Tuesday, December 13, 2022



Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines

Christmas Eve 2020

We all know or have heard the song Jingle Bells. However, do you know the composer of this song? Did you know that the song was actually written in 1857? What follows is the story of the composer James Lord Pierpont.

Pierpont was born in April 1822 in Boston Massachusetts. His father was the Rev. John Pierpont, a Unitarian minister, abolitionist, and poet. His mother was Mary Sheldon Lord. You may notice that the name Pierpont rings a bell, that's because James was the uncle of the banker John Pierpont Morgan, the well-known banker, and financier.

James Lord Pierpont
from Wikipedia

After being sent to a boarding school in New Hampshire in 1832, James ran away in 1836, setting out to sea on a whaling ship. From there he served in the U.S. Navy until the age of 21.

In 1845, James married Millicent Cowie and by 1846, the two had settled in Troy New York.

Following the rest of the world, he headed to California in 1849 to open a business in San Francisco. Unfortunately, his business failed when his inventory was destroyed by fire.

James continued to be plagued by bad luck when his wife Millicent died in 1856. He moved to Savannah Georgia where his brother, the Rev. John Pierpoint Junior was living. James took the post of organist and music director for the church. He supported himself by giving organ and singing lessons.

Although James had been composing and publishing music since 1852, it was in 1857 that Jingle Bells, originally titled "The One Horse Open Sleigh", and it was also the year James remarried to a lady named Eliza Jane Purse who was the daughter of Savannah Georgia's mayor, Thomas Purse.

In 1859, his brother the Rev. John Pierpoint Junior return North after his Unitarian church closed due to its abolitionist position. James however remained in Savannah with his wife and children. When the war broke out James joined the fifth Georgia Calvary of the Confederacy and served as the company clerk. It was also during this time that James wrote the following songs for the Confederacy, "Our Battle Flag", "Strike For The South", and "We Conquer or Die".

After the war, James remained in the South moving the family to Valdosta, Georgia, where he taught music. Then in 1869, he went to Quitman, Georgia, where he was the organist for the Presbyterian Church and continued to give private lessons. James Lord Pierpont died in Winter Haven, Florida in 1893. Per his request, he was buried at the Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah beside his brother-in-law Thomas who had been killed in the first Battle of Bull Run.

Here is a version with the original lyrics that many people in the 1800s might have sung. Jingle Bells

Until Next Time - Have a Wonderful Holiday Season.

Doris McCraw


Julie Lence said...

Thank you for sharing the origins of the song and the original song itself. I didn't know the song had so many verses. (The man singing on Youtube is really good!)

Renaissance Women said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Julie. I found it fascinating and thought others might also. Doris