Stranger
  • Brisbane Ladies
  • Sailor Lad
  • Alberta
  • In The Evenin’
  • What Child Is This
  • Golden Vanity
  • Lost Jimmy Whelan
  • Boatman
  • Tribute to Bob Gibson
  • Cold Coast of Greenland
  • New York Girls
  • Buffalo Skinners
  • Springfield Mountain
  • Easter
  • To Morrow
  • John Riley
  • Argonaut, The
  • Virgin Mary
  • Old Paint