Indelible Grace Hymnbook

William Batchelder Bradbury

Born: Oc­to­ber 6, 1816, York, Maine.

Died: Jan­u­ary 7, 1868, Mont­clair, New Jer­sey.

Buried: Bloom­field Cem­e­te­ry, Bloom­field, New Jer­sey.

Though fond of mu­sic from an ear­ly age, Brad­bu­ry was un­a­ble to de­vote much time to its stu­dy un­til age 17, when, with help from friends, he at­tend­ed the Aca­de­my of Mu­sic in Bos­ton, run by Low­ell Ma­son and George Webb. About this time, says The­o­dore Sew­ard, an in­ci­dent oc­curred which was a great source of mor­ti­fi­ca­tion for the young en­thu­si­ast. His par­ents, both of them old fa­shioned sing­ers, were, of course, great­ly in­ter­est­ed in their son’s pro­gress. He went home from school one night, full of ar­dor and ex­cite­ment, and un­der­took to de­mon­strate the new meth­od of sing­ing and beat­ing time. His ges­tures were so ex­tra­va­gant, swing­ing his arm near­ly its whole length, that his par­ents were far more amused than ed­i­fied. How­ev­er, they re­strained their mirth, not wish­ing to check his en­thu­si­asm, but at last the scene be­came too much for them, and they burst in­to a peal of un­re­sis­ti­ble [sic] laugh­ter. This was too much for the ea­ger per­form­er. His rap­ture was turned in­to fiery in­dig­na­tion, and slam­ming his book shut in a rage, he de­clared that they knew no­thing at all about mu­sic, and marched out of the room.

Another dis­ap­point­ment oc­curred in his first ap­point­ment for a sing­ing school. Af­ter is­su­ing ma­ny cir­cu­lars and ads, he an­ti­ci­pat­ed a great crowd, but at the ap­point­ed time, not a sin­gle soul was there to greet him. Af­ter a while a young man ap­peared, and still lat­er five more came to wit­ness the em­bar­rass­ment of the young teach­er, who sat on the plat­form in a clam­my per­spir­a­tion, in­ward­ly long­ing for some blessed knot-hole through which he might dis­ap­pear. This mag­ni­fi­cent fiz­zle is spok­en of as great val­ue to him in bring­ing him down from the clouds, and was prob­ab­ly more ser­vice than a grand suc­cess would have been. Through the in­flu­ence of his for­mer teach­er, Low­ell Ma­son, he se­cured a po­si­tion as a sing­ing school teach­er in Ma­chi­as, Maine, and af­ter­ward in St. Johns, New Bruns­wick. At length a po­si­tion was giv­en him as mu­sic teach­er at the First Bap­tist Church in Brook­lyn, New York, and lat­er at the Bap­tist Ta­ber­na­cle in New York Ci­ty.

In 1841, Brad­bu­ry turned his at­ten­tion to child­ren, and first held his free sing­ing classes, which be­came ve­ry pop­u­lar. At his an­nu­al Ju­ve­nile Mu­sic Fes­tiv­als, one could see a thou­sand child­ren on a ris­ing plat­form, the girls wear­ing white, with white wreaths and blue sash­es, and the boys in jack­ets, with col­lars turned over in By­ron style. These ef­forts among the young gave Brad­bu­ry great ce­leb­ri­ty, a host of warm friends, and event­u­al­ly led to his life work of pro­vid­ing Sun­day School songs. Over three mil­lion co­pies of his Gold­en Trio, Gold­en Chain, Gold­en Show­er, and Gold­en Cen­ser were pub­lished.

When Brad­bu­ry was about 15 years old, he joined the Charles Street Bap­tist Church in Bos­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts. In New York he joined the Bap­tist Ta­ber­nacle, and for ma­ny years lat­er in life, he at­tend­ed the Pres­by­ter­i­an Church of Bloom­field, New Jer­sey. His wid­ow re­lat­ed, He was not strict­ly sec­tar­i­an in his views, oft­en say­ing he be­longed to the child­ren’s church, mean­ing that wher­ev­er he could meet with child­ren and do them good he felt at home.

In 1847, Brad­bu­ry went to Eur­ope to stu­dy mu­sic un­der the best Ger­man mas­ters. While cross­ing the Alps, he re­lat­ed this in­ci­dent: Hav­ing met a Ger­man, who was so en­rap­tured, as he be­held the Al­pine peaks bathed with the gold­en glor­ies of the ris­ing sun, that he sang for joy. Not wish­ing to be out­done by a for­eign­er, es­pe­cial­ly in my own pro­fess­ion, I com­menced sing­ing. This cap­ti­vat­ed the for­eign­er so that he would not rest till he was taught the same piec­es. This was the on­ly mu­sic-less­on I gave on top of the Alps.

Bradbury was a ve­ry gen­er­ous man. A the­ol­o­gy stu­dent once wrote him for a loan of five dol­lars, that he might buy him­self a pair of boots. Brad­bury sent him a check for $25, and a note say­ing he could not spare $5 at the mo­ment, but that he might man­age to do with­out the $25 un­til he could send $5 lat­er.

In the rear of one Brad­bu­ry’s New York ware­hous­es was a small of­fice where he oft­en went to re­new his strength and mount up with wings as ea­gles. When­ev­er he had to leave his house with­out suf­fi­cient pray­er time, it was said, he would go to this pri­vate sanc­tu­a­ry and spend time in his de­vo­tions. Nor did he al­low bu­si­ness to in­trude on this ha­bit. His much loved Bi­ble oc­cu­pied a prom­i­nent place on the ta­ble, and was well worn and filled with marked pass­age­s that had il­lum­in­at­ed in his own ex­per­i­ence. In his pri­vate jour­nal he wrote, The 37th Psalm has been to me a ne­ver-fail­ing source of com­fort and con­so­la­tion. My lit­tle Bi­ble fre­quent­ly opens to it of its own ac­cord. The 27th is also a fa­vo­rite when the en­e­my comes in like a flood.

Bradbury suf­fered from tu­ber­cu­losis the last two years of his life. A few weeks be­fore his death, he said to The­o­dore Sew­ard, I long to be free from this evil body, which does so much to drag me down. I feel that I want to do right, that I want to love my Sav­iour, and act to please Him, but this bu­sy brain and hasty na­ture lead me oft­en­times to things that are con­tra­ry to the real feel­ings of my heart. A week be­fore his death the child­ren of Mont­clair vis­it­ed him, each bring­ing an oak leaf, which were wov­en in­to a wreath which was laid on his cof­fin and bur­ied with him. The Sa­tur­day be­fore his death he re­marked to a friend, My soul seems to have gained the vic­to­ry. I am so hap­py now. I rest who­lly up­on Christ. May God give me the grace to die. I am go­ing to see mo­ther. He was bur­ied be­side his mo­ther, and Asleep in Je­sus was sung as it was at his mo­ther’s bur­i­al.

Source: The Cyber Hymnal