August 1, 1824, Salem, Massachusetts.

April 27, 1880, Boston, Massachusetts.

Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Ordway is remembered as a doctor, composer, music entrepreneur, and politician. In the mid-1840s, he and his father Aaron opened a music store in Boston. John was also a music publisher and composer; his song Twinkling Stars and Laughing, Love (1855) were recorded by the Hayden Quartet as late as 1902 and 1904. Dreaming of Home and Mother (1851) was a popular sentimental song of the Civil War era, and continues to be played; it is popular in China and Japan in translated versions.

Around 1845 he organized Ordway’s Aeolians, a blackface minstrel troupe which performed at Ordway Hall in Boston and also nationally to promote Ordway’s publishing business. Future bandleader/composer Patrick Gilmore worked in Ordway’s store and also appeared with the Aeolians. James Lord Pierpont’s first major composition, The Returned Californian, in 1852 was written expressly for Ordway and his troupe. A number of 19th Century songs were written for the Aeolians and/or dedicated to Ordway, including Jingle Bells.

Graduating from Harvard Medical College in 1859, Ordway was one of the first surgeons to volunteer at the start of the Civil War, serving in the 6th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was one of the Union surgeons sent to tend to the wounded after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Ordway served from 1859 to 1873 on Boston’s School Board, and one term (1868) in the Massachusetts General Court. He was opposed to corporal punishment in schools, sponsoring a bill to that effect in the legislature.

Ordway was also responsible for founding the Massachusetts Angler’s Association, the forerunner to the Massachusetts Fish and Game Association.

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