Biography:Lake N. Porter

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Lake N. Porter

 Given name:     Lake
 Middle name:     Newell ("L.N.")
 Family name:     Porter
 Place of birth:     Mississippi
 Place of death:     Texas
 Year of birth:     1854
 Year of death:     1947
 Profile:     Musician
 Source of information:     

Biographical notes

The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip

1939 Southern Recording Trip Fieldnotes

Section 7: Falfurrias and Sarita, Texas; April 28-30

Falfurrias, Texas Lake N. Porter

April 29, 30, 1939

Mrs Edward Lasater of Falfurrias told us about the fiddler, Mr. Lake N. Porter, a champion in his earlier days. He was born in Mississippi, and is (in 1939) 85 years old. He is a charter member of the Texas Old Trail Drivers Association. He went up the trail three or four times, often sawing his fiddle as he rode along. For a long time he discontinued playing the fiddle and singing, but he has taken it up again recently, and now "he doesn't do anything else all day long", so his wife reports. The couple celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary last December (1938). They live in a comfortable cottage with their own garden and chickens. Their daughter lives across the street and a son, who holds a responsible position with a power company in the East, flies down to see them occasionally. This son has recently written to thank Mr. Lomax, for giving his parents so much pleasure by recording the fiddle tunes and to enquire whether he might get copies of the records. Mr. and Mrs. Porter were very much pleased to be "invited out" to a public restaurant for dinner. Mr. Porter was for fifteen years sheriff in Goliad County, Texas and in the county where he now lives, during some exciting days of that country. He lived in McMullen County when he was a cowboy and trail-driver. Black Jack Grove (2) is his favorite fiddle tune.

During their days of work around Falfurrias Mr. and Mrs. Lomax were guests at the ranch of Mrs. Ed Lasater, of which her son Tom Lasater is manager. Her son Edward, county attorney, was at that time living on the ranch. Mrs. Lasater and Mr. Lomax had been friends on the campus of the University of Texas when Mrs, Lasater (Mary Miller) was student.

The following article was published in the Library of Congress American Folklife Center's newsletter Folklife Center News (July-September, Volume VI, Number 3, 1983, pp. 12-13)[1]

In the spring of 1983 Matthew Gouger of Kerrville, Texas, visited the Archive of Folk Culture to order copies of recordings that John A. and Ruby Lomax made of his grandfather Lake N. Porter (1854-1947) in 1939. Subsequently, Gouger offered the Library of Congress a pointing of his grandfather executed this year by Travis Keese, a prominent artist of Western Americana also living in Kerrville. The work was appreciatively accepted and is now part of the Archive's collections. It depicts Lake Porter standing on a knoll, the open desert behind him, his saddle, rifle, and riding gear at his feet, a holstered revolver on his hip--classic symbols of the Old West. From the information Gouger provided for the Archive's files, the depiction seems quite appropriate for the "legendary" Lake N. Porter.

Born in Mississippi, Porter was raised in Texas. His fathre Stark P. Porter was a physician, but he was pressed into service as sheriff by the citizens of Goliad County. Outlaws ambushed and killed him when Lake Porter was nine. Matthew Gouger recounts that the young boy took his father's rifle from the wall and left home. About a year later he returned, hung the rifle back, and said to his mother, "The debt's been paid."

At seventeen Porter rode up the Chisholm Trail to Kansas for the first time. The year was 1871; the herd belonged to One-armed Jim Reed, a Civil War veteran. During the four years he rode the trail he gained a reputation for the soothing effect his fiddle playing had on herds. He often fiddled while night herding, his friends leading his horse while he "agitated the cat-guts." Trail lore even has it that his playing would stop stampedes.

In 1878 Lake Porter married Cornelia Williams and began raising a family. He no longer rode the trail, but he continued punching cattle on the ranch and still fiddled. His grandson, who grew up in his home, recalls that "Every morning of the world he greeted the morning with his violin." He later served a sheriff of McMullen County for eight years at the beginning of this century and afterwards of Brooks County for many years.

The above photo, frrom which the painting was made, was taken in the 1930's, when sheriff Porter was in his seventies. The photo next to it was made when he was "ninety and still fiddling," as Matthew Gouger wrote on the back.