This project:

  1. Recording the companion recording, Hymns and Songs for Living;
  2. Writing the History Through 26 Hymns and Songs;
  3. Building the TortoiseClimbing website; and
  4. Figuring out how to publish both the recording and the book --

brought a closer understanding and empathy for my parents through sharing in the joy they received from this music and beliefs it represents. This project exists only because of my mother’s guidance, support throughout our journey of years, and her enduring love.

How Was the Decision Made to Write Hymn History Stories?

There are moments that make all the difference for shaping the next step we take in life. One such moment that led to embarking on putting Hymn History Stories together occurred during a recording session at Bias for the companion recording.

The orchestration arranger and conductor for some of these hymns, during a spare moment during the recording sessions, told brief hymn stories about a couple of these hymns. One was for the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.” Those stories opened a conceptual door and intrigued me to want to know more!

From that beginning, around 1999 David found the website then known as “The Cyber Hymnal.” (It is now known as “Hymntime.”)(1) It provided very rudimentary information about many of the hymns in this collection. Almost all are now public domain, i.e., no longer subject to copyright.

That information was augmented by two popular simple hymn stories publications by Kenneth Osbeck: 101 Hymn Stories; and 101 More Hymn Stories, published by Kregel Publications. They provided additional hymn publication information to that obtained from the Cyber Hymnal stories.

While the hymn stories in Osbeck’s books follow the popular formula of being short and simple, i.e., they are deliberately very short, romanticized stories, which do not place the hymn stories in any historical context, they provided considerably more publication details. Especially about publication dates, and in what publication the hymns and/or their current hymn tunes first appeared. Information about dates and publications from the Osbeck books is gratefully acknowledged. The additional information available from those books further fueled the inspiration to continue researching material.

The companions to hymnals found in a couple theological seminary libraries in the Washington, DC metro area, and on the internet, added a few more details, although again, they too are rather limited to simple stories. Many thanks are extended to:

A more thorough and academically accepted hymn resource subsequently came online in 2007 known as the Dictionary of North American Hymnology. An introductory overview of that very extensive project is available online.(2) It is focused on hymns published in the United States and Canada from 1640 to 1978, and is accessed through the website,

Like The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology, it provides online access to their comprehensive master bibliography and index of hymn collections. Unlike the Canterbury Dictionary, is not behind a subscription “paywall.”

Since those beginnings in 1999, there has been an explosion of information on the Internet. Searches found sites with additional history facts about the individual hymns and songs, and especially historical perspective of the times within which each hymn was written. Relevant reference sites are footnoted throughout. A bibliography of books and articles is included at the end for your convenience. (Note - Websites can be volatile in changes and discontinuance.)

In addition to valuable information now available online from Hymnary, a great in-depth help was the online web search capability known as Google Books. That service provides online access to scanned copies of many old historical books, and preview segments of many newer ones. The wealth of scanned book materials found via Google Book searches provided considerable additional information. Those are referenced both as footnotes in the text and in the Bibliography.

Special thanks to persons who early on provided personal detailed answers to questions I was having trouble finding answers to. These include:

Thanks to Dr. Nancy L. Graham for taking an interest and recommending adoption of The Chicago Manual of Style. (Dr. Graham has published numerous conference presentations, articles and books. She currently resides in Mobile, AL.) A brief bio of her can be found at Publications/History-Stories. Recent books of hers available from Amazon include:

Thanks to Mr. Dave Mather for his copy editing comments, which are greatly appreciated. He edited various different media over his life. A bio for him can be found at Publications/History-Stories.

Special Appreciation for Help with the Companion Recording

Heartfelt, very special thanks to Ms. Heidi Leah Gerber-Salins, the phase I recording engineer, producer, talent and good friend for:

The numerous artists who provided wonderful assistance in creating the companion Hymns and Songs for Living recording. Their roles are documented on the website at Recording Hymns and Songs for Living.

To Ms. Shirley Bowers, who willingly gave a period of her life to care for her friends, my parents. She assisted in discussions for selecting the favorite hymns and songs in this collection. She also assisted in reviewing progress of initial working tracks for this album as they were shared with mother.

To Ms. Jintzie Belcher, who assisted her friend Shirley Bowers in caring for my parents. She too was part of the reviewing progress of initial working tracks for this album as they were shared with mother.

To Mr. William (Bill) McElroy, who was willing to pick up the recording process for phase II from where it was suspended many years before. Mr. McElroy had a previous history with both David and Ms. Gerber-Salins. So, in a way it was a full circle return. He was instrumental in assisting a number of improvements in creating the final recording.


(1) What was originally Cyberhymnal is now known as Hymntime, and is found at;

Originally found at

(2) Dictionary of North American Hymnology: Overview and History, is found at, accessed July 2019.

(3) “Handbell Musicians of America, Area 11, Newsletter,” Vol. 7, Iss. 4, July 2014,; accessed 2014.

(4) Dr. Nancy L. Graham,They Bear Acquaintance: African-American Spirituals and the Camp Meetings (Bern Switzerland: Peter Lang AG, December 2016),

Dr. Nancy L. Graham, African American Spirituals and the Lectionary (San Francisco, CA: Blurb; May 2019), .

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