Jennie Dugan Tragedy of 1860 Put to Words by Rebecca Gordon Ball

Rebecca Gordon Ball
Rebecca Gordon Ball

The last words of Jennie L. Dugan were poignantly expressed in recently discovered poetry written by Rebecca Gordon Ball in the form of historic sheet music. The poetry was put to music by Composer Chandler Robbins and published by Oliver Ditson & Company after the death of Jennie Dugan in 1860.

A copy of the sheet music was found among the Ball artifacts last year in the historic Lafayette home that was built in 1869 for Cyrus and Rebecca Ball. The iconic house has remained in the family since that time and is currently occupied by a direct descendant and member of the General de Lafayette Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.

Jennie Dugan, a 22-year-old woman from Delphi, Indiana, was tragically killed in 1860 when her dress caught fire as she was carrying a lampstand while bidding her parents good night. Her father was severely burned in attempting to rescue his only child. It was a devastating blow to Joseph and Miranda Dugan to watch their daughter literally go up in flames.

The music piece, entitled, “Good Night, Good Night to All,” prefaced the tragic event. “Written on the death of Miss Jennie Dugan of Delphi, an only daughter, an excellent musician, and an accomplished young lady, who was burnt to death by the explosion of a fluid lamp. Her last words as she parted with her friends on that fatal evening were “Good night, Good night to all.”

The tragedy of Dugan’s death obviously pulled the heart strings of Rebecca Ball and inspired these words:

When doth softly fade the day,

And the shadows gather grey,

Off with joy our bosoms thrill,

And we deem thee with us still,

See the here again once more,

Standing with us on time’s shore,

As when last we heard thee call

Back “good night, good night to all!

Good night, good night,

good night, good night to all!

 

When the autumn winds are here,

Chanting dirge notes for the year,

And bright leaves with perfumed breath

Rustle ‘neath our tread of death,

Then will come the magic power

Back again that joyous hour,

And the echoes round us fall

Of “good night, good night to all!

Good night, good night,

good night, good night to all!”

 

When the genial breath of spring

In the vales sweet violets bring,

And the blue bird’s notes we hear

Ringing through the woodland clear,

When the summer hours shall spread

Flow’ry garlands o’er our head,

Then we’ll hear a low voice call

Again “good night, good night to all,

Good night, good night to all!”

 

Tell us! Did some spirit say,

Seraphs wait thee, haste away!

Didst thou see some loving hand!

Some bright guardian of thy way

In a gentle whisper say

For thee now the angels call

‘Tis “good night, good night to all,

Good night, good night to all!”

Good Night to All Cover SheetGood Night to All Page 2Good Night to All Page 3Good Night to All Page 4

James & Miranda Dugan

Miranda Crooks Dugan Jenny's mom

James Dugan

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