BOOM TOWN ~ A Crash Course Folk Song About Chester Gillette And Grace Brown ~ Songs From Mountains East And West

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Pamme Swan
Pamme Swan


Playing at the Big Moose Inn these past two summers I couldn't help not wanting to learn the history of this tragic story with the framed newspaper articles from 1906 and 07 hung through out the Inn. The Inn also sells all the books written on this case which I now own and have read. I've also been to a presentation and book signing, The Prison Diary and Letters of Chester Guillette, written by Jack Sherman and Craig Brandon at the Auburn Museum last March 30th on the 100th anniversary of Chester Gillette's electrocution. Mr. Sherman is quite knowledgeable on the Chester Gillette, Grace Brown tragedy and painted a pretty in depth picture of Chester's personality after obtaining his letters he wrote while her was incarcerated all those months in the Auburn State Prison. I've been to Grace's Farm in South Otselic and have visited her grave. The story of the tragedy of the Grace Brown and Chester Gillette is a great story and I highly recommend it as its part of our history here in Central New York.


Boom Town

With Reyna Stagnaro and Steven Skollar on mandolin

Jimmy Wunderlich on Guitar

Recorded at Swan's Studio, Orbital Sound and Colgate University

It was a Boom town round here 

When Gillette stepped of that train

Canals flowing hops growing New towns being raised

There were fortunes to be made

He was a well dressed one man show

A tale spinner a heart winner With a lusty ego

It was a boom town around here

How I wished I was there

It was a rocking Boom town around here

Smitten with a girl named Grace Working in a petticoat factory

A simple pearl poor country girl Gillette promised to marry

She bid her home farewell Unwed in a way

They traveled forth on a train heading north In Utica they spent a day

No wayward homes to stay With trouble on the way

It was a shocking gloom town for Grace

Awww Gillette what were you thinking

Her family would of loved and stood by you

In the darkest moment while she was sinking

Still you thought you’d get to live your whole life through.

He knew she couldn’t swim When Gillette rented up a skiff

With a camera and a suitcase and a tennis racket tied to it

His last independence day When they found him light in load

Hiking Black Bear Mountain A little further down the road

And from a water lily grave Grace was pulled from Big Moose Lake

There was a rocking murder trial on the way

In a parlor Grace did rest Gillette got the chair

On a theatrical train at the height of his fame

He was smug with out a care Headlines a blaze

With his face on every news page

A thousand in all flies on a wall Poured out in a public rage

Yelling Gillette You should hang Gillette You should hang

Yelling Chester Gillette You should hang

Awww Gillette What were you thinking

Your family loved and stood by you

In the darkest moment while she was sinking

Still you thought you’d get to live your whole life through

It was a Boom Town around here In an Auburn prison cell

Reading and writing while your momma’s out fighting

To save you from sure hell From his diary I do quote,

“Someday the silver chord will break

And perhaps some taps when I go".

Oh for heaven’s sake!

For back at the Glenmore Grace’s bonnet hangs forlorn

For Grace Billy Brown shall weep no more

It was a Boom town around here When Gillette went to his grave

A humbled and a thankful man in jesus he was saved

Did he strike the final blow Only Father Mac would ever know

And he watched him die with a tear in his eye

There was nothing left to do

Cause it was a Boom Town Around here

It was a Boom Town around here

It was a rocking Boom town around here

It was a rocking Boom Town around here

It was a rocking Boom Town around here

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