Born: Oc­to­ber 6, 1816, York, Maine.

Died: Jan­ua­ry 7, 1868, Mont­clair, New Jer­sey.

Buried: Bloom­field Ce­me­tery, Bloom­field, New Jer­sey.



William was the son of David Brad­bu­ry and So­phia Chase, and husband of Ad­ra Es­ther Fess­en­den (mar­ried 1838)

Though fond of mu­sic from an ear­ly age, he was un­able to de­vote much time to its stu­dy un­til age 17, when, with help from friends, he at­tend­ed the Aca­de­my of Mu­sic in Bos­ton, run by Lo­well Ma­son and George Webb.

About this time, says Theo­dore Sew­ard, an in­ci­dent oc­curred which was a great source of mor­ti­fi­ca­tion for the young en­thu­si­ast. His par­ents, both of them old fa­shioned sing­ers, were, of course, great­ly in­ter­est­ed in their son’s pro­gress.

He went home from school one night, full of ar­dor and ex­cite­ment, and un­der­took to dem­on­strate the new me­thod of sing­ing and beat­ing time. His ges­tures were so ex­tra­va­gant, swing­ing his arm near­ly its whole length, that his par­ents were far more am­used than edi­fied.

However, they re­strained their mirth, not wish­ing to check his en­thu­si­asm, but at last the scene be­came too much for them, and they burst in­to a peal of un­re­sis­ti­ble [sic] laugh­ter. This was too much for the eag­er per­form­er.

His rap­ture was turned in­to fie­ry in­dig­na­tion, and slam­ming his book shut in a rage, he de­clared that they knew no­thing at all about mu­sic, and marched out of the room.

Another dis­ap­point­ment oc­curred in his first class for a sing­ing school. Af­ter is­su­ing ma­ny cir­cu­lars and ads, he an­ti­ci­pat­ed a great crowd, but at the spe­ci­fied time, not a sin­gle soul was there to greet him.

After a while a young man ap­peared, and still lat­er five more came to wit­ness the em­bar­rass­ment of the young teach­er, who sat on the plat­form in a clam­my per­spi­ra­tion, in­ward­ly long­ing for some blessed knot-hole through which he might dis­ap­pear.

This mag­ni­fi­cent fiz­zle is spok­en of as great val­ue to him in bring­ing him down from the clouds, and was prob­ab­ly more ser­vice than a grand suc­cess would have been.

Through the in­flu­ence of his for­mer teacher, Lo­well Ma­son, he se­cured a po­si­tion as a sing­ing school teach­er in Ma­chi­as, Maine, and af­ter­ward in St. John, New Bruns­wick.

At length a po­si­tion was giv­en him as mu­sic teach­er at the First Bap­tist Church in Brook­lyn, New York, and lat­er at the Bap­tist Tab­er­na­cle in New York Ci­ty.

In 1841, Brad­bu­ry turned his at­ten­tion to child­ren, and first held his free sing­ing class­es, which be­came ve­ry po­pu­lar. At his an­nu­al Ju­ve­nile Mu­sic Fes­tiv­als, one could see a thou­sand child­ren on a ris­ing plat­form, the girls wear­ing white, with white wreaths and blue sash­es, and the boys in jack­ets, with col­lars turned ov­er in By­ron style.

These ef­forts among the young gave Brad­bu­ry great ce­leb­rity, a host of warm friends, and even­tu­al­ly led to his life work of pro­vid­ing Sun­day School songs. Ov­er three mil­lion cop­ies of his Gold­en Trio, Gold­en Chain, Gold­en Show­er, and Gold­en Cen­ser were pub­lished.

When Brad­bu­ry was about 15 years old, he joined the Charles Street Bap­tist Church in Bos­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts. In New York he joined the Bap­tist Tab­er­na­cle, and for ma­ny years lat­er in life, he at­tend­ed the Pres­by­te­ri­an Church of Bloom­field, New Jer­sey.

