Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Glendy Burke

Glendy Burk(e) was not only the name of one of Stephen C. Foster's most popular songs, it was also the name of a real steamboat that plied the waters of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

The side-wheel packet steamer weighed 425 tons and was built by Howard Shipyards in Jeffersonville, Indiana and owned by the firm of Cobb and Nanlove in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It was first launched in 1851, but the Glendy Burke lived a short life. It sank in 1855 near Cairo, Illinois.

The boat was named for Glen D. Burke who was a wealthy merchant, banker, and later, mayor of New Orleans.

The song, published in 1860, is a lively air written in blackface dialect with what are (like many of Foster's songs) somewhat nonsensical lyrics.

De Glendy Burk is a mighty fast boat,
Wid a mighty fast captain too;
He sits up dah on de hurricane roof
And he keeps his eye on de crew.
I cant stay here, for dey work too hard;
I'm bound to leave dis town;
I'll take my duds and tote 'em on my back
When de Glendy Burk comes down.
Ho! for Lou'siana!
I'm bound to leave dis town;
I'll take my duds and tote 'em on my back
When de Glendy Burk comes down.

De Glendy Burk has a funny old crew
And dey sing de boatman's song,
Dey burn de pitch and de pine knot too,
For to shove de boat along.
De smoke goes up and de ingine roars
And de wheel goes round and round,
So fair you well! for I'll take a little ride
When de Glendy Burk comes down.

I'll work all night in de wind and storm,
I'll work all day in de rain,
Till I find myself on de levy dock
In New Orleans again.
Dey make me mow in de hay field here
And knock my head wid de flail,
I'll go wha dey work wid de sugar
And de cane And roll on de cotton bale.
My lady love is as pretty as a pink,
I'll meet her on de way
I'll take her back to de sunny old south
And dah I'll make her stay.
So dont you fret my honey dear,
Oh! dont you fret Miss Brown
I'll take you back 'fore de middle of de week
When de Glendy Burk comes down.

Image courtesy of Dave Thomson and located at


  1. Glen D. Burke was really Glendy Burke. "BURKE, Glendy, commission merchant, planter, banker. Born, Baltimore, Md., December 31, 1805; son of David Burke, a Baltimore shipping executive. Removed to New Orleans in 1826, worked for Abijah Fisk (q.v.) and within five years bought Fisk's business. As a result of the Panic of 1837, amassed a debt of three million dollars which he paid off in ten years. By the 1850s became a millionaire for the second time with assets which included: commission merchant house, banking interests, sugar and cotton plantations, and one thousand slaves. A steamboat named for Glendy Burke served as the subject and title for one of Stephen Foster's most famous songs. Political service: was elected to the city council of the Second Municipality; served two terms in the state legislature. Helped to create the first public-school system in Louisiana in the 1840s. Was a Whig and later a Know-Nothing. During the occupation of New Orleans by the Union Army, served briefly as chairman of the bureau of finance under Mayor Hugh Kennedy (q.v.) and as a temporary mayor of New Orleans for three weeks (June 8-June 28, 1865). Married (1) Czarina Eliza Rogers of Baltimore (d. 1842). Married (2) Annie Hooke of Havana, Cuba (d. 1854). Married (3) Victoria Catherine de Bolle of Philadelphia (d. 1904). Three children: Corneal, George B., and Modesta, all of whom survived him. Religion: reared a Presbyterian, became an Episcopalian, and later a lay minister in the Church of the New Jerusalem (the Swedenborgian faith). Ruined financially as a result of the Civil War. Died, June 21, 1879; interred Girod Street Cemetery.

    The reason I know this is because he had a daughter with Victoria Catherine de Bolle (his third wife) who they named Modesta De Bolle Burke. She became the second wife of Beverley Carradine and they are the parents of my Grandmother - Josephine Carradine Dixon. This makes Glendy Burke my Great Great Grandfather.

  2. Fabulous info. I am a music teacher. My students are singing Glendy Burke. Thanks

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. We sang that song in grade school in the early 1960s. It was written in the dialect form (e.g., de for the, dey for they). The song book had only the first two verses.