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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF
P. P. BLISS.
BY. MRS. W. F. CRAFTS.
FRIDAY, Dec. 29, 1876, was the last day that dawned upon the earthly life of "The sweet singer of Israel," P. P. Bliss. On the day previous Mr. Bliss and his wife left their mother's home, Rome, Pa., where they had been making a Christmas visit, and started for Chicago, when Mr. Bliss and Major D. W. Whittle were to continue, in the great Tabernacle, the evangelistic work begun by Moody and Sankey. As he rode he busied himself with Bible and paper, composing a new song which perished with him.
When within about twelve hours ride of Chicago, the train on which they were traveling was wrecked by the fearful "Ashtabula disaster," words that will ring like a funeral knell in many lives for years to come. By the giving 139
way of the bridge which spanned the Ashtabula River the whole train was precipicated into the ice-bound stream below. The cars were soon in flames, and the devastating elements of fire and water, adding their fury to the wild storm that was raging at the time, rendered the scene one of untold horror. The only circumstance connected with the death of Mr. and Mrs. Bliss that can be ascertained is that Mr. Bliss, after escaping out of a window of a car was burned to death on going back to rescue his wife.
At the meeting held in memory of Mr. Bliss in Chicago on the following Sunday, the fact was recalled with a sad interest that the last time he had sung in the Moody and Sankey meetings he had said, "I don't know as I shall ever sing here again, but I want to sing this as the language of my heart," and then had sung that song of his :
"I know not the hour my Lord will come
To take me away to his own dear home,
But I know that his presence will lighten the gloom,
At the time of his death Mr. Bliss was in the
very prime and vigor of manhood, being thirtyeight years of age.
His boyhood and early manhood were spent in northwest Pennsylvania.
In the year 1868, Mr. George F. Root of Chicago, the well-known music publisher, learning of his musical ability both as a composer and leader, engaged his services. Mr. Bliss then removed to Chicago, and for nearly six years went out into different parts of the West to conduct Normal Musical Institutes. He was also engaged during this time in composing Sundayschool music, the first of which appeared in 1870 in a book edited and published by Mr. George F. Root, entitled, "The Prize."
These were days of beginnings and of trials in the life of Mr. Bliss and his wife. Yet they styled their humble home "The Kot o' Kontent" and gave a cheery welcome to the friends who visited them.
In 1871 Mr. Bliss' first book, "The Charm," appeared and at once gave him a place among the favorite composers of Sunday-school music. About this time he was elected to the position of chorister in the First Congregational Church
of Chicago (Rev. Dr. Goodwin's), of which he had become a member. On coming to Chicago, having previously been a Methodist. He was also chosen superintendent of the large Sundayschool of that church, very many of whose members were led to Christ by his influence. Frequent demands were now made upon him to sing at dedications, anniversaries and Sunday-school gatherings. On these occasions he gave his services whenever time would permit. His Normal Musical work still continued and in 1872 he published a collection of new songs, duets, trios and quartets, entitled "The Song Tree." The design of the book is beautifully expressed in the following acrostic preface:
Sing away dreariness,
Tree of my love;
Oh, and to weariness
Rest may'st thou prove:
Erring to win
Guarding forever from
Subsequently appeared "Sunshine," a book for Sunday-schools and "The Joy," for classes, choirs and conventions.
Mr. Bliss at length resigned his position as chorister and his work as a musical leader, with much pecuniary sacrifice, in order to give himself wholly to evangelistic work. In a letter to a friend dated "May 13, 1874," when he was just starting to a Musical Institute, he says:
"Do you know Brother Moody, Whittle, and others are after me to sing Gospel hymns in evangelistic work. Shall I? Where can I accomplish most? Pray that I may make no mistake."
He decided to go into this work, and two months later wrote to the same friend:
"Major Whittle and I are holding protracted meetings. God is wonderfully using us in every way. Help us to praise him for it. I am preparing a book of "Gospel Songs" for our special use, and would be right glad to have you send a list of hymns and tunes which have been most successful in your experience. And above all, pray for the book. All the good in the book must come from God."
This book, "Gospel Songs," was published in 1874 with the following acrostic preface which truly represents its deep spiritual purpose: