Tragedy struck Philip Paul Bliss, tune writer for “It is well with my Soul”

Phillip Bliss (1838 – 1876) was an American composer, conductor, writer of hymns and a bass-baritone Gospel singer. He wrote many well-known hymns. He was born in a Pennsylvania log cabin where his father led in daily prayer and where music was the primary entertainment. As a result, the lad found himself drawn to both the Lord Jesus and to music at an early age.

When he was 10, Philip, who lived in abject poverty, sold vegetables door to door. Approaching an elegant home, he heard a sort of music he’d never heard before. Dropping his vegetables, he scaled the fence and slipped unseen into the parlor. A woman was playing something new and strange to Philip – a piano. He was enthralled. When she stopped, he exclaimed, “O lady, please play some more!” The sounds of that piano stayed with him and deepened his desire to become a musician.

In 1859, Philip married Lucy Young and spent a year working her father’s farm. Lucy encouraged his dreams, and her grandmother provided funds for classes at a nearby music school. The next year, armed with a melodeon, Philip mounted his horse, Old Fanny, and began traveling place to place, teaching music and leading singing schools. In 1864, he sold his first song to a publishing company. Within a remarkably short time, he was one of America’s foremost writers of gospel hymns. Among his songs: “Wonderful Words of Life,” “Almost Persuaded,” “Dare to Be a Daniel,” “Hallelujah, What a Savior,” “The Light of the World is Jesus,” and “I Will Sing of My Redeemer.”

In 1870, Philip joined the staff of the First Congregational Church in Chicago and continued penning some of America’s favorite gospel songs.

In 1876 he read the words of Spafford’s hymn and was so impressed with the text that he wrote the music for “It is Well With My Soul.” While he and his wife Lucy were spending the Christmas holidays with his family in Pennsylvania, a telegram arrived requesting they come to Chicago to sing at Moody’s Tabernacle on the last Sunday of the year.

On December 29, 1876, leaving their two small children with Philip’s mother, they boarded the Pacific Express. About eight o’clock that night as the train creaked over a chasm in Ohio, the trestle bridge collapsed. The passenger cars plunged seventy-five feet into the ravine and caught fire. Philip and Lucy were among hundred people who died.

Philips trunk arrived in Chicago safely. In it was found the music for “All Is Well With My Soul.”

Source: Suzanne Church from 101 Hymn Stories and Then Sings My Soul, 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories.

Story of Hymn writer’s tragedy’s

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