Eugene Field

June 28, 2018

Written by Christel Gollnick with contributions from Megan Wyeth


DEFINITION: Having an imaginative or sensitively emotional style of expression; seeing what many do not.

Eugene Field, Sr. (September 2, 1850 – November 4, 1895) was an American writer, best known for his children’s poetry and humorous essays.

Field first visited St. Joseph in 1870 after spending time at Williams College, Knox College and finally the University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo. He soon moved to the community and courted the sister of a friend, Miss Julia Sutherland Comstock who lived at Fifth and Isadore streets. They often borrowed her father’s horse and buggy to enjoy the winding, and then country, road called Lovers Lane. In 1873, at the age of 23 Eugene married the love of his life, then 16, at Christ Episcopal Church on Seventh and Felix streets. They lived in brick home with Italianate influences at 425 N. 11th St. Together, Eugene and Julia had a family of eight children, five of whom reached maturity, during their 22-year marriage.

Field worked as a journalist for the St. Joseph Gazette in St. Joseph, in 1875. He became an editor and later worked as a writer and/or editor in St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver and Chicago. His light, humorous articles, written in gossipy style, were reprinted by other newspapers around the country. Between all of his various writing and editing assignments he was able to support his large family while his wife ran the family’s household and affairs. As a bit of a romantic and extravagant spender when left to his own devices, Eugene arranged for all of the money he made to be sent to his wife, saying he had no head for money himself.

His head was, instead, full of words … many of which were inspired by his childhood years spent in New England after his mother died when he was only 6. His own family was also a strong and sentimental feeder of his muse. Field started publishing poetry in 1879. Often referred to as “The Children’s Poet,” he created more than a dozen volumes of poetry and became known especially for his light-hearted poems for children. Classics such as “Wynken, Blynken and Nod,” “Mother and Child,” “Little Boy Blue,” “The Sugar Plum Tree” and hundreds of others are literary contributions by Field. Several of his poems were even set to music with commercial success.

The work Field is most noted for in St. Joseph is “Lover’s Lane, St. Jo.” The poem was written in 1889 while he and Julia were staying in London, England. Field recorded this famous reminiscence of their courtship while taking time to recover from poor health.

Field died of a heart attack in Chicago, Ill. in 1895 at the young age of 45. Field and Julia Comstock Field are buried in Kenilworth, Ill. and his childhood home in St. Louis, Mo. is now a museum called “The Eugene Field House & Saint Louis Toy Museum.” Besides the beautiful Lovers Lane, there are two other streets in St. Joseph that are named for Eugene Field: Eugene Field Avenue and Gene Field Road. On Gene Field Road, there are two buildings named for the poet: Gene Field Apartments and Eugene Field Elementary School. The school in particular seems a fitting tribute to the fun-loving spirit who so successfully scribed the fears, challenges, wonders and dreams of childhood in his poetry.

Lover’s Lane, St. Jo by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

Saint Jo, Buchanan County,

Is leagues and leagues away;

And I sit in the gloom of this rented room,

And pine to be there to-day.

Yes, with London fog around me

And the bustling to and fro,

I am fretting to be across the sea

In Lover’s Lane, Saint Jo.


I would have a brown-eyed maiden

Go driving once again;

And I’d sing the song, as we snailed along,

That I sung to that maiden then:

I purposely say, “as we snailed along,”

For a proper horse goes slow

In those leafy aisles, where Cupid smiles,

In Lover’s Lane, Saint Jo.


From her boudoir in the alders

Would peep a lynx-eyed thrush,

And we’d hear her say, in a furtive way,

To the noisy cricket, “Hush!”

To think that the curious creature

Should crane her neck to know

The various things one says and sings

In Lover’s Lane, Saint Jo.


But the maples they should shield us

From the gossips of the place;

Nor should the sun, except by pun,

Profane the maiden’s face;

And the girl should do the driving,

For a fellow can’t, you know,

Unless he’s neglectful of what’s quite respectful

In Lover’s Lane, Saint Jo.


Ah! sweet the hours of springtime,

When the heart inclines to woo,

And it’s deemed all right for the callow wight

To do what he wants to do;

But cruel the age of winter,

When the way of the world says no

To the hoary men who would woo again

In Lover’s Lane, Saint Jo!


In the Union Bank of London

Are forty pounds or more,

Which I’m like to spend, ere the month shall end,

In an antiquarian store;

But I’d give it all, and gladly,

If for an hour or so

I could feel the grace of a distant place,—

Of Lover’s Lane, Saint Jo.


Let us sit awhile, beloved,

And dream of the good old days,—

Of the kindly shade which the maples made

Round the stanch but squeaky chaise;

With your head upon my shoulder,

And my arm about you so,

Though exiles, we shall seem to be

In Lover’s Lane, Saint Jo.


Photo Credits:




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