Recently, I found an antiquarian Methodist hymnbook, dated 1849, among my parents’ belongings. It is not a typical hymnbook in that it does not contain a single musical note, only the words to 1144 songs. Though surprisingly small, the 3 x 5 book is thick with 735 numbered pages.
Although the title of the book is METHODIST HYMNS, the first page reads, “Hymns for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Revised Edition.” These are not hymns that you are likely to find in today’s Methodist hymnals (with the exception of the doxology “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow”). The book belonged to a nineteenth century woman with the surname Hinman. Her name is engraved on the cover.
The hymnbook is a time capsule. Hidden within its pages, darkened with time, are a sentimental poem called “Woman’s Smile” and an obituary of a Miss Ida J. Fox, who died on “Sunday, July 13, after a short illness, aged 16.” The obituary continues, “She was a pupil of Albemarle Female Institute . . . was taken sick with typhoid fever, which terminated her life. Her death was a very sad one. She was a young lady of rare attractions, and made everyone a friend by her amiable and attractive manners.”
I was intrigued by the reference to Albemarle Female Institute, so I looked it up. The school was founded in the 1850’s, was renamed in 1910, moved to another location in Charlottesville in 1939, and eventually merged with another school. Today it is known as St. Anne’s-Belfield School.
Below is Hymn 777 from METHODIST HYMNS (1849, Lane & Scott).