William Fiske Sherwin
After moving to Boston as a teenager, Sherwin studied music under Lowell Mason. He later worked at the New
England Conservatory of Music and taught singing in Massachusetts and New York. He was the first music director at
the Chautauqua Movement near Chautauqua, New York and was a musical editor at Biglow and Main publishers.
William Fiske Sherwin was the fifth son, and sixth of eight children, born to William Sherwin and Marcia (nee Carter)
Sherwin, who were married December 28, 1809, and resided for a time in Shelbourne Falls, Massachusetts. William,
the elder, died May 19, 1866 in New York City. William Fiske Sherwin married Mary A. (nee Howes) Sherwin of
Ashfield, Massachusetts. William and Mary raised four children, three of whom were alive in 1887. (1)
Both of his parents were almost always invalids, and he bore a large share of their support. At ten he sang alto in
church; at twelve Sherwin played the violincello; and at fifteen he became choir leader. At sixteen Sherwin was
teaching school in New York State, and during the first three months he sent home all but three dollars of his earnings
for the support of his parents. Between seventeen and twenty, Sherwin was instructed by Mason and George J.
Webb, and he at first thought about teaching music. However, Sherwin became a hymn-writer and composer by
being draw into Sunday-School conventions. About the year 1881, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Then he moved to
Boston. Sherwin became a noted speaker and evangelist. He was frequently in Canada, and all over the United
States. (2) In 1871, Sherwin was a Mason brother, Chorus Conductor in New York, and he authored and composed a
Masonic hymn, Here We Meet to Lay the Stone. Ira David Sankey (1840-1908) writing in 1906 about the hymn
Something for Thee (Savior, Thy Dying Love) mentioned that Sherwin visited the State of Maine. (3) (4) That would
have occurred about 1871 or later. In Maine, Sherwin met Dr. Luther C. Gilson who provided words for one of
Sherwin's last compositions. It is unlikely Gilson ever heard his words set to music as both he and Sherwin died the
year the hymn, Sow the seed, and wait in patience, was published.
In August 1877, Sherwin and Philip Phillips directed music at The Chautauqua Movement, Chautauqua, New York.
The occasion was attended by, amongst others, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Paul Bliss. During the 11-day 1877 event, Mary
A. Lathbury introduced six new sacred songs, all with music by Sherwin. (5) Only two of those titles still survive.
On Grand Army Day 1887, Sherwin conducted music at the Grand Army of the Republic Assembly held in Ottawa,
Kansas. There he introduced Alice Estey, who movingly sang Way Down upon the Suwanee River to the
assembled veterans. The event is thought to be Sherwin's last public performance. Estey went on to become a noted
operatic singer of her day.
William Fiske Sherwin composed music for his own hymns giving names to some of the tunes, and he avoided the
minor mode unlike other New England composers. Sherwin was active in the Temperance movement, and he
devoted much time to music for younger voices of Sunday Schools.
His works include:
Bright Jewels for the Sunday School: A New Collection of Sunday School Songs written expressly for this work, many
of which are the latest compositions of William B. Bradbury, and have never before been published. (with Robert
Lowry, editor and Chester G. Allen) (New York: The Biglow & Main Co. 1869.)
The Victory: A Collection of Religious and Secular Music, including the last compositions of W.B. Bradbury. (with C.G.
Songs of Grace and Glory. (with Silas Vail) (New York: Horace Waters & Son. 1874.)
Bugle Notes for the Temperance Army. (with J.N. Stearns) (New York: The National Temperance Society and
Publication House. 1878.)
Heart and Voice; A New Collection of Sunday School Songs. (with Geo. F. Root and Jas. R. Murray) (Cincinnati: John
Church & Co. 1881.)
Song Worship. (with L.O. Emerson) (Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co.; New York: C.H. Ditson & Co. 1886.)
Christ, A Friend, Song Service. (New York: John Church & Co. 1887.)
An Hour of Song. (New York: John Church & Co. 1887.) (Hide extended text) ... (Read all)
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