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From Our Archives...P.P. Bliss!

Continuing with the connection to evangelism and music, P.P. Bliss is the other man that Rome is proud to recall.

From a 1978 issue of The Settler:

Philip Paul Bliss was born July 9, 1838 in Clearfield County, Pa. He was the son of Isaac and Lydia Doolittle Bliss, born on his parent's farm in a log cabin. His family moved several times during his early years.

It is known that P.P. Bliss as a ten year old, heard his first piano when passing a house. He was a bare-foot boy when he entered the parlor of the home and listened, enthralled with the sound. When he spoke to the woman as she finished playing, saying enthusiastically, “O Lady! Play some more!” he was ordered from her home. “Get out of here with your great big feet!” Crushed, but with memories of harmonious sounds that seemed like heaven to him, he left the room and house.

For the first ten years of his life, his father's singing and the prayers he recited and read from scripture along with his mother's daily lessons constituted his education.

The first job P.P. Bliss was known to have begun at the age of 11 when he left home to work at a neighbor's farm. In 1851 he made this notation, “worked on a farm for Marvin at $9.00 a month.”

Over the years he worked on farms and lumber camps and sawmills. In 1855, Bliss spent the winter in a select school at East Troy, Pa. He received a provisional teacher's certificate from the Supt. of Bradford County signed June 10th 1857. That same year he entered the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute at Towanda, Pa. There he pursued English studies under the direction of Rev. David Craft and vocal music with Miss O. Louisa Jenks.

According to a 1986 issue of The Settler, it was at this time in 1857 when his natural gift of music was discovered and a future musical career for him was encouraged. It was in 1857 that he began his first systemic instruction in music in J. G. Towner's singing school.

Again from the 1978 issue of The Settler:

Bliss received further encouragement from the O.F. Young family in Rome where he and his sister resided in the winter of 1858. The Young family were all singers.

He fell in love with the oldest daughter, Lucy and married in June 1859. It was in 1860 when he attended a Normal Academy of Music at Geneseo, NY during July and August.

Lucy's grandmother had saved Dutch gold guilders for years and counted out 30 of them to give to Philip. The Towanda Bank could not evaluate them for exchange and sent them on to Wilkes-Barre. The amount returned exceeded the requirement for tuition. It

Was through her generosity that Bliss spent six weeks in hard and valuable study which in turn enabled him to spent the next three years in and around Rome teaching music.

In 1865, Bliss went to Chicago with a men's quartet called the 'Yankee Boys'. They did not prosper in the employ of Root and Cady and so tendered their resignation. Bliss, however was asked to remain and did so, with his wife for four additional years at which time for $100 a month, they gave concerts in towns throughout the North West.

In July of 1870, Bliss became the leader of a choir of the First Congregational Church of Chicago. A few months later, he became the Supt. of the Sabbath School there and held both positions for about three years.

In 1874, after repeated urgings from D. L. Moody, the celebrated evangelist, to enter this profession, Bliss gave up his private profession of music to enter evangelism. From 1874 until 1876 he held evangelistic meetings in Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, Minnesota, Missouri, Alabama and Georgia.

Philip and his wife Lucy had been visiting the old Young home in Rome, Pa over the Christmas holidays, in 1876. That Christmas evening he conducted the union prayer meeting in the Baptist church at Rome. He had been advertised to sing at a meeting in Chicago the following Sunday and on Thursday, he left Rome, leaving his two little boys with their grandparents. He and his wife took the Lehigh Valley train to Waverly where they changed to go on the Erie, intending to change at Buffalo at midnight. That train was delayed, in the morning they went on to Buffalo, and changed to the train that would have taken them to Chicago. About 65 miles east of Cleveland, Ohio, the railway crossed a deep ravine through which flowed the Ashtabula Creek, at an elevation of 70 feet. The bridge was in jeopardy due to snow that had fallen almost incessantly. A high wind caused drifting. The train had stretched itself across the bridge. The engine was almost over when the structure fell into the chasm below.

The fall shattered nearly all the carriages, along with the hot coals, quickly setting the wreck on fire. There were around 180 persons on board and about 120 were killed. One writer of the disaster states: “A man rushed into one of the burning cars to save his wife and was himself burned.” It is surmised that this heroic person was Philip Bliss. People who witnessed it gave a description that could have been Bliss. The names of Mr. and Mrs. P. P. Bliss, Chicago appeared Jan. 1, 1877 on the list of dead in the accident.

Around 1861, Mr. Bliss had purchased a house in Rome for which he paid $1000. At that time, he brought his parents to Rome to live with Lucy and himself. He only lived in the house about two years.

From a 1986 issue of The Settler: Bliss' musical career began in the secular realm of Rome, Bradford County, as a singing school teacher and it was here that he became a professional musician composing secular songs. Some 95 are known to have been written by him alone and most were published as sheet music.

It was in 1964 and 1965 when many local devoted Christians saw the original Bliss home in the Boro of Rome deteriorating into such a state that it was on the verge of being erased as a landmark and decided it would be a credit to the pride of the town to renovate it. A united effort was organized and the property was purchased to create a museum. A tax free charter was obtained in April 1965 and the structure named the P.P. Bliss Gospel Songwriters Museum, Inc. The community is proud to have this property in its midst which has been visited by thousands of Christians, coming from almost every state in our nation. Bliss's works have been cataloged in the Library of Congress and in over a hundred others in the nation.

To learn more about P.P. Bliss and his career, please visit the Tioga Point Museum.

The Tioga Point Museum is open 12-8p on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the year. You are invited to come and explore!

Shared by Sandy Chamberlain


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