Tuesday, April 08, 2008

William Beery

William Beery cheated death at least twice, and the Church of the Brethren hymnody is the better for it. Born April 8, 1852, near Bremen OH, he was the tenth of thirteenth children. It is said that the doctor took one look at the newborn and told his mother that he would not survive. The prediction proved incorrect. Though he was sickly as a child, he lived for nearly 104 years.

He attended Juniata College and arrived to a small pox epidemic which would close the college for the first half of the year. He was afraid that if he went home he might never return so he and a couple of classmates when to a deep gorge about 15 miles away known as Old Forge. There they settled into abandoned dwellings and built tables and chairs with equipment at on old saw mill. Farm families turned them away out of fear they might be contagious - although a teenaged Martin Grove Brumbaugh walked several miles to bring them milk.

Beery later taught vocal music at Juniata, and later would return to become head of the music department. He conducted music institutes and singing classes in the midwest as well.

Beery was married in 1888 to Adaline Hoff, who often wrote poems that he set to music. In 1910 they moved to Elgin IL where both were employed by the Brethren Publishing House. Beery had begun writing tunes in 1878 and two were included in the 1879 edition of the Brethren's Tune and Hymn Book. His music has also been included in the past 3 Brethren hymnals. He wrote over 100 tunes during his lifetime. Three of his tunes are included in the current hymnal including "Lo, A Gleam From Yonder Heaven", the words written by his wife.

Beery remained active throughout his lifetime and performed on the Chicago TV station WLS on his 103rd birthday in 1955.

Sources: The Brethren Encyclopedia and Frank Ramirez