Mary Vickery And Connelly Donnelly
(Kenneth Peacock)

There lived a girl named Mary Vickery
down in old Kentucky,
Oh, her life was so unhappy
that away from home she fled;
She went away and never told
her father she was going,
And when he found that she was gone
he thought that she was dead.

When several months had passed away
they found a woman's body,
Near Mary's home they found it
in the bottom of a mine;
They thought it was the body
of the long lost Mary Vickery,
They arrested Connelly Donnelly
for that awful crime.

Oh, the witness swore against him
was a woman that was jealous,
Because he did not love her,
was devoted to his wife;
She swore upon the Bible
she saw Connelly do the killing,
He was taken then to Frankfort jail
and sentenced for his life.

"I swear that I am innocent,"
protested Connelly Donnelly,
But just the same they sentenced him
behind the prison bars;
For a year or more he never saw
his darling wife or family,
For a year or more he never looked
upon the sun or stars.

But God had not forsaken him
for down in San Anita,
A little Mary Vickery
had been living all the time;
Oh, when she heard that Connelly was in jail
her conscience hurt her,
She returned to prove that he
was not guilty of the crime.

Then the governor of the state,
oh, he pardoned Connelly Donnelly,
And sent him to his wife
who all alone had been his friend;
He left the prison bars behind.
"Now," says Connelly Donnelly,
"It goes to show that right
shall always triumph in the end."

####.... Variant of Return Of Mary Vickery recorded in 1927 by Marion Try Slaughter aka Vernon Dalhart (1883-1948) of Jefferson, TX (Brunswick Records E22227) ....####
Collected in 1952 by Kenneth Peacock from Gordon Willis [1911-2001] of St John's, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.819-820, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that although Mr Willis assured him he did not learn this American ballad from a recording, the tune sounded suspiciously contrived and commercial. At any rate, students of native American ballads will be interested to see it in a Newfoundland collection. Peacock also noted that he had not come across it in any of the American collections, and that his own feelings about the ballad were that the jury should have known at the beginning that anyone with the name Connelly Donnelly could not possibly have committed such a heinous crime.

The following was excerpted from an account written by Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. Permission is granted to reprint, quote, or post on other web sites with appropriate attribution.

When a girl's body was found in a mine shaft near Coxton, KY, in September 1925, the authorities claimed it was that of fourteen-year-old Mary Vickery, who had disappeared the previous August 23. In March 1926, Condy Dabney, a married father of two and former miner who had forsaken that occupation to become a cab driver shortly before Mary disappeared, was indicted for her murder based on allegations made by another girl, Marie Jackson, who came forward six months after the crime, claiming to have been an eyewitness to the murder.

Despite much conflicting evidence, the jury convicted Dabney on March 31, 1926, and the judge sentenced him to life at hard labor. Just a few days short of a year later, while Dabney's appeal was pending, a police officer in Williamsburg, KY, some 85 miles west of Coxton, happened to notice the name Mary Vickery on a hotel register. Because the name seemed familiar, he spoke with her, and soon learned that she was the person Dabney had been convicted of killing. She said she had run away the year before because she wasn't getting along with her stepmother. Mary said she did not even know Marie Jackson, who admitted she had concocted the story to collect a $500 reward posted by Mary's father. Marie was convicted of perjury on March 27, 1927. The body from the mine apparently was never identified.


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