7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My Country, 'Tis of Thee


I remember singing our national hymn, My Country, 'Tis of Thee, when I was in grade school. Pride welled up in my heart that I was American and that my country belongs to "Thee." Many years later I lived on an old country road here in Maine where a little brick chapel boasts the sign, home of Rev. Samuel F. Smith, author of America, My Country, 'Tis of Thee Don't you just love the history that lies in our own back yards?

His was a generation proud of America, not far removed from the days that his forefathers, who came from England to Massachusetts in the 17th century, fought the War of Independence. Born in Boston in 1808, Samuel F. Smith graduated from Harvard and following, attended the Andover Theological Seminary. As a divinity student and master of languages he later went on to become pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waterville, Maine (which encompassed the town where I live) and Professor of Modern Languages at Colby in 1834 (Waterville, Maine the time was considered the University City of Maine.). Like most of those early pastors, Smith ministered to more than one church, and from 1838 to 1842 he regularly preached at Ten Lots Road as well as at his principal church in Waterville. For the rest of his life the Rev. Samuel F. Smith traveled the world over as a Baptist missionary and composed over 150 hymns.

In 1832, the seminarian penned these words (excerpt): 

My country, 'tis of Thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrims' pride!
From every mountainside,
Let freedom ring!

Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of Liberty,
To Thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

New children's book!
On July 4, 1832, fifty-six years after the Declaration of Independence, 500 children premiered the piece singing it during a Sunday school celebration at the Park Street Church in Boston. Within months it had been performed throughout the country. I can imagine that there may have been some proud grandfather's who fought in the American Revolution who heard the children sing!

Dr. Smith's account of how the hymn came to be:

"The hymn of My Country, 'Tis of Thee was written in February 1832 As I was turning over the leaves of several books of music chiefly music for churches and schools the
words being in the German language the music which I found later to be God Save the King impressed me favorably I noticed at a glance that the German words were patriotic But without attempting to translate or imitate them I was led in the impulse of the moment to write the hymn now styled America which was the work of a brief period of time at the close of a dismal winter afternoon I did not design it for a national hymn nor did I think it would gain such notoriety I dropped the manuscript into my portfolio and thought no more of it for months I had however once seen it after writing it and gave a copy of it to Mr Lowell Mason with the music from the German pamphlet and much to my surprise on the succeeding Fourth of July he brought it out on the occasion of a Sunday school celebration in Park Street Church Boston." 

 The tune of God Save the King was first used in the American British colonies in a modified version, in 1761 as the melody for the hymn Whitefield's Tune. During the American Revolution, patriots turned the British national anthem, God Save the King, into God Save the United States. In 1789 Americans sang these words at George Washington's inauguration as the first president of the United States of America: 
Hail, thou auspicious day!
For let America
Thy praise resound.
Joy to our native land!
Let every heart expand,
For Washington's at hand,
With glory crowned.
Thrice beloved Columbia, hail!
Behold before the gale
Your chief advance.
The matchless Hero's neigh;
Applaud him to the sky,
Who gave you liberty,
With gen'rous France.

From Library of Congress 1902 Victor recording:

A new generation rises up singing, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee"!

Be blessed as you celebrate our
country's independence this weekend!


  1. Thanks for such an interesting post, Carla. And how special that you live in the area that Rev. Samuel F. Smith lived and wrote one of our National Hymns.

  2. That is so cool that he lived near near you, Carla. Great post! Wish I could get up there and visit the area.

  3. Thank you, Janet and Carrie. I love living in New England where there is so much early American history. And you both are blessed to live where there is just as much!! I love it down there in VA!


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