The prolific gospel song composer and writer William H. Doane was born today in 1832 in Preston, CT. He attended the nearby Woodstock Academy, a private high school, and directed the school choir there at the age of fourteen. At twenty he began conducting the Norwich Harmonic Society for two years.
His musical endeavors might have been considered a sideline, since his primary career was with J.A. Fay & Company, a manufacturer of woodworking machinery, where he worked his way up to the presidency. For most of his life he lived in Cincinnati, where he was also the Sunday School superintendent at the Mount Auburn Baptist Church. But it's surely Doane's music, sideline or no, that makes him still remembered today.
He composed more than two thousand gospel song tunes, many to words by Fanny Crosby, a close friend who visited him in Ohio several times. He also edited more than forty collections, including the Baptist Hymnal for Use in the Church and Home (1883).
This song by Doane and Crosby appeared in one of his early collections, The Silver Spray (1868), which was a great success; the royalties from the book went to purchase a large pipe organ for the YMCA Hall in Cincinnati. This song is not so well-known as some of his others, but worth hearing, I think.
Come to the fountain of mercy and live,
Come, and a pardon receive;
Drink of the water that Jesus will give,
Freely to those that believe;
Weary and burdened with sorrow,
Sweet is the message to thee,
"Learn of the meek and the lowly,
Come, heavy laden to me."
Come to the clear flowing river,
Drink of its waters forever,
Hungry and thirsty, O, never,
Blessèd are they that believe!
Look unto Jesus, ye nations of earth,
Victor o'er death and the grave,
Though he was humble, and lowly his birth
Jesus is mighty to save.
Christ is our Rock and Salvation,
Christ is our Strength and our Song,
Onward from glory to glory,
Leading us ever along.
Fanny Crosby, 1868; alt.
Tune: BLESSED BELIEVERS (10.7.10.7.188.8.131.52. with refrain)
William H. Doane, 1868
Some of Doane's correspondence with his fellow song writers, including Crosby, Ira Sankey, and Robert Lowry, is preserved at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton University.
One Year Ago: William Howard Doane