FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — While many may find it common to have a state flag, color, or bird, many don’t consider that most of the states have one or more songs, and Indiana is one of them.
Indiana’s state song is “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” with song and music by Paul Dresser, an Indiana native from Terre Haute. Paul Dresser started his career as a member of a medicine show in Indianapolis later moving to New York after launching his singing career. In New York, he worked at Billy Rice Minstrels later becoming a founding member of the music-publishing firm Howley, Haviland & Dresser.
Dresser relied on sentimental themes of home, boyhood, mother, patriotism, and romance. He composed and published more than 100 songs, 25 of which hit the Billboard Top twenty.
“On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” was released late in Dresser’s career in 1897. Widespread popularity came after the song’s release, reaching across the world, as a Swedish version of the song eventually was released. It was even said to calm a Coney Island crowd during a blackout event, which left hundreds in the dark during a prize fight. The announcer of the crowd whistled the tune and the crowd sang along until the light was restored. The song was said to evoke comfort as Dresser recalled his childhood home and his mother.
The lyrics to the song are:
Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields,
In the distance loom the woodlands clear and cool,
Oftentimes my tho’ts revert to scenes of childhood,
Where I first received my lessons – nature’s school.
But one thing there is missing in the picture,
Without her face it seems so incomplete,
I long to see my mother in the doorway,
As she stood there years ago, her boy to greet.
Oh, the moonlight’s fair tonight along the Wabash,
From the fields there comes the breath of new-mown hay,
Through the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming,
On the banks of the Wabash, far away.
Many years have passed since I strolled by the river,
Arm in arm, with sweetheart Mary by my side,
It was there I tried to tell her that I loved her,
It was there I begged of her to be my bride.
Long years have passed since I strolled thro’ the churchyard.
She’s sleeping there, my angel, Mary dear,
I loved her, but she thought I didn’t mean it,
Still I’d give my future were she only here.
The song has been redone and had multiple adaptations since its original release. One of the most recent versions is The Mills Brothers’ 1985 release.