Ballad of Stiller Ben - © Annie Wilson 2007

Album Notes:  Like many in the Flint Hills families, my family's roots go
back to earlier pioneers in states to the east, such as Kentucky.  
Researched by my father, this is the true story of my great-great-great-
great-great-grandfather Ben Hardin who perished at the hands of river
pirates while attempting to market his "value-added" corn products
downriver in New Orleans.  Interestingly, one of the men who helped him
build his ill-fated raft was neighbor Peter Sibert, best man at the marriage
of Abraham Lincoln's parents in 1806.


Stiller Ben grew his corn in the bluegrass meadow lands
In Pleasant Run, Kentucky ‘tween the oak and hickory stands
In the year of eighteen-nineteen at the age of forty-four
He staked his life and all he had to give his family more

There were no towns or markets in that fertile land so wild
To make life better for his children--ten and wife with child
The only way to sell his corn was ride the waters down
To the Ohio and Mississip’ on to New Orleans town

     Through whirlpools, snags and storms
     His craft must float through clear        
     But the gangs of river pirates
     Was the threat they most did fear

He turned his corn to whiskey so in barrels it would ride
For barrels float in case his boat would take a turn too wide
He found a crew of four to help him build and steer his raft
A tiny cabin was their only shelter on that craft

They loaded up the boat on their small creek of Pleasant Run
And waited anxious for the flooding rains of spring to come
To lift their raft and float it down the creek and on beyond
For three months on the rivers and down to New Orleans town

     Nowhere to hide
     On that flatboat river run
     He must be wise to stay alive
     And make his way back home

His wife was fraught with worry that her Ben should go away
And leave her with ten children and another on the way
But the big rains came, the men jumped in, she kissed her Ben goodbye
And prayed with all her might naught on this trip should go awry

She did not hear until the fall when maple trees turn red
That pirates on the Ohio had killed her dear Ben dead
The raft, the whiskey, all her love, forever would be gone
Her children’s father and his dreams had left her there alone

     Stiller Ben grew his corn
     In the bluegrass meadow lands
     In Pleasant Run, Kentucky
     ‘Neath the oak and hickory stands
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