Philip Paul Bliss was born in a log cabin in the Northern Pennsylvania Woods of Clearfield County on July 9, 1838. He was born to parents that loved to sing. His youth was spent in extreme poverty, and he was a large, awkward boy. At the young age of 11, he left his home to find work, and worked at various lumber camps and sawmills for about 10 years. It was at age 12 that he made a profession of faith in Christ, and then joined the Cherry Flats Baptist Church of Tioga County, Pennsylvania.
During this time, he invested every opportunity to learn all that was possible about music, and became a proficient and expert musician. He had a remarkable full voice with resonance and elasticity. He managed to acquire an old horse and a melodeon, and so became a traveling professional teacher of music.
Philip Bliss was of perfect feature and stood at a commanding stature of six feet tall. He had large kind eyes and expression, and led without any attempt to draw attention to himself.
In 1858, he married musician and poet, Lucy Young. She encouraged Philip to develop his gifts and so in 1864, he sent a letter and a copy of his first music composition to the leading music publishing house, Root and Cady Music, in exchange for a flute, which he received. The following year, he moved his family to Chicago to be involved in this company as their representative in conducting music conventions and training institutes. His abilities as a gospel singer, song leader and writer became increasingly apparent.
In the summer of 1869, he met D.L. Moody in Chicago, and he became a frequent singing at Moody’s evangelistic meetings. The singing intensified the effectiveness of the evangelistic message, intensifying Moody’s belief that music was important in evangelism.
In 1874, two evangelists, D.L. Moody and Major Daniel W. Whittle, challenged him to go full time into evangelistic work with them, which he did. Whittle was a song leader and children’s worker.
Philip P. Bliss wrote many gospel songs. They include:
In 1874, he compiled a small collection of hymns called Gospel Songs. This became the name by which this style of hymn has become known. He joined Ira Sankey in publishing many other collections.
At Christmastime, he took his family to visit his mother at his childhood home in Rome, Pennsylvania. On December 29, 1876, they boarded a packed Pacific Express train in Buffalo to return to Chicago. About 8 p.m. they were in a blinding snowstorm, and the train was crossing a ravine. The wooden trestle collapsed, the train overturned, plunged 75 feet below into an icy river and caught fire. Over one hundred people perished in the wreck. Philip had survived the wreck and escaped the train through a window, but reentered to rescue his wife, and perished with her. In a trunk placed on another train, which arrived safely in Chicago, his friends found his last hymn entitled, "I Will Sing of My Redeemer."
George Thomas Kurian, Nelson's New Christian Dictionary: The Authoritative Resource on the Christian World (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Pubs., 2001) “Bliss, Philip Paul.”
K. Leid, edited by J. D. Douglas, Philip Wesley Comfort and Donald Mitchell, Who's Who in Christian History (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1997, c1992) “Bliss, Philip Paul.”
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997), December 29.
Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1982), 134, 165.
Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1985), 174-176, 225.
The pictures can be found at: http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/biobliss.html