Will Allen Dromgoole

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Will Allen Dromgoole, from a 1905 publication.

Will Allen Dromgoole (October 26, 1860 – September 1, 1934) was an author and poet born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She wrote over 7,500 poems; 5,000 essays; and published thirteen books. She was renowned beyond the South; her poem "The Bridge Builder" was often reprinted. It remains quite popular. An excerpt appears on a plaque at the Bellows Falls, Vermont Vilas Bridge, spanning the Connecticut River between southern Vermont and New Hampshire.

Early life and background[edit]

Will Allen Dromgoole was the last of several children born to Rebecca Mildred (Blanche) and John Easter Dromgoole in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.[1] Her paternal grandparents were Rev. Thomas and Mary Dromgoole. Her great-grandparents were Edward Dromgoole, a Scots-Irish trader from Sligo, Ireland, and his Cherokee wife Rebecca Walton. He married her after immigrating to the North American colonies.

Dromgoole's parents sent her to the Clarksville Female Academy, where she graduated in 1876. She studied law with her father, but women were not allowed to become lawyers. She was appointed as staff to the state legislature, where she started working in 1883.


Dromgoole was a prolific writer, publishing both prose and poetry. She was also a journalist for the Nashville American, a newspaper based in the Middle Tennessee city.

She first published a story in Youth's Companion in 1887. It was about the Tennessee governor, Bob Taylor. She had a best-selling novel in 1911, The Island of the Beautiful.

Dromgoole taught school in Tennessee one year, and one year in Temple, Texas. There she founded the Waco Women's Press Club.[1] During World War I, Dromgoole was a warrant officer in the United States Naval Reserve. She lectured to sailors on patriotic topics.

Dromgoole wrote a series of articles on the Southeastern ethnic group known as the Melungeons, published in the Nashville Daily American (1890) and the Boston Arena (1891).[1][2] This historically mixed-race group was then living mostly in northeastern Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, and eastern Kentucky. Her derogatory comments about them, while based more on hearsay than fact, expressed the biases about mountain people typical of her society and the period in which she was writing. Since the early 20th century, Melungeons have increasingly intermarried with European Americans and integrated into mainstream white society.[3]


  • Heart of Old Hickory (1891);
  • The Farrier's Dog and His Fellow (1897);
  • Further Adventures of the Fellow (1898);
  • Valley Path (1898);
  • Three Little Crackers (1898);
  • Hero Chums (1898);
  • Rare Old Chums (1898);
  • A Boy's Battle (1898);
  • Cuich, and Other Tales of Tennessee (1898);
  • A Moonshiner's Son (1898);
  • Harum-Scarum Joe (1899); and
  • The Battle on Stone River (1899)[2]

She wrote more than 7,500 poems, among them "The Bridge Builder".[2] An excerpt appears on a plaque on the Bellows Fall-Vilas Bridge between the two respective cities in Vermont and New Hampshire. It spans the Connecticut River.[4] The poem is also frequently quoted in a religious context or in writings stressing a moral lesson. It has become a favorite of motivational speakers.[citation needed]

In addition, Dromgoole wrote 5,000 articles or essays, and published thirteen books,[2] including a novel about the Melungeons (at the time she referred to them as Malungeons, one of numerous spelling variations on the name.)


  1. ^ a b c Kathy Lyday-Lee, "Will Allen Dromgoole", Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture], accessed 20 Jun 2010
  2. ^ a b c d "Will Allen Dromgoole", Historical Melungeons
  3. ^ Paul Heinegg, Free African Americans in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware, 2005
  4. ^ "Vilas Bridge", webpage

External links[edit]