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Bolivar L. Shook, Cabin on the Hill

Charles Noah Shook and Mary Martha Hallmark are my 3rd great-grandparents. Charles was born about 1843 in the Tishomingo, MS area, and Mary was born in November 1842 in Tishomingo, MS. Charles died June 11, 1863 in Cherokee, AL in the Civil War and Mary died after 1910. I descend from their daughter, Sarah Adline Shook who married John Decabb Cox. Sarah had a brother, Noah Washington Shook who married Mary J. Little, both who died in the Prentiss County, MS area of Booneville.

Noah W. and Mary J. Shook had a son, Bolivar Lee Shook, my 1st cousin, three times removed. I found him to be a fascinating cousin to learn about. Bolivar was born February 11, 1896 in Prentiss County, MS, the 7th of 8 children born to Noah and Mary. Bolivar died about 1964 in Prentiss County, MS; he was buried in Cain’s Chapel Cemetery in Booneville, MS.

Bolivar became a songwriter and pianist. Donald Franks, Attorney writes, “In 1914, at the age of 18, Bolivar Lee Shook was stealing a ride on a freight train near his home in Prentiss County, Mississippi, and was thrown from the train. He injured his leg and remained a cripple for life. His disability kept him from manual labor, and he turned to music for a livelihood. He taught piano and singing and tuned pianos until his death in March 1964. He spent his childhood in a frame cabin on a hill located about six miles south of Booneville, Mississippi, overlooking a wide valley to the east and a wide valley to the west. In the west stands a low range of mountains. Knowing the setting of his childhood home, it is not difficult to determine the inspiration for this song. His songs were not fictional, but are a reflection of his life and experiences. “

“Cabin on the Hill” was one of Bolivar’s songs that received much acclaim. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs recorded the song along with other singers. When Flatt and Scruggs first recorded, they omitted that Bolivar wrote the song, but when contacted by Shook, they gave credit to him for his writing the song. In the notes to Flatt & Scruggs 1948-1959 (Bear Family 4-CD set), Neil V. Rosenburg writes:

“The session of April 5th, 1959 produced Flatt and Scruggs first big chart hit--one that would remain on the charts longer than any other Flatt and Scruggs hit. Cabin on the Hill was composed by Mississippi writer B.L. Shook, who was a popular and prolific writer for the James D. Vaughn songbook company; Cabin was first published in Vaughn's 1943 songbook 'Sacred Thoughts'. Recorded in 1949 for Rich-R-Tone by the Mullins Family, it had been in the repertoire of the late Red Rector. When he was a member of Hylo Brown's band, Brown had learned it from him and had then featured it in performances with Flatt and Scruggs. The band received mail about it and so decided to record it, at which point Lester began singing it. This was their first song to feature a five part harmony and in fact there were six voices heard, since two bass voices were used.”

Here is the song I would like to share with you written by Bolivar Lee Shook:

Cabin on the Hill

There’s a happy child at home (there’s a happy child at home)
In my memory I can see (in my memory I can see)
Standing out upon the hill (standing out upon the hill)
In the shadow of a tree (in the shadow of a tree)
If I only had my way (if I only had my way)
It would give my heart a thrill (it would give my heart a thrill)
Just to simply wonder back (just to simply wonder back)
To the cabin on the hill (to the cabin on the hill)

Oh I want to wonder back (oh I want to wonder back)
To the cabin on the hill (to the cabin on the hill)
Neath the shadow of the tree (neath the shadow of the tree)
I would like to linger still (I would like to linger still)
Just to be with those I love (just to be with those I love)
Joy my heart would overfill (joy my heart would overfill)
And I want to wonder back (and I want to wonder back)
To the cabin on the hill (to the cabin on the hill)

But the sadness of it all (but the sadness of it all)
I could never more return (I could never more return)
To that happy child at home (to that happy child at home)
Matters not how much I yearn (matters not how much I yearn)
If I only had my way (if I only had my way)
It would give my heart a thrill (it would give my heart a thrill)
Just to simply wonder back (just to simply wonder back)
To the cabin on the hill (to the cabin on the hill)

Oh I want to wonder back (oh I want to wonder back)
To the cabin on the hill (to the cabin on the hill)
Neath the shadow of the tree (neath the shadow of the tree)
I would like to linger still (I would like to linger still)
Just to be with those I love (just to be with those I love)
Joy my heart would overfill (joy my heart would overfill)
And I want to wonder back (and I want to wonder back)
To the cabin on the hill (to the cabin on the hill







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