His wi­dow re­lat­ed, He was not strict­ly sec­ta­ri­an in his views, oft­en say­ing he be­longed to the child­ren’s church, mean­ing that wher­ev­er he could meet with child­ren and do them good he felt at home.

In 1847, Brad­bu­ry went to Eur­ope to stu­dy mu­sic un­der the best Ger­man mas­ters. While cross­ing the Alps, he re­lat­ed this in­ci­dent: Hav­ing met a Ger­man, who was so en­rap­tured, as he be­held the Al­pine peaks bathed with the gol­den glor­ies of the ris­ing sun, that he sang for joy.

Not wish­ing to be out­done by a for­eign­er, es­pe­ci­al­ly in my own pro­fess­ion, I com­menced sing­ing. This cap­ti­vat­ed the for­eign­er so that he would not rest till he was taught the same piec­es. This was the on­ly mu­sic-les­son I gave on top of the Alps.

Bradbury was a ve­ry gen­er­ous man. A theo­lo­gy stu­dent once wrote him for a loan of five dol­lars, that he might buy him­self a pair of boots. Brad­bu­ry sent him a check for $25, and a note say­ing he could not spare $5 at the mo­ment, but that he might man­age to do wit­hout the $25 un­til he could send $5 lat­er.

In the rear of one Brad­bu­ry’s New York ware­hous­es was a small of­fice where he oft­en went to re­new his strength and mount up with wings as ea­gles. When­ev­er he had to leave his house with­out suf­fi­cient pray­er time, it was said, he would go to this pri­vate sanc­tu­ary and spend time in his de­vo­tions.

Nor did he al­low bu­si­ness to in­trude on this ha­bit. His much loved Bi­ble oc­cu­pied a prom­in­ent place on the table, and was well worn and filled with marked pas­sag­es that had il­lum­in­at­ed in his own ex­pe­ri­ence.

In his pri­vate jour­nal he wrote, The 37th Psalm has been to me a ne­ver-fail­ing source of com­fort and con­so­la­tion. My lit­tle Bi­ble fre­quent­ly op­ens to it of its own ac­cord. The 27th is al­so a fa­vo­rite when the en­emy comes in like a flood.

Bradbury suf­fered from tu­ber­cu­lo­sis the last two years of his life. A few weeks be­fore his death, he said to Theo­dore Sew­ard, I long to be free from this ev­il bo­dy, which does so much to drag me down. I feel that I want to do right, that I want to love my Sav­iour, and act to please Him, but this bu­sy brain and has­ty na­ture lead me oft­en­times to things that are con­tra­ry to the real feel­ings of my heart.

A week be­fore his death the child­ren of Mont­clair vis­it­ed him, each bring­ing an oak leaf, which were wov­en in­to a wreath which was laid on his cof­fin and bur­ied with him.

The Sa­tur­day be­fore his death he re­mark­ed to a friend, My soul seems to have gained the vic­to­ry. I am so hap­py now. I rest whol­ly up­on Christ. May God give me the grace to die. I am go­ing to see mo­ther.

He was bur­ied be­side his mo­ther, and Asleep in Je­sus was sung as it was at his mo­ther’s bu­ri­al.



Philip Bliss wrote these words af­ter Brad­bu­ry’s death:

We Love Him

We love him, though his friendly hand
Has never clasped our own;
His gentle voice and loving smile
We never yet have known.
We love the sweet, the blessed songs
That he to us has giv’n;
We know he loved us here on earth;
We love him though in Hea­ven.

We love the sparkling Gold­en Chain,
The Shower of beauties rare;
The Censer full of joyous praise,
Fresh Laurels, green and fair.
We love to sing his songs of Hea­ven,
Of Jesus and His love;
They make us happier here below,
And raise our thoughts above.

We love the things that he has loved;
We love his earthly name
And when we know his angel form,
We’ll love him just the same.
We’ll love each other better then,
We’ll love Our Father more;
We’ll roll a sweeter song of praise
Along the Golden Shore.

Memoirs of Philip P. Bliss, 1877