Born in 1895 and raised in the Northville/Gloversville area, Steve Wadsworth had a typical Adirondack boyhood in many respects. One of seven children, with both parents working hard to keep the family going, Steve got his first job at the age of thirteen and contributed half of his weekly wages back to the household. He was barely fifteen years of age when he left home for work in the woods.
long lumbering career would include stints cutting peeled logs, felling trees,
making skidways and driving river all over the southern and central
Adirondacks. Although his work took him
to different lumbercamps and operations from Forestport to Tupper Lake and
Newcomb down to Northville, he claimed to have one main source for most of the
songs he sang:
“There was a man named Woods up on the Hudson River....On a Sunday he might sing forty songs. Most of the songs I knew I learned from him, I think....”
Wadsworth was seventy-three years of age before anybody took an interest in documenting the songs he had learned in the woods. It was mutual friends Charles and Margaret Coffin of Northville who introduced folksong collectors Anne and Frank Warner to Steve in the spring of 1969. The Warners found Steve recovering from a major gasoline explosion which he claimed had killed his memory and made him nearly lose his mind. He did have trouble recalling the old songs he liked to sing, but was able to sing most of four or five of his favorites for them on that Memorial Day weekend visit.
Below are his two most complete and compelling performances from that visit - - two songs fairly unique to the northeastern lumbercamp repertoire.
[NOTE: Unlike the abbreviated Warner recordings of Galusha and Fish (circa 1940-1950), Steve Wadsworth’s songs were recorded in their entirety in 1969 thanks to the advent of cassette tape.]