Engraving of Will Carleton by Arthur Rice, 1890

William McKendree Carleton (October 21, 1845 – December 18, 1912) was an American poet from Michigan. Carleton's poems were most often about his rural life.[1]

Early yearsEdit

Born in rural Lenawee County, Hudson, Michigan, Carleton was the fifth child of John Hancock and Celeste (Smith) Carleton.[2] In 1869, he graduated from Hillsdale College and delivered on that occasion the poem, "Rifts in the Cloud".[3]


After graduating from college in 1869, Carleton first worked as a newspaper journalist in Hillsdale. He had been in the habit of writing poetry as a youngster. His first significant work published was "Betsy and I Are Out", a tale of a divorce that was first published in the Toledo Blade, and reprinted by Harper's Weekly. Carleton wrote this poem at the age of 25, when he worked as editor of the Detroit Weekly Tribune.[3] In 1872 he published "Over the Hill to the Poor House", exploring the plight of the aged and those with indifferent families. This piece captured national attention and catapulted Carleton into literary prominence—a position he held the rest of his life as he continued to write and to lecture from coast to coast".[1]

In 1878, Carleton moved to Boston, an important literary and publishing center. There he married Anne Goodell. They moved to New York City in 1882. Carleton remained active in his college fraternity and served as the New York City Delta Tau Delta alumni chapter's president.[4] In 1907, he returned to Hudson as a renowned poet. Carleton's quotes became well known in the US during his lifetime.[5][6]

Legacy and honorsEdit

With the Public Act 51 of 1919, the Michigan legislature required teachers to teach at least one of his poems to their students, and October 21 was officially named as Will Carleton Day in Michigan.[2][7] Schools in Michigan named for him include Will Carleton Academy in Hillsdale, and Will Carleton Middle School in Sterling Heights.[8] A section of the M-99 in Hillsdale is dubbed Will Carleton Road. The village of Carleton in Monroe County, Michigan, is named for him, and the road on Carleton's northern border, separating Monroe and Wayne counties, is Will Carleton Road.

On June 24, 2007, it was reported that "the neglected burial plot of the family of rural Michigan poet, Will Carleton, whose 1872 work, Over the Hill to the Poor House, thrust him into national prominence, is getting a makeover".[9]

Musician Van Dyke Parks is his grand-nephew. He took the title for his album Clang of the Yankee Reaper from one of Carleton's poems.[10]

His worksEdit

"What Robert Burns did for the Scottish cotter and the Reverend William Barnes has done for the English farmer, Will Carleton has done for the American--touched with the glamour of poetry the simple and monotonous events of daily life, and shown that all circumstances of life, however trivial they may appear, possess those alternations of the comic and pathetic, the good and bad, the joyful and sorrowful, which go to make up the days and nights, the summers and winters, of this perplexing world".[3]

  • Rifts in the Cloud (1869)[3]
  • Poems (1871)[11]
  • Betsy and I Are Out (1871)[12]
  • Over the Hill to the Poorhouse (1872)[1]
  • Farm Ballads[13] (1873)[14]
  • Farm Legends (1875)[15]
  • Young Folks' Centennial Rhymes (1876)[3]
  • Our Travelled Parson (1879)[16]
  • Farm Festivals (1881)[3]
  • The First Settler's Story (1881)[17]
  • Her Tour (1882)[18]
  • The Old Reading Class (1883)[19]
  • The Hero Of the Tower (1884)[20]
  • City Ballads (1885)[15]
  • The Convict's Christmas Eve (1887)[21]
  • An Ancient Spell (1887)[22]
  • City Legends (1889)
  • City Festivals (1892)[23]
  • The Vestal Virgin (1893)[24]
  • Four Dogs (1894)[25]
  • Rhymes of Our Planet (1895)[26]
  • The Lianhan Shee (1900)[27]
  • Out of the Old House, Nancy (1900)[28]
  • Songs of Two Centuries (1902)[29]
  • The Little Black-Eyed Rebel (1906)[30]
  • A Thousand Thoughts with Index of Subjects (1908)



  1. ^ a b c Will Carleton The Poet and the Poem Over the Hill to the Poor House
  2. ^ a b "Absolute Michigan – Converse With The Slain: Will Carleton's Visit to Arlington National Cemetery". Absolute Michigan. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Biography and poetry of Will Carleton { William ), author of Three links and a life/title>
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Will Carleton quotes
  6. ^ "Will Carleton Quotes". BrainyQuote. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  7. ^ FirstScience - Carleton, Will (1845-1912)
  8. ^ "Will Carleton Academy". schooltree.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  9. ^ "MLive.com: The Wire". mlive.com. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  10. ^ "The Clang Of The Yankee Reaper: Van Dyke Parks Interviewed". thequietus.com. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  11. ^ "Poems: By Will M. Carleton". umich.edu. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  12. ^ The Will Carleton Poor House
  13. ^ "Farm Ballads". The Portal to Texas History.
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b "Carleton, Will". infoplease.com.
  16. ^ Will Carleton (Harper's Magazine). "Our travelled parson". harpers.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  17. ^ Will Carleton (Harper's Magazine). "The first settler's story". harpers.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  18. ^ Will Carleton (Harper's Magazine). "Her tour". harpers.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  19. ^ Will Carleton (Harper's Magazine). "The old reading class". harpers.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  20. ^ Will Carleton (Harper's Magazine). "The hero of the tower". harpers.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  21. ^ Will Carleton (Harper's Magazine). "The convict's Christmas Eve". harpers.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  22. ^ Will Carleton. "An ancient spell". umich.edu. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  23. ^ "BOOKS, antiquarian, used, old, remainders". antiqbook.com. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  24. ^ Will Carleton (Harper's Magazine). "The vestal virgin". harpers.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  25. ^ "Four dogs by Will Carleton (Harper's Magazine)". harpers.org. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  26. ^ "Rhymes of our planet,: by Will Carleton". umich.edu. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  27. ^ http://www.pos1.info/l/lianshee.htm
  28. ^ Will Carleton. Stedman, Edmund Clarence, ed. 1900. An American Anthology, 1787-1900. "964. Out of the Old House, Nancy". bartleby.com. Retrieved 10 March 2015.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  29. ^ Will Carleton. "Songs of two centuries". umich.edu. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  30. ^ Will Carleton. "The Little Black-Eyed Rebel". poetry-archive.com. Retrieved 10 March 2015.

External linksEdit