Copyrighted in 1904, but the oldest written version with Motherless Children in the lyrics is from 1911. Uptempo gospel blues, thematically influenced by older hymn Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child (see there).
Carter Family [as Motherless Children; knew it as a gospel song but met Blind Willie Johnson personally in '28]
Bessemer Melody Boys [idem; crediting Thomas Dorsey]
Josh White [idem]
Blind Gussie Nesbitt [idem]
Taj Mahal [in film Sounder]
Eric Clapton [knows what he's singing about]
Kelly Joe Phelps [most versions as Motherless Children]
Elmo Williams & Hezekiah Early [as Mother's Dead]
Joe Bonamassa [as Motherless Children]
Not to be confused, neither with Barbecue Bob's Motherless Chile Blues (see there), nor with Elvie Thomas' Motherless Child Blues, cut for Paramount in 1930 and covered by Tracy Nelson and Earl Scruggs. Motherlessness is a popular song topic throughout history, for both sheetmusic publishers and streetsingers. Sentimentality sells.