Happy New Years – Cherryville Style…

Image care of Rusty Wise’s “The History of Cherryville New Years Shooters” web site.

I grew up in a small mill town in the foothills of North Carolina, Cherryville (pronounced Cher’-vel). I recollect three stop lights in the town, when I was growing up. They’re up to seven now, that I can count.

Settled in the 18th century by Scots-Irish and German immigrants, including my surname’s ancestor, Daniel Johann Wahrlich (spelled to Warlick by a near-literate ship’s clerk), a German tradition was carried over and still observed in Cherryville — that of traveling from home to home, reciting a chant (below) and firing overloaded mustkets to “..drive out demons, witches, and other non-desirable entities on the property and bless the land for the upcoming year.” ((Wise, Rusty. “The History of the Cherryville New Years Shooters.” The Cherryville New Years Shooters Inc.. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Jan 2011. <http://bit.ly/5q0OQM>.))

Here is a video, produced in 2007 by, Cherryville resident, Rusty Wise that includes the chant (posted below) and much footage of the shooters.

Happy New Years to you, everywhere!

You can also enjoy a New Year’s Shooters music video here.


Chant of the New Years Shooters

Good morning to you, sir.

We wish you a happy New Year, Great health, long life, which God may bestow

So long as you stay here below.

May he bestow the house you’re in,

Where you go out and you go in.

Time by moments steals away,

First the hour and then the day.

Small the lost days may appear,

But they soon mount up to a year.

Thus another year is gone,

And now it is no more of our own,

but if it brings our promises good

As the year before the flood,

but let none of us forget It has left us much in debt,

a favor from the Lord received

Since which our spirits hath been grieved.

Marked by the unerring hand,

Thus in His book our record stands.

Who can tell the vast amounts

Placed to each our accounts?

But while you owe the debt is large,

You may plead a full discharge.

But poor and selfish sinners say,

What can you to justice pay?

Trembling last for life is past

And into prison you may be cast.

Happy is the believing soul,

Christ for you has paid the whole.

We have this New Year’s morning Called you by your name,

and disturbed you from your rest,

But we hope no harm by the same.

As we ask, come tell us your desire,

And if it be your desire,

our guns and pistols they shall fire.

Since we hear of no defiance,

you shall hear the art of science.

When we pull trigger and powder burns,

you shall hear the roaring of our guns;

Oh, daughters of righteousness, we will rise

and warm our eyes And bless our hearts,

for the old year’s gone and the New Year’s come

And for good luck, we’ll fire our guns!

3 thoughts on “Happy New Years – Cherryville Style…”

  1. Hi David,
    Happy New Year to you!
    Educational CyberPlayGround

    Includes Folklore in the Teachers Area
    Integrating Folk Music, Folklore and Traditional Culture Instruction Into K-12 Education

    Interdisciplinary Education
    Teach History Through Song

    New Year and Wassail History that is closely related to the mumming traditions.

    and from a few of my friends . . .

    See Suny Davis’s book on the Phila mummers and New Year’s mumming traditions (including shooters): Parades and Power: Street Theatre in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia, 1988, Univ of CA press.

    There are 2 versions of the “shooters poem” in West Virginia. The community event is documented in Germany.

    This tradition was brought from Cherryville NC to Brasstown by my Doctor’s father. My Doctor is
    named Dan Stroup. His father was from Cherryville and brought this tradition here. I have worked here in Brasstown at the John Campbell Folk School as Folklorist for 19 years. I have witnessed (and documented) this tradition many, many times. The Brigade, as they are called, go visit places like the folk school, always New Years Eve to ward off evil spirits for the upcoming year. The chant that is printed below is always recited by a 60ish year old man named George Heiliner. ~ David Brose

    Don Yoder – about this tradition from the Germanic and Pennsylvania Dutch cultures in Pennsylvania.

    I was told by Stroup years ago that it was a Moravian thing. I got this Moravian blessing from Greg Cranford, the large animal vet in Cherokee County (and my daughter’s godfather). His folks were from Greensboro, I believe:

    Come Lord Jesus, our guest to be
    And bless these gifts, bestowed by Thee
    Bless our loved ones everywhere
    And keep them in thy loving care.

    Douglas Turner Day

    I grew up about 30 minutes from Cherryville (FYI–residents pronounce it ( “Chur-vul”). I had completely forgotten about this tradition until a couple of years ago when a local historic site put on a 17th century Christmastime event, complete with musket firing. They suggested that this was Scots-Irish tradition.
    Stephen Criswell, Ph.D. Director of Native American Studies USC Lancaster Lancaster, SC

    1. I grew up with Dan Stroup, and he and his brothers and father were huge with the New Year’s Shooters. I’m glad that he has extended the tradition… Interesting how these things go…

  2. Ahh the shooters.

    I live in Eastern Lincoln County and the shooters seem to be expanding out of Churvile in my direction. I appreciate traditions, but if they had woken up my 2-year-old, they would have wished for evil spirits instead.

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