It came to my attention this morning while reading the obits that another Beulah has passed on, this one at age 93 and of Dallas Center, further diminishing our supply of folks who bear this grand old but endangered name. That's too bad. Beulah just isn't a name that Mamas think of these days when looking around for something to call their newborns.
Take a look at Babycenter.com's list of most popular names for girls in 2011 and here's what you find: Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia, Ava, Lily, Chloe, Madison, Emily and Abigail. "Madison" is a little odd --- who would name a little girl after a president named James? But the others are fine and I'm especially gratified to see that Chloe, the name of one of my great-grandmothers, has resurged.
Beulah has an impeccable pedigree, recorded for the ages in Isaiah 62:4 and paired with another once-popular name for little girls, Hephzibah, which dropped out of contention in the naming game long ago. John Bunyan enhanced the potential of Beulah by suggesting that it was possible to see heaven from the land of Beulah.
And round about 1875, Edward Page Stites piked up that ball and ran with it, writing the first of the Beulah hymns (and my favorite) which includes the chorus:
As on thy highest mount I stand,
I look away across the sea
Where mansions are prepared for me
And view the shining glory shore
My heaven, my home forever more.
I suspect that hymn is responsible for the blooming of Beulah during the late 19th and early 20th century. You can read more about the hymn here, even listen to the melody if you push the right button. Beulah popped up everywhere. Towns were named Beulah, too. There was a Beulah Church for many years out northeast of Chariton.
You can imagine my delight when quite a few years ago, a reporter named Bob moved to North Iowa and it turned out he was a native of Beulah, North Dakota. Imagine that, someone who actually came from Beulah Land. The bad news --- every time I saw Bob, and that used to happen nearly every day, I was tempted to sing "Beulah Land," and occasionally did.
In the years since Stites cranked out "Beulah Land," others have launched lesser songs with rougly the same title, including a schmaltzy version by some gospel singer named Squire Parsons that seems to be extremely popular among those who like that sort of thing. In fact, I couldn't find a decent version of the real Beulah Land out there on YouTube.
So I settled for this version of another Beulah song by Mississippi John Hurt --- even though I learned this long ago as "Glory Land" rather than "Beulah Land."