Dan Emmett House Tours
Probably Mount Vernon's most noted person prior to the days of television was Daniel Decatur Emmett. Dan Emmett, the author of Dixie, wrote that stirring song that was adopted by the Confederacy during the Civil War. Its melodious sound is still sung widely today.
Dan's father, Abraham, came here from Virginia and was a soldier in the War of 1812. Dan's brother, Lafayette, read law under Columbus Delano, noted Mount Vernon lawyer, banker, and politician, and later served on the supreme court of Minnesota. Meanwhile, Dan was making a name for himself in show business in New York and Chicago.
Daniel Decatur Emmett was one of four children born to Abraham and Sarah Emmett. His birthplace, a story-and-a-half house that was built by his father, originally stood at the northwest corner of Ohio Avenue and Mulberry Street. He was locally educated and had such a strong passion for his music that he practiced every instrument he could get his hands on. His favorite instruments were the fiddle, fife, and drums. Dan Emmett first played and sang his own composition, Ol Dan Tucker (Tucker was the name of his dog), at age 15 when a traveling show needed a fiddler.
At age 17 he ran away to enlist in the Army where he wrote a manual for drummers. After the Army, he joined a traveling show and worked as a songwriter, minstrel, and musician. The shows went south in the winter and Dan used that time to study black speech, language, and mannerisms. He admired the black culture. Dan Emmett fathered the minstrel form of entertainment with his new act in New York City. His troupe was called the Virginia Minstrels.
Some of Dan's other songs included Old Zip Coon, Turkey in the Straw, and Blue Tail Fly.
Dan was a musician, composer, and showman of many talents. When Dan returned to his birthplace in 1888 to spend his declining years, local residents became aware they had in their midst not only a town character, but a man who left his mark upon the nation. Here he was affectionately called "Uncle Dan."
His final tour was with showman A.G. Fields in 1895-96. His performance of Dixie brought his grand adulation everywhere, especially in the South. His final stage performance was at the Woodward Opera House for the annual Elks' minstrel show held June 22, 1902.
Dan Emmett died June 28, 1904 in Mount Vernon. He is buried in Mound View Cemetery.
The historic birthplace is located just off South Main Street near the Station Break Senior Citizens Center. To obtain more information on the home call 1-800-837-5282.