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America The Beautiful

Samuel A. Ward is a name you’ve probably never heard. He has been dead for over a hundred years but he is an inductee in the songwriters Hall of Fame. He wrote a song called, “O Mother, Dear Jerusalem.” The song never amounted to anything but he left the rights to the music for his widow to use as she could.

In 1893, a Wellesley College English teacher, named Katherine Lee Bates, was traveling across America on a lecture series. As she traveled the country, she was taken in by the beautiful wheat fields, the incredible blue sky and the majestic Rocky Mountains.

Arriving in Colorado, she ascended Pikes Peak and looked out over the land. By the end of her stay, she had written a four stanza poem about the beauty of the country and God’s amazing provision.

Two years later, she retrieved her poem from her scrapbook, dusted it off and had it published. The poem took its final form in 1904 when she made a few minor changes and The Boston Evening Transcript printed it.

Many tunes were paired with Katherine’s poem, without any great success. It wasn’t until 1910 that a clever publisher combined Katherine’s poem with an obscure tune he had stumbled upon, written by an unknown organist by the name of Sam Ward. Yes, THAT Sam Ward.

The dusted-off poem and the nearly forgotten tune, written by two people who had never met, blended together perfectly to create a classic hymn that would bring the country to a patriotic fervor during WW2.

“America The Beautiful” has since taken it’s place as the most beloved patriotic song of all time, even being suggested, by some, as a replacement for our national anthem. Miss Bates became famous. She wrote dozens of books and even mentored Robert Frost, but her lasting contribution to us is her poem about the beauty of a country she loved.

1-Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!
America, America! God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

2-Oh beautiful for pilgrim feet whose stern impassioned stress,
A thoroughfare of freedom beat across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

3-Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness and every gain divine!

4-Oh beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

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