Hymnal History Lesson at The Church In The Wildwood

It has been quite some time since I veered off the highway to take a country road with the promise of an old cemetery at the end.  Did just that last weekend....not once but twice.

Both cemeteries proved to be a lesson in history dating back to the mid 1800's.  None of my ancestor names were found, but never the less,  there were some familiar Texas family names and headstones that caught my eye.

It is always a bonus to find a country church as part of a cemetery.  And as you can see, an opportunity for a photo shoot.  I never pass up looking through windows or even checking the doors. 
You never know what is waiting for you through the broken glass and torn screen.
Strains of Rock of Ages and The Old Rugged Cross immediately came to mind as I looked through the broken glass at the sunlight streaming through the window.  It was as if the church pianist had just finished playing 'Abide With Me' as the congregation filed out the front door.  I had to get a better look at the open song book...expecting to see a familiar closing hymn...I was surprised when from the sunlit window the pages revealed....
"Open your hymnal to page 114 and stand as we sing Still, Still With Thee".  Again, my mind was filled with memories of standing beside my mother and sharing a song book.  She had a lovely singing voice.  Did you know Still, Still With Thee was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe?  I did not, until I looked it up.  She was the daughter of Rev. Lyman Beecher, President of Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She was married to Rev. Calvin E. Stowe a professor of Languages and Biblical Literature.  She authored several other hymns as well as the classic book Uncle Tom's Cabin.

The other two hymns showing were not ones I remembered, and could only make out the title of the one on the right...The Church In The Wildwood. 

Now, if Harriet Beecher Stowe's history lesson was new to you, too, then get ready to be amazed at the story behind 'The Church In The Wildwood.

It was composed in 1857 by a young music teacher named William S. Pitts on a visit to Bradford, Iowa.  Already for me there are two notables for my family history...Pitts (a short version of my maiden name Pittman) and Iowa (state of my birth and home of my mother's families).

Although the song was not published for many years after it was written and set to music, it was the inspiration for the 'Little Brown Church' built in the exact spot that had inspired it's author to compose the song.    Pitts and his singing class from Bradford Academy sang the song at the dedication of the new brown church in 1864.

After the church closed in 1888 due to an economic downturn in Bradford, the Society for the Preservation of the Little Brown Church was founded.  In the 1890's the song was popularized by two evangelists as well as groups of traveling singers throughout the country in the 1920's and 30's.  As the song grew in popularity, the church has become a popular tourist spot, and remains so today.  Every year it attracts thousands of visitors to see or be married in the little brown church in the vale.

True, this little church is not brown...not in Iowa, but, it certainly is
The Church In The Wildwood
Click HERE for The Church In The Wildwood sung by
The Original Carter Family from the 1920's.
Click HERE for Still, Still With Thee sung by the Altar of Praise Men's Chorale. 
Come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the dale,
No spot is dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.


  1. There a church and no longer in use looks like the one in your blog. But it has a cemetery with it.
    Talking about "The Old Rugged Cross" my dad was from that area of Michigan where it was written...My Aunt Charlotte (Dad sister) married a guy (Uncle Lou) who was some relative of who compose or lyrics to Old Rugged Cross.

    Coffee is on

  2. I'm not familiar with the songs from the Hymnal, but, I am familiar with the first three you mentioned. What memories they bring.


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