July 4, 1840, West Fallowfield, Pennsylvania.

July 9, 1907, Kinsman, Ohio.

New Kinsman Cemetery, Kinsman, Ohio.


James was the son of George and Jane McGranahan, and husband of Addie Vickery.

This article by Gladys Doonan, To Reap for the Master, appeared in Challenge, December 28, 1986. Used by permission of Regular Baptist Press, Schaumburg, Illinois.

Even the festivities of the Christmas season that December of 1876 couldn’t drive them from his mind—those notes his friend Philip had written to him just a few days before the holiday. He read them over and over again and almost decided to yield to the urging of their message—almost, but not quite. His dreams of personal ambition were still too precious. How could he give them up?

James McGranahan was a talented and cultured American musician who lived from 1840 to 1907. He was gifted with a rare tenor voice and studied for years with eminent teachers who urged him to train for a career in opera. Of course, this advice opened up to his imagination dazzling prospects of fame and fortune. And he was assured time and time again it was all within his grasp.

James McGranahan was a Christian, and he had a Christian friend Philip P. Bliss who was concerned about him. His friend was also a capable musician who had gone through many of the same experiences in his younger days as a singer. However, he had been sensitive to the claims of the Lord on his life and had yielded his talents to God for full-time Christian service.

Though only two years older than McGranahan, Philip Bliss, at 38, had a good dozen years of Christian work behind him. He was then serving as a gospel soloist with the great evangelist Major D. W. Whittle. How he thrilled to the response of the great crowds who gathered for their campaigns and to the working of the Holy Spirit through his music! He longed for his friend James to know that thrill as well!

Philip Bliss and his wife were preparing for a trip home to Pennsylvania for Christmas. There was much to be done, but in the midst of all the bustle and hurry Bliss felt strangely compelled to take time out to write McGranahan a letter. He kept thinking of his 36-year-old friend, who was still studying music, still preparing for—what? Would it be opera or would it be the Lord’s work?

Philip Bliss prayed as he wrote that he would know the right words to put down. He knew the Lord was dealing with James and was eager for his friend to make the right decision.

Finally the letter was done. Bliss, needing encouragement and approval for what he had said, read it to Major Whittle. In the letter he compared McGranahan’s long course of musical training to a man whetting his scythe for the harvest. The climax came as he strongly urged, Stop whetting the scythe and strike into the grain to reap for the Master!

The letter was sent on its way and quickly reached its destination. Those words touched James McGranahan as no others had before. He could think of nothing else. Strike into the grain to reap for the Master…to reap for the Master…to reap for the Master! Day and night those words were before him.

One week later, December 19 [actually, December 29], 1876, the man who had penned the words was dead. The train returning the Blisses from Pennsylvania to Chicago where Philip was scheduled to sing at Moody Tabernacle broke through a railroad bridge at Ashtabula, Ohio. It plunged into a 60-foot chasm and caught fire. Among the 100 who perished in the disaster were the 38-year-old gospel singer and his wife.

When James McGranahan received news of the tragedy he rushed immediately to the scene of the accident. And it was there, for the first time, that he met Major Whittle.

The evangelist later recorded his thoughts on the occasion: Here before me stands the man that Mr. Bliss has chosen to be his successor.

The two men made the return trip to Chicago together, and as they rode they talked. Before they reached the city James McGranahan decided to yield his life, his talents, his all to the service of his Savior. He would strike into the grain to reap for the Master.

The operatic world lost a star that day, but the Christian world gained one of its sweetest gospel singers. James McGranahan was greatly used in evangelistic campaigns throughout America, in Great Britain and in Ireland.

McGranahan’s works include:

  1. Go Ye into All the World
  2. How Shall We Escape?
  3. I Am the Way
  4. If God Be For Us
  5. O Paradise!
  6. O the Crown
  7. Repent Ye
  8. Shall You? Shall I?
  9. There Is None Righteous
  10. Two Babes
  1. Accra
  2. Amistad
  3. And He Came to Bethany
  4. Are You Coming Home Tonight?
  5. Banner of the Cross, The
  6. Be Glad in the Lord
  7. Be Ye Also Ready
  8. Behold, What Love!
  9. Believe, and Keep on Believing
  10. Believe Ye That I Am Able?
  11. Beloved, Now Are We
  12. Bissau
  13. Bless the Lord
  14. Blessèd Hope
  15. Braunschweig
  16. Burnley
  17. By Grace Are Ye Saved
  18. Caladesi Island
  19. Casting All Your Care upon Him
  20. Chiba
  21. Church of God Is One, The
  22. Christ Liveth in Me
  23. Christ Returneth
  24. Come
  25. Come Believing!
  26. Crowning Day, The
  27. Dedication
  28. Doers of the Word
  29. El Nathan
  30. Every Day Will I Bless Thee
  31. Fear Thou Not
  32. Figueroa
  33. Finchley
  34. Fix Your Eyes upon Jesus
  35. Forever with Jesus There
  36. Frances
  37. Gdańsk
  38. Glory to God the Father
  39. Go Ye into All the World
  40. Gospel of Thy Grace, The
  41. Guanajuato
  42. Hallelujah, Bless His Name
  43. Hallelujah for the Cross!
  44. He Is Not Here, but Is Risen!
  45. He Shall Reign from Sea to Sea
  46. He Will Hide Me
  47. His Is the Love
  48. His Mercy Flows
  49. I Am the Door
  50. I Cannot Tell How Precious
  51. I Find Thee So Precious
  52. I Know Not the Hour
  53. I Left It All with Jesus
  54. I Shall Be Satisfied
  55. I Will!
  56. I Will Pass Over You
  57. I Will Praise Thee
  58. I’ll Stand by until the Morning
  59. Indianola
  60. I’ve Passed the Cross
  61. Jesus Is Coming
  62. Jesus of Nazareth
  63. Jesus Wept
  64. Juba
  65. Light upon the Shore, A
  66. Look unto Me
  67. Love That Gave Jesus to Die, The
  68. Ljubljana
  69. Kinsman
  70. McGranahan
  71. Memories of Earth
  72. Mine!
  73. Neither Do I Condemn Thee
  74. Neumeister
  75. New Delhi
  76. Nicobar
  77. None but Christ
  78. Not My Own
  79. O Glorious Fountain
  80. O Thou My Soul
  81. Onward Go!
  82. Oh, Revive Us by Thy Word
  83. Osasco
  84. Paradise
  85. Pardon, Peace and Power
  86. Pierson
  87. Preach the Gospel
  88. Primavera
  89. Redeemed
  90. Redemption Ground
  91. Rejoice in the Lord Alway
  92. Rise Up and Hasten
  93. Ryle
  94. Salerno
  95. Skellig Michael
  96. Sometime We’ll Understand
  97. Sound the High Praises
  98. Tell Me More About Jesus
  99. Tempted and Tried
  100. There Shall Be Showers of Blessing
  101. There’s a Work for Each of Us
  102. Thou Remainest
  103. Thy God Reigneth!
  104. Verily, Verily
  105. Versailles
  106. Watching for the Dawning
  107. We Are Going Home
  108. We’ll Gather There in Glory
  109. What a Gospel!
  110. When Jesus Comes Again
  111. When We Get Home