From the Wikipedia entry:
"Girl from the North Country" (also known as "Girl of the North Country") is a song written by Bob Dylan. It was first released in 1963 as the second track on Dylan's second studio album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Dylan re-recorded the song as a duet with Johnny Cash in 1969. That recording became the first track on Nashville Skyline, Dylan's ninth studio album.
Dylan's 1959 Echo Harmonica, played during his high school days, this model chosen because it shared a name with his then girlfriend (source)
The song was written following his first trip to England in December, 1962, upon what he thought to be the completion of his second album. The song is a tribute to a former girlfriend, Echo Helstrom who Dylan knew before leaving for New York.
Pete Townshend did an adaption of "Girl from the North Country" on his 1982 album, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, an album with which I am somewhat familiar.