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Indiana State Song

"On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away"

Written by Paul Dresser
Composed by Paul Dresser

Adopted on March 14, 1913.

On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away, written by Terre Haute native Paul Dresser and dedicated to 14-year-old Mary E. South of Terre Haute, whom Dresser had never met, is the state song of Indiana. First published in July 1897, the song was adopted as the official state song on March 14, 1913, by the Indiana General Assembly. The state song is the oldest of Indiana’s state emblems, being adopted four years before the flag.

Paul Dresser was the brother of noted Hoosier writer Theodore Dreiser. He supposedly was so scandalized by his brother's frank writings that he changed his name from Dreiser to Dresser.

Indiana State Song: "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away"

"On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away"

Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields,
In the distance loom the woodlands clear and cool.
Oftentimes my thoughts 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!

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.

CHORUS
Oh, the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash,
From the fields there comes the breath of new mown hay.
Thro' the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming,
On the banks of the Wabash, far away.


Origin of Song: "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away"

In 1897 Ted was with his brother Paul in the offices of Howley, Haviland & Co. While improvising on the piano, Paul urged Ted for a idea for a song. The resulting conversation led to "On the Banks of the Wabash"; Ted, in fact, wrote the first verse and chorus. It speaks of the Wabash River, which enters Indiana in Jay County and flows west and southwest. It forms 200 miles of the Indiana-Illinois border and exits at the southwest corner of the state to finally flow into the Ohio River. In 1913 the State Assembly of Indiana adopted "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" as the official state song.

On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away and After the Ball were two of the biggest hits of the 1890s. Wabash is the 1899 masterpiece of Paul Dresser, the brother of novelist Theodore Dreiser. Its compelling combination of longing, humility and nostalgia are unequaled in songwriting of the period.

"On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" words and music by Paul Dresser, adopted by the 1913 General Assembly


Indiana Statutes, Title 1, Article 2, Chapter 6, Section 1. The words to the song are included within the statute.

TITLE 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS
ARTICLE 2. STATE EMBLEMS
CHAPTER 6. STATE SONG
SECTION 1

Sec. 1 The song entitled, "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away," words and music by Paul Dresser, be and is hereby established as the state song of Indiana. The form in which this song shall be sung as the state song of Indiana shall be as follows:

'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.

CHORUS
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.

(Formerly: Acts 1913, c.254, s.1.)
 

State Songs
US State Songs
Forty-nine states of the United States (all except New Jersey) have one or more state songs, selected by the state legislature as a symbol of the state.


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