James Whitcomb Riley's "Little Orphant Annie"
Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun,
A-listenin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn't say his prayers, -
An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all!
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,
An seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout: -
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,
An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin;
An' wunst, when they was "company," an' ole folks wuz there,
She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!
An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'for she knowed
what she's about!
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'bugs in dew is all squenched away, -
You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' cherish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Mary Alice Smith was born near Liberty Indiana 25 September 1850. She lived on a small farm with her parents until both parents died when she was about nine years old some stories say that Mary's mother died with she was very young and her father, Peter Smith, died when she was ten.
Mary's uncle, said to be a John Rittenhouse, came to Union County and took the young orphan to his home in Greenfield where he "dressed her in black" and "bound her out to earn her board and keep". Mary Alice was taken in by Captain Reuben Riley "bound" servant to help his wife Elizabeth Riley with the housework and her four children; John, James, Elva May and Alex.
The Riley family referred to Mary as a "guest" and soon she was as loved as any other member of the family. Mary and the young James Whitcomb Riley or "Bud" as he was called, they became fast friends. Mary was like an older sister and soon he tales of fairies, wunks, dwarfs, goblins and other scary beings became part of the young boy's life.
Mary Alice married John Wesley Gray, a farmer, October 2, 1868 and lived on Gray's farm south of Philadelphia Indiana. When her early life and tales were immortalized by the Indiana Poet and her young charge, James Whitcomb Riley, Mary Alice did not realize that "Annie" was her and that she was fast becoming famous. The name Annie came from the nickname for Alice, "Allie". Riley originally published the poem under the title "Little Orphan Allie".
The story of Mary Alice lives on. From this poem we have gotten the "Raggedy Anne" doll and the musical "Annie", which was based on the comic Strip "Li'l orphan Annie"
Mary Alice's parents names and family, other than John Rittenhouse, are unknown at this time. The 1850 and 1860 census does not reveal any clues to her identity. Neither do the cemeteries in Union county.
The following is a newspaper clipping found in a scrapbook. The date is March 8 1924 and it is the Mary Alice (Smith) Gray's obituary.
The Story of Little Orphan Annie
James Whitcomb Riley Website
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