Chapter VI



Mr. P. P. Bliss, who is known as the sweet singer and great song-writer, tells of his first meeting with Mr. Moody, in 1869. Mr. Moody at that time was holding gospel services in Woods' Museum, Chicago, which stood near the corner of Clark and Randolph Streets. Previous to his holding services in the theater, he was accustomed to speaking in the open air from the steps of the court house. Mr. Bliss said that one Sunday evening, accompanied by his wife, they went out for a walk, and passing up Clark Street, they came to the open air meeting. "I was at once attracted by the earnestness of the speaker, who was Mr. Moody, and waiting until he closed with an earnest appeal for all to follow him to the theater, we decided we would go, and fell in with the crowd. I spent the evening in his meeting there. That night Mr. Moody was without his usual leader for the singing, and the music was rather weak. From the audience I helped what I could on the hymns, and attracted Moody's attention. At the close of the meeting, he was at the door shaking hands with all who passed out, and as I came to him he had my name and history in about two minutes, and a promise that when I was in Chicago Sunday evenings, I would come and help in the singing at the theater meetings. This was the commencement of our acquaintance. I sang at the theater meetings often after that, and making longer stops in Chicago in connection with writing music, I was often at the noon meeting, and was frequently made use of by Mr. Moody in his various gatherings."

Mr. Bliss was engaged in holding revival services in different cities in connection with Major Whittle for several years and was very successful. His music is still used in Sunday-schools.

Phillip Paul Bliss was born in Clearfield County, Pa., July 9, 1838, in the usual log house occupied by the English settlers of the mountain and forest region of northern Pennsylvania. In February, 1844, the family moved to Kinsman, Trumbull County, Ohio, where they resided three years. In

1847, the family returned to Pennsylvania, residing in Esterville, Crawford County, and, in November,

1848, they removed to Tioga County. Mr. Bliss was one of sixteen children, all but two of whom died in infancy. When about ten years of age, he had his first piano, and he thought it was the sweetest music that had ever been produced. He worked on a farm in his early days, that is, from the time he was eleven until he was sixteen years of age. A portion of this time, however, he was enabled to obtain a little schooling. He was converted by a Baptist minister in 1850, and was immersed in a creek near his own home by a minister of the Christian church, who was holding meetings in that neighborhood.

In 1855, he spent the winter in a select school at East Troy, Bradford County, Pa. In 1856, he worked on a farm in the summer, and taught school in the winter at Hartsville, Allegheny County, N. Y. The following winter he passed at Towanda, Pa., and at Towner Hill. Here he met for the first time J. G. Towner, who was afterward associated with him in concerting. The same winter he attended the musical convention at Rome, Pa. This did much to strengthen his growing passion for music. In 1858, he was at Almond, N. Y., and in the winter of that year he taught in the Rome Academy, at Rome, Pa. He became acquainted with O. F. Young, whose family were singers. He fell in love with the eldest daughter, Lucy, and, on June 1, 1859, they were married at the little town of Wysocks; the year after his marriage he worked on the farm for his father-in-law, and received for his support $13 a month, the amount usually paid to farm hands. In the winter he commenced teaching music at Bradford County for $2 an evening and board. His first musical composition was written in 1864, and published in 1865 by Root & Cady. It was called "Lora Vale." From 1864 to 1876, for twelve years, his pen was usually giving expression to songs that came thronging through his mind. He was twenty-six years old when he wrote his first song, and thirty-eight when he wrote his last.

His first meeting with Mr. Geo. F. Root, of Chicago, was in 1863 or 1864. When he went to Illinois to hold musical conventions and give concerts, he connected himself with the musical publishing firm at that time, and took editorial charge of the "Musical Visitor." Mr. Bliss continued to hold revival meetings first with the Rev. D. W. Whittle, and then with Mr. Moody. Among his famous songs was "Hold the Fort, for I Am Coming," which was taken from the message sent by General Sherman to the command which was holding Kenesaw mountain during the civil war. This was written in 1870. In September, 1876, he visited Mr. Moody at Northfield, and spent a week with him there. He accompanied him during that visit to Greenfield, Brattleboro, Keene, and adjacent towns, and sang at the meetings Mr. Moody conducted. In October of that same year, he was present at the Moody and Sankey opening service in Chicago. He did not participate in any of the Chicago meetings in a public way, but for three weeks was a constant attendant. On October 21st he went to Kalamazoo, his wife accompanying him. He sang at the Young Ladies' Seminary at the Baptist College. From the nth to the 21st of November, 1876, he was at Jackson, Mich., holding meetings. On the 25th of November he went to Peoria, and held a meeting. On the 14th of December the meeting was closed, and Mr. Bliss went to Chicago. He left on that same evening for Towanda, Pa., where he spent Sunday with his mother, and sister, Mrs. Willson. It was his intention to return to Chicago on December 31st, when he and Mr. Whittle were to take up the work in that city. He attended nearly every meeting in the little town where he was visiting, his last one being on Wednesday evening, December 27th. He was full of the holy spirit, and sang with more than usual power, among the songs being "In the Christian Home in Glory," "Hold Fast Till I Come," "Father, I Am Tired," and "Eternity." He prefaced his remarks on the song, "Hold Fast Till I Come," by saying that it was one of the first occasions of its being sung, and it might be the last song he should ever sing to them. This seemed afterward in the light of a premonition of his approaching end. Copyright, 1900, by Robt. O. Law.


This was one of the first church buildings erected in Chicago after the great fire of 1871, and stood as an example of

Mr. Moody.s enterprise.

Thursday morning, December 28th, he took his little boys into a room by themselves, and prayed with them, and bade good-bye to all. His tickets read to Chicago by the way of Buffalo, on the Lake Shore road. He took the afternoon train at Waverley, and expected to be in Buffalo that night, but the engine of the train on which he was going was detained three hours. Upon arriving at Hornellsville late in the evening, they decided to wait over and have a night's rest. Mr. and Mrs. Bliss left there Friday morning, December 29th, taking the train which connected at Buffalo with the Chicago train, wrecked at Ashtabula, Ohio. There were eleven cars on the train, consisting of two engines, three baggage, one smoker, two coaches, three sleepers, one parlor car—probably 250 on the train. A blinding snow storm was raging when the train pulled out of Buffalo an hour late. Just before reaching the bridge at Ashtabula, the snow was very heavy, and the prospect was that the train would be snowed in. There were two passenger cars in front of the smoker, which did not come in the regular way, and next behind the smoker came the parlor car in which were Mr. Bliss and his wife. When the train fell, Mr. Bliss succeeded in crawling through a window, supposing he could pull his wife through with him, but she was jammed fast, and all efforts- proved unavailable. She was caught in the iron work of the seats, and finding he could not save her, he staid with her in an attempt to put out the fire and rescue her, and perished with her.

Some of his best known pieces were: "Hold the Fort," "Pull for the Shore," "Jesus Loves Even Me," "We Are Going Home To-morrow," "More to Follow," "The Light of the World Is Jesus," "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning," "Almost Persuaded," "What Shall the Harvest Be?" "Hallelujah, It Is Done."