William Batchelder Bradbury

Born: Oc­to­ber 6, 1816, York, Maine.
Died: Jan­ua­ry 7, 1868, Mont­clair, New Jer­sey.
Buried: Bloom­field Ce­me­tery, Bloom­field, New Jer­sey.

William Batchelder Bradbury: A Life Devoted to Sacred Music

On October 6, 1816, in the picturesque town of York, Maine, William Batchelder Bradbury was born into a family steeped in musical tradition. His father, a dedicated church choir leader, fostered young William’s love for hymns and melodies from an early age. Though passionate about music, it wasn’t until the age of 17 that Bradbury could fully immerse himself in its study, thanks to the support of his friends who helped him attend the Academy of Music in Boston, run by the renowned Lowell Mason and George Webb.

The Journey of a Talented Musician

Under the guidance of his mentor, Lowell Mason, Bradbury secured a position as a singing school teacher in Machias, Maine, and later in St. John, New Brunswick. His talent and dedication soon led him to the First Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, where he served as a music teacher, and subsequently to the Baptist Tabernacle in New York City.

Inspiring Young Souls Through Music

In 1841, Bradbury’s heart turned towards the children, and he began holding free singing classes that quickly gained popularity. His annual Juvenile Music Festivals were a sight to behold, with a thousand children adorned in white, blue sashes, and Byron-style collars, singing in perfect harmony on a rising platform. These efforts among the young not only brought Bradbury great acclaim and a host of warm friends but also paved the way for his life’s work of creating Sunday School songs.

The Golden Collections: Touching Hearts and Souls

Bradbury’s collections, such as the Golden Trio, Golden Chain, Golden Shower, and Golden Censer, were met with overwhelming success, selling over three million copies combined. His music touched the hearts of countless children and adults alike, drawing them closer to God through the power of song.

The Bradbury Piano Company: Showcasing Musical Prowess

In 1854, William and his brother, Edward G. Bradbury, established the Bradbury Piano Company in New York City, showcasing William’s entrepreneurial spirit alongside his musical prowess. However, it was his work as a composer and publisher that would leave an indelible mark on the world of sacred music.

1873 Bradbury Square Grand Piano Equipped With Pianomation Player System
1873 Bradbury Square Grand Piano Equipped With Pianomation Player System

“Jesus Loves Me”: A Timeless Hymn for All Ages

Throughout his career, Bradbury authored and compiled an impressive fifty-nine books, starting in 1841. His most enduring contribution came in 1862 when he discovered the poem “Jesus Loves Me.” Moved by its simple yet profound message, Bradbury composed a melody that perfectly captured the essence of the poem and added the iconic chorus, “Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus Loves me…” This hymn would become one of the most cherished songs of all time, touching the hearts of generations.

The Enduring Legacy of William Batchelder Bradbury

Bradbury’s compositions have stood the test of time, gracing the pages of hymnbooks and songbooks, and continue to inspire and uplift souls around the world. Perhaps none captures the essence of trusting in God’s guiding hand more beautifully than “He Leadeth Me.”

He leadeth me O blessed thought
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught
Whate’er I do where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me

The lyrics remind us that no matter what trials we face or where life’s path takes us, we can find blessed comfort in the thought that God is always leading us. Other beloved hymns like “Just As I Am,” “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us,” and “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” have similarly endured, touching hearts across generations with their messages of faith, devotion and the steadfast love of Christ.

A Life Wholly Surrendered to Christ

On the Saturday before his passing, Bradbury shared with a friend, “My soul seems to have gained the victory. I am so happy now. I rest wholly upon Christ. May God give me the grace to die. I am going to see mother.” On January 7, 1868, at the age of 51, William Batchelder Bradbury breathed his last in Bloomfield, New Jersey (now Montclair). He was laid to rest beside his beloved mother, and the hymn “Asleep in Jesus” was sung, just as it had been at his mother’s burial.

As we sing the timeless hymns born from Bradbury’s pen, let us remember the man behind the melodies—a devoted servant of God who dedicated his life to creating music that would draw hearts closer to the Savior. In every note and every lyric, William Batchelder Bradbury’s legacy lives on, a testament to the transformative power of sacred music and the impact of a life wholly surrendered to Christ.

Don Chapman

Don Chapman

Composer/arranger Don Chapman has created HYMNDEX as a labor of love to help new generations learn about the lives, legacies and lyrics of historic hymn writers.