Tom Irwin sets an 1893 Journal to Song
On August 10, 1893, Harry Glen Ludlam, a 16 year old boy living on a farm in Sangamon County, a few miles west of Springfield, Illinois began daily entries in his diary. He continued until February 17, 1894, the day before his family left to head west and a few days after my great-grandfather purchased the Ludlam farm. I discovered the diary well over a hundred years later tucked into a corner of the old pie-tin cabinet in the front hall of our farmhouse (pictured below in early March, 1894). As I read through the pages, Harry's world again came to life through his daily, personal recollections. Shucking corn, a trip to the 1893 Chicago world's fair, Gypsies on the farm, walks in the woods, lessons on his cornet, the tragic death of a schoolteacher, his grandma's passing and the family's decision to sell the farm and move to the state of Washington were all recorded in a plaintive and sincere style.
As I read the entries I felt inspired to take this special opportunity to write these experiences into songs using my talents as a songwriter combined with personal knowledge of the places Harry spoke of on the farm. I lived in the same house, occupied the same bedroom, walked the same woods, traveled the same roads, attended the same church, had the same families as neighbors and even used some of the same tools (and same outhouse!) that this young man had nearly one hundred and twenty years before.
Over the last two years I wrote 13 songs related to Harry's writings, researching the historical topics while completing a master's degree project in Liberal & Integrative Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield. We're now in the process of recording at Inside Out Studio in Sparta, Illinois with Gary Gordon producing. http://www.thegordonsmusic.com/?page_id=82 Musicians involved include Gary, Roberta Gordon, Robert Bowlin, Ross Sermons, Curtis Jay, Mark Stoffel and Theresa O'Hare using autoharp, violin, cello, bass, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, accordion, piano, flute, whistle and other acoustic-based instruments to compliment my lyrical interpretation of the journal entries.