My mother learned this from her father, Mart Cassell. She said he had a wonderful deep, rough voice, but he was self-conscious about singing in public (I can really relate to that). As a little tagalong girl she was the only one who heard him singing as he worked in the barn and fields. ) It was the first song she learned and she passed it along to me. I think it was the first song I learned that wasn't a child's Sunday school song about how I was going to die and go to heaven someday.
This was written as a poem by D. J. O'Malley (1867-1943). The work was first published in the Miles City Stock-Growers Journal in 1893, titled After the Roundup, over the pen name D. J. White. The lyrics and a melody were first collected from tradition and published by John Lomax in 1910 in Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads. This poem, like many others of the day, was intended to be sung as lyrics to the melodies of other popular songs. Carl T. Sprague recorded When the Work's All Done This Fall in 1925. It sold over 900,000 copies, at a time when 5,000 was typical for a successful recording.
Colter Wall is 24. I bought his first CD when he was 21 and even then he was blessed with a mature voice - which lends itself well to this song.