The Little Brown Church In The Valley sits in a beautiful park alongside Highway 218 in the town of Bradford, near Nashua, in Northern Iowa. But it wasn't there when the song was written.
A New York native named William Pitts, about twenty -seven was travelling by stagecpach from his home in Wisconsin to Fredricksburg, Iowa to see his girlfriend. It was a bright afternoon in 1857. When the stagecoach made a pit stop in Bradford, Pitts took a stroll among the trees tp stretch his legs. The gently sloping hills formed a slight valley and the Cedar River flowed peacefully by. that grove of trees, it seemed to Pitts, would be perfect setting for a church.
Unable to erase the scene from his mind, Pitts returned home and composed the words and music to "Little Brown Church In The Valley." Nothing came of his song however and he filed it away.
Five years later, Pitts, now married to his sweetheart, relocated to Iowa to be near his elderly in-laws and to teach music at Bradford Academy. Imagine his surprise when he saw a church building sitting in the very spot he had previously envisioned it. Christians in the community, growing tired of meeting in abandoned stores had determined to build a church. The Civil war was raging and times were hard but by 1862, the building was up. It had to be painted in the cheapest color - which was brown.
When Pitts saw the little brown church in the valley, he rushed home and found "Little Brown Church In The Valley" packed among his papers. He sang his hymn at the building's dedication in 1864. Soon afterward,s he sold his manuscript to a publisher in Chicago for twenty-five dollars. He used the money to enroll in Rush Medical College. Pitts spent the rest of his life as the town physician about fourteen miles from Bradford.
Today, The Little Brown Church boasts a membership of about one hundred thousand but it is best known for the hundreds of weddings and thousands of tourists who flock there each year to see the church in the valley by the wildwood, the little brown church in the valley.
Note: This is an excerpt from the book Then Sings My Soul. I was given a review copy and I thought of sharing my favorite stories and inspirations for some of the best loved gospel hymns.