Appalachia Music

Oh Those Tombs

Oh Those Tombs

Oh Those Tombs (writer unknown)

I was strolling one day in a lonely graveyard
When a voice from the tomb seemed to say
‘Once I lived as you lived, walked and talked as you talk
But from earth I was soon called away’

Oh those tombs (Oh those tombs), lonely tombs (lonely tombs)
Seemed to say in a low gentle tone
Oh how sweet (oh how sweet) is the rest (is the rest)
In that beautiful, heavenly home

As I strolled through the graves a voice seemed to say
‘Living man, you must soon follow me’
And I thought as I gazed on the cold marble slabs
What a dark, lonely place that must be

Oh those tombs (Oh those tombs), lonely tombs (lonely tombs)
Seemed to say in a low gentle tone
Oh how sweet (oh how sweet) is the rest (is the rest)
In that beautiful, heavenly home

As I strolled to the grave where my dear Mother lay
I was glad for the promise of rest
Where through wonderful grace in that marvelous place
She is now with the saved and the blest

Oh those tombs (Oh those tombs), lonely tombs (lonely tombs)
Seemed to say in a low gentle tone
Oh how sweet (oh how sweet) is the rest (is the rest)
In that beautiful, heavenly home

———————

I tried to no avail to find the history of the song. Everyone from The Blue Sky Boys to Hank Williams recorded it. Pap’s been singing it for years. It’s one of those songs that make you want to tap your foot, even though, the subject matter is sad.

If you have any info about the song-I’d love to hear it! Hope you enjoyed the video.

Tipper

 

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Maxine Appleby
    June 11, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    This blog is such a light in my life- thank you for the treasures you all share with us!

  • Reply
    Janice McCall
    October 30, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Tipper, never heard this song before. I do believe, of all your videos, this is my favorite!

  • Reply
    Quinn
    February 24, 2015 at 6:11 am

    I don’t know what is more moving to me: this song, or Don’s story about Laddie Casada.

  • Reply
    Jack West
    February 22, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Oh Those Tombs was reintroduce by William M.Golden around the 1880s !!

  • Reply
    Jack West
    February 22, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    “Lonely Tombs” was written by J.e. Mainer.

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    February 22, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Being a piano player, Momma has lots of song books from church over the years. I found it in one of them & it had William Golden as the author with a caption under the title that said “Composed after a walk through the city of the dead.” Wm M Golden.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 22, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    I forgot to mention how much I enjoyed the song. I especially liked the sound from archtop guitar. I spent much of the morning trying to figure out what is was. Is it a the Loar LH-700? I can’t see the headstock very well in the video but it looks like a vase with a vine growing from it.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 22, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    To my recollection, I had not heard (nor read the words of) “Oh Those Tombs” (or “Lonely Tombs”) by William M. Golden, nor had I read the lyrics. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the research by those who pointed us to those who wrote and recorded the song. We might say that people “wrote and sang their hearts out” in some of these old songs. It is good to hear them–even for the first time–and to have Paul and Pap perform so well!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 22, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    My Ammons grandparents are buried at Cold Springs Cemetery in Swain County. I hadn’t been to the graveyard that I remember until just a few years ago when my son and I set out to find it. The road in to it was overgrown and had downed trees across it but we persevered until we got through. We found their graves and both were badly sunken in. We left after a few minutes but I couldn’t get the scene out of my mind. I had been in contact with one of Grandma’s niece’s daughters from the Charlotte area. When I told her about the condition of the graves she said she couldn’t tell her mother who was old and frail. So I told her to tell her mom that Grandma had kicked off the covers and that I was going to make her bed.
    Everybody was too busy to go with me so I loaded up a wheelbarrow, mattock, rake and shovel and made the 2 1/2 hour trek by myself.
    I was lucky. A grave had been recently opened there so the road was passable and there was fresh dirt available. I carried tree limbs off the graves and raked away years of accumulated leaves and filled in the sunken areas. The graves were sunken in so badly that it took a dozen or more wheelbarrow loads of dirt to get them back to level.
    I spent the afternoon alone on top of that mountain with only the resting spirits of departed loved ones to keep me company. Many had been lying there for a century and a half or more. They were not disturbed by my presence nor I by theirs.
    Are their tombs lonely, I cannot say but the Bible in 1 Corinthians 15:52 says we are there for only a twinkling of an eye.

  • Reply
    Allison B
    February 22, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Don’t believe I’ve ever heard this one before. I will remember hearing it today…23 years ago today my paternal grandmother went to her heavenly home.

  • Reply
    Granny Norma
    February 22, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Cheryl Soehl hit the nail on the head and then some. William Matthew Golden 1878-1934 also wrote A Beautiful Life, To Canaan’s Land, The Evening Sun, and Where the Soul Never Dies. You can find a list of his inclusions in hymnals at hymnary.org. Most recordings call this tune Lonely Tombs. As far as I know, J.E Mainer was the first to record it.

