*() alternate lines- Best fit tune, The Southern Wagon/Disillusion Wagon.
Come all ye men and maidens And hearken unto me; I will tell you my condition And what it use to be. I used to be a sinner (rebel) That wandered from the Lord; I neither heard His counsel Nor read His Holy Word. My name is Ruffis Mitchell The truth to you I'll tell; I used to drink and gamble And picked my banjo well. I was born in North Carolina And raised up as a slave And no one ever told me I had a soul to save. I kept my evil habits and served as Satan's slave; Although my conscience told me I had a soul to save. In spite of all my conscience I'd tell what was not true; I would sing a lively ditty And pick my banjo too. In wars between the parties, The grey coats and the blue, I volunteered for freedom; And picked my banjo too. In scouting I was skillful, In battle I was brave; Thought nothing about life or death, But to liberate the slave. I came into the conflict (country) To see what I could do; I kept my evil habits And picked my banjo too. Then fever came upon me And brought me near my grave, And many Christians told me I had a soul to save. I went to hear the Gospel, To see if His Words were true; I laughed and mocked the preacher, And picked my banjo too. And when he called for sinners, The tears streamed in my eyes; I bowed before the altar, And laid my banjo by. I prayed and pled for mercy, Christ filled my flowing cup; I went home rejoicing And burnt my banjo up. Come all you wicked sinners To meet me on that shore, Where we will walk and worship Where banjos are no more.
Source “Find A Grave“
4715 Indiana Ave, Winston-Salem, NC 27106
This is the address of the real life Rufus Mitchell. Buried in Piney Grove Baptist Church Garden of Memory (no tombstone, image available) in Winston Salem, N.C.
Rufus’ parents were free people of color from Guilford County, N.C. His death certificate states his birth in 1843, the 1850 census dates it as 1848. He married Roxanna Williams in Guilford County in 1864 (He was 16, she was 17). On August 17th 1864 six months after he was married (minus a day, February 18th), he enlisted in the Colored Troops in Pomeroy, Ohio (which he stated he was born in 1846, which would have made him 18). He served with the Heavy Artillery.
He had five children, and is listed as having two grand children, Catherine Martain (Died at age two of “Ileo-Colitis”), and James Garfield Mitchell, who went on to serve in WWII and is buried in Oak Grove Baptist Church Cemetary, Walkertown N.C.