Gordon Thomas Ward

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Welcome to the Past

Hardscrabble Life
Gordon Thomas Ward on lead vocals and 6-string grand concert guitar.

Background & Inspiration

I spend my childhood near Hardscrabble Road, an area in Bernardsville, NJ, that is steeped in history. The road got its name due to the difficult, rocky soil that was farmed by the region's early settlers. Those of you who have read my book A Bit of Earth know that I am deeply interested in the layers of history attached to any area in which one happens to be. This certainly holds true for the Hardscrabble region. It seems that the groups of people who lived along this road before and since its early settlers have all struggled with adversity. These include the members of the Lenape tribe whose unmarked graves fill the hillside above Indian Graves Brook, the Revolutionary War soldiers who braved the winter encampments, the laborers in the mills and fields when the area was called Logtown, and the workers at the large estates of the early 20th century. This song gives each of these groups of people a voice to tell their story.


I am a proud Lenape,

A tribe of the Delaware.

And the graves we claim inspired the name,

Of the brook that flows so near.

Long before the white man

Sought to make us civilized,

We prayed to one god in heaven,

And we spoke in a tongue the English settlers prized.

(Chorus) It’s a hardscrabble life,

Searching for pleasure, enduring the strife.

It can cut like a knife,

This hardscrabble life.

I’m a continental soldier

In Washington’s Jersey Brigade.

Through 28 snows we starved and we froze,

And lay ill in the log huts we made. 

Our hearths kindled the glimmer

Our hearts could not contain.

The living left in springtime,

But over 100 of our brothers’ bodies remain.


I am a Logtown laborer

In the forge and fulling mill.

Our flax and sheep we gather and reap

From the rocky fields we till.

We toil from dawn to twilight.

We dig for iron ore.

We process piles of timber

By the sweat of our brow and the sawmills’ mighty roar.


I am an Irish worker

In the mountain colony.

I served amidst the opulence

And applied my trade each day.

But when my work was over

And I sat all alone,

I dreamt about my family

And I, oh, so far from home.


I am a current resident

Of this place in history.

With acres of land upon my hands,

How will they remember me…?


This hardscrabble life.

This hardscrabble life.