Posted by: rcottrill | May 5, 2010

Today in 1815 – Ithamar Conkey Born

Ithamar Conkey was a bass soloist, and a recognized authority on oratorio singing. He was also a gifted organist. The following interesting incident relates to a tune he contributed to our hymnals. It occurred when Mr. Conkey was organist of Central Baptist Church, in Norwich, Connecticut.

The pastor of the church had prepared a series of messages on “The Words on the Cross”–the seven significant statements Christ made as He hung upon the cross of Calvary. One particular Sunday morning during the series was especially stormy, and Mr. Conkey was upset that all of the choir stayed home, with the exception of one soprano. He was so disturbed by their seeming lack of commitment that, before the service began, he closed the organ and went home!

That afternoon, he sat down at the piano to practice. Knowing that the hymn In the Cross of Christ I Glory had been suggested for next Sunday’s service, the organist composed a new tune for it, which he named Rathbun. Twenty-four-year old Mrs. Rathbun was the leading soprano in the choir, and I suspect she was the one singer who made it to the morning service! Her diligence is now memorialized in the tune most often used for the hymn.

In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.

(2) Today in 1925 – Harriet Spaeth Died
Harriet Reynolds Krauth was the daughter of hymn translator Charles Krauth. In 1880 she married Adolph Spaeth, a Lutheran pastor, and later president of the General Council of the Lutheran Church in America. Harriet Spaeth was a soloist, and also played piano and organ. She has provided translations of a number of hymns.

Mrs. Spaeth has given us an English version of Hans Sthen’s Danish hymn, Lord Jesus Christ, My Saviour Blest.

Lord Jesus Christ, my Saviour blest,
My hope and my Salvation!
I trust in Thee; deliver me from misery;
Thy Word’s my consolation.

As Thou dost will, lead Thou me still
That I may truly serve Thee,
My God, I pray, teach me Thy way to my last day
In Thy true faith preserve me.

Most heartily I trust in Thee;
Thy mercy fails me never.
Dear Lord, abide; my helper tried, Thou Crucified,
From evil keep me ever.


  1. Harriet Spaeth translated Stanza 3 of Lo, How a Rose in Lutheran Service Book.

    The meter of the above hymn seems strange.

    You can count it two ways, or What tune is normally associated with this text?

    Harriot’s father, Charles [Porterfield] Krauth, is known in Confessional Lutheran circles for his work, “The Conservative Reformation and It’s Theology,” which is still available today.

    • Thanks for the information on Harriet Spaeth and her father. As to the hymn, yes, it is an extremely odd metre. The Cyber Hymnal lists the tune as Herr Jesu Krist, by Ludvig Lindeman. The words do fit the tune…sort of. But it sounds strange to me too. Maybe it’s just not the kind of hymnody I grew up with.

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns (more on John Bowring) The Cyber […]


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