Sunday, March 20, 2011

Power in the blood

This is by way of a guest post from Charles M. Wright, another Russell boy and reader of the Lucas Countyan, who posted elsewhere here as a comment information that deserves better play about Lewis Edward Jones, who spent time in Lucas County as a boy, then went on to compose the old revival classic, "There is Power in the Blood."

It's already been proved to my satisfaction that without Lucas County there would be no "Old Rugged Cross," so this is a welcome expansion of knowledge about our place in the grand hymnodical scheme of things.

Charles is a former church musician (keyboard) who got his start in the light of sun shining through those beautiful stained glass windows at First Baptist in Russell. Here are his words:

"Your blog brought to memory a fact that I doubt many Lucas Countyans know. Twice in the diary of my Grandmother Mollie Goltry Wright (1868-1954), she refers to a childhood friend and schoolmate named Lewis Edgar Jones. It's not clear from her October 10, 1940, entry whether they attended school together in the town of Russell or at Hawkeye rural school. She wrote that her father "bought property in Russell and moved there so we children could go to school," because their farm home was too far from the closest country school. She states that was in 1875 and 1876 while the Hawkeye Schoolhouse was being built 'for we started to school there in the Spring of 1876 after moving back to the farm.' Recalling this brought to her mind her schoolmate Lewis Edgar Jones, who composed the popular revival hymn "There is Power in the Blood."

"Curious, I both Googled the name Lewis Edgar Jones and checked early Lucas County census reports. Sure enough, in the 1880 federal census of Washington Township, Lucas County, lived Lewis Edgar Jones, then 15, with his father, Lewis W. Jones, and mother, Francis A. Jones. Lewis was born February 8, 1865, in Yates City, Illinois. It isn't known when his family arrived in Lucas County, but in her diary, Grandmother Wright wrote that they left the county in December, 1889.

"One reference states that he penned his famous hymn in 1899 while at a church camp meeting at Mountain Lake Park, Maryland. Another states that he was a classmate of evangelist Billy Sunday at the Moody Bible Institute and that after graduating, he worked for the YMCA in Davenport, Iowa; Forth Worth, Texas (1915); and Santa Barbara, California (1925), and that "hymn writing was his avocation." Titles of five of his other hymns are: "I've Anchored in Jesus," "Lean on His Arms," "The Old Book Stands," "We Shall See the King Some Day," and "You Must Be Redeemed." He used the pseudonyms Lewis Edgar, Edgar Lewis and Mary Slater. Apparently no known photograph of the composer exists for several references to the composer appeal to anybody who may have a photograph to please submit it.

"Lewis Edgar Jones died September 1, 1936, at Santa Barbara, California. He is buried at the Altoona Walnut Cemetery, Etowah County, Alabama."
Now I know the first verse of this old song by heart and can sing it at the drop of a hat, but set out to find the music this morning when it occurred I could use it as a postlude since this was one of my mornings to be organist of absolute desperation no-other-option last resort (I lack both the calling and the talent and can't play and sing at the same time). 
Christians can be snooty about each other's music, so I knew it wouldn't be found in the Episcopal hymnal (designed more to discourage than encourage congregational singing). Once in demand as a funeral singer, I have several hymnals. Tried the Lutheran --- not there. Tried the Methodist --- not there either. Funally dug out my old favorite "Tabernacle Hymnal" and by gum there it was. As it turned out, I opted for something else, but am holding "Power in the Blood" in reserve.
Here's a foot-stomping, hand-clapping version that features one of my heroes, the late great Vestal Goodman, apparently plucked from a Gaither Homecoming show before those got to be quite so slick. Vestal has the power to melt me right down into a blubbering sentimental puddle. The Spirit no matter how you define it, moves through music, you know --- be it "Power in the Blood" or Bach's "Mass in B minor."


Anonymous said...

Amen, Vestal!

Wanda Horn said...

A grand old hymn! My 10-year-old granddaughter sang it with her choir just a few weeks ago. When you mentioned the Tabernacle Hymnal, my immediate thought was, 'Power in the Blood' was number 47." I got out my old "Tabernacle Hymns Number Four" (the version I grew up with at Russell FBC), and sure enough--there it was on page 47. Now if I could just remember where I left my shoes ....