  • Reply
    dolores
    February 22, 2015 at 11:18 am

    This story reminds me of a book I used to read to my students titled “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. It was live’s lessons on growing older and I wanted them to realize that middle school was a stepping stone to life’s challenges and how we travel from childhood to adulthood and finally old age. There are probably other thoughts by others, but I have always tresured the story.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    February 22, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Tipper, it took me a while, but I have found the information on the author at: http://www.hymnary.org/text/i_was_strolling_one_day_in_a_lonely_grav
    This is what they provide: “Author: William M. Golden
    [William Golding] Born: January 28, 1878, Webster County, Mississippi. Died: May 13, 1934, in a traffic accident near Eupora, Mississippi. Buried: Spring Valley Cemetery #2, Mathiston, Mississippi. Son of James and Camella Hood Golding (his surname changed later), it is said he wrote most of his songs while serving an eight-year sentence in the state penitentiary. His only child reportedly died young. –www.hymntime.com/tch/ ”
    I thought the information might be on the Mudcat website, and there is some background as follows: This lovely old sacred song has been recorded by a number of modern bluegrass artists, my favourite rendition being that of Dave Evans on his ‘A Few More Seasons’ album. However, the song is older than bluegrass. It was recorded by J.E Mainer’s Mountaineers and Wade Mainer and the Sons of the Mountaineers in the 1930s under the title ‘Lonely Tombs’. Bill Bollick (Bill and Earl Bollick are the Blue Sky Boys) recalled that his father had learned it from a shape-note hymnal which noted that it was composed in the late 1800s. It is the type of song that showcases the Blue Sky Boys’ gentle harmonies to best advantage. Paul Wells noted that the final stanza is similar to the first stanza of another sacred song titled ‘The Lone (or White) Pilgrim’ which may be found in the Brown Collection (Duke University).”
    http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=19456
    Finally, here is a link to a version sung by Hobart Smith, which is the earliest one I could find:
    Version by Hobart Smith 1959 – Alan Lomax recordings
    http://research.culturalequity.org/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=5816
    My mother had an old, tattered shape note hymnal, which was the only one she played from. I don’t think she ever learned to read regular music, just shape notes. My sister must have taken that one after Mother died.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    February 22, 2015 at 9:55 am

    I don’t know anything about the history, but what a fine rendition of the song by the pickers in the kitchen.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 22, 2015 at 9:15 am

    As a child we had a recording of Hank Williams Sr. singing this. I just looked it up and it was written by
    J.E. Mainer.
    At least he is given credit by Hank.My Grandmother sang this song while she was doing dishes.

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    February 22, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Nice job on the song. I don’t remember ever hearing it but it is a good one.

  • Reply
    Henry Horton
    February 22, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Oh Tipper, you are a treasure. Just love this song. A bit o his’try re me and country. Growin up on a farm in northern Illinois back between’41 and ’46 i was hooked on the weekly broadcasts of the Chicago Civic light Opera on WGN (World’s Greatest Newspaper) Col. McComicks voice on the radio. So i became a little ‘classical’ music snob. When i was ten years old we moved to a farm deep in the Missouri Ozarks and all we could get on the radio was KWTO (Keep watch over the Ozarks) out of Springfield. And it was country to the max! Well! I HATED country. Especially the following year, summer of ;47 when the big hit was Ghost Riders in The Sky. Just the right age and religious upbringing to be terrorized. Couldn’t look up at the sky for fear of seein them comin to drag me off to hell fire and damnation. Eventually i went off to the great world, northern California for 42 years where i could absorb all the ‘high cultcha’ i could handle. In 2007 after retiring to Hawaii, i became a charter member of the Puna Mens Chorus. In 2011 we decided on a country theme for our annual series of concerts and i was delegated to do a study of the genre and help write a script. We started in Appalachia and ended in Hawaii (the paniolo were cowboys in Hawaii before there was an ‘American west’!) Well that gave me an appreciation for country that had eluded me all my life. Especially when i grabbed the solo for Lil Liza Jane, a song i’d first sung at Mint Springs one room school in the Mo. hills. Now that i am living back where it all started and have a nephew who plays lead guitar for the Bottle Rockets (alt. country out of St. Louis _ playin The Grey Eagle, Asheville – Mar. 8) AND have discovered Blind Pig, you, my dear, are deepening my appreciation. So keep em comin and BTW i will get my blog up and running by Mar 1…God willin and the creek don’t rise! and you are going to be my first link. – you new #1 and most verbose fan. Henry Horton

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    February 22, 2015 at 8:20 am

    On John Moore’s tombstone (died in 1857 at the age of 80) in Union Hill Cemetery in Clay County:
    “Remember friends as you pass by
    The lonely grave wherein I lie,
    As you are now, so once was I.
    As I am now you soon must be,
    Prepare for death and follow me.”
    That same set of lines (or variants) can be found on a number of stones across the country – and likely beyond.
    Also in the Union Hill Cemetery is the grave of William (Laddie) Casada, a boy who was touched. He was possessed of unlimited patience and kindness which animals were able to sense; birds would reportedly light on his shoulder. He crossed over at the age of 13. His dog came to lie on his grave every day until he too died. The words on his tombstone:
    “Of such is the kingdom of heaven

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 22, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Love this one. First time to hear it.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 22, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Love this one. First time to hear it.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 22, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Love this one. First time to hear it.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 22, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Love this one. First time to hear it.

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