Scripture Verse

Enter into His sanctuary, which He hath sanctified for ever. 2 Chronicles 30:8

Introduction

illustration
The Little Brown Church
Nashua, Iowa

Words & Mu­sic: Will­iam S. Pitts, 1857 (🔊 pdf nwc).

portrait
William S. Pitts
1830–1918

One bright af­ter­noon of a day in June 1857, I first set foot in old Brad­ford, Io­wa, com­ing by stage from Mc­Gre­gor. My home was in Wis­con­sin. The spot where the Lit­tle Brown Church now stands was a set­ting of rare beau­ty. There was no church there, but the spot was there wait­ing for it. When back in my home I wrote the song ‘The Lit­tle Brown Church in the Vale.’ I put the man­u­script away. In the spring of 1862 I re­turned to Io­wa and set­tled at Fred­er­icks­burg

In the years of 1859 and 1860 the good peo­ple of Brad­ford were de­ter­mined to build a church…By the ear­ly win­ter of 1864 the build­ing was rea­dy for de­di­ca­tion. While I was hold­ing the sing­ing school, near its close in the spring, the class went one ev­en­ing to the church. It was not then seat­ed, but rude seats were im­pro­vised. My man­u­script of the song I had brought with me from Wis­con­sin. It had ne­ver been sung be­fore by an­y­one but my­self. I sang it there. Soon af­ter­wards I took the man­u­script to Chi­ca­go [Il­li­nois], where it was pub­lished by H. M. Hig­gins. It won a speedy re­cog­ni­tion lo­cal­ly and with the years won its way in­to the hearts of the peo­ple of the world.

Soon af­ter its pub­li­ca­tion the church at Brad­ford, which had been paint­ed brown (for want of mo­ney to buy bet­ter paint, some say), be­came known as The Lit­tle Brown Church in the Vale. My hope is that it will stand for a thou­sand years and call the old man and his des­cen­dants to wor­ship.

This song was pop­u­lar­ized by the world­wide evan­gel­ism cam­paign of Arthur Chap­man and Charles M. Al­ex­an­der in 1893, and by the Wea­ther­wax Bro­thers Quar­tet, be­gin­ning around 1910. It has been per­formed by many oth­ers, in­clud­ing by the Car­ter fa­mi­ly, An­dy Grif­fith and Don Knotts, and the Gai­thers. Nu­mer­ous cou­ples still mar­ry in the church each year (over 70,000 since re­cord keep­ing start­ed in 1918), and the church holds an an­nu­al wed­ding re­un­ion.

Lyrics

There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood,
No lovelier spot in the dale;
No place is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.

Refrain

Come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the dale,
No spot is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.

How sweet on a clear, Sabbath morning,
To list to the clear ringing bell;
Its tones so sweetly are calling,
Oh, come to the church in the vale.

Refrain

There, close by the church in the valley,
Lies one that I loved so well;
She sleeps, sweetly sleeps, ’neath the willow,
Disturb not her rest in the vale.

Refrain

There, close by the side of that loved one,
To trees where the wild flowers bloom,
When the farewell hymn shall be chanted
I shall rest by her side in the tomb.

Refrain

From the church in the valley by the wildwood,
When day fades away into night,
I would fain from this spot of my childhood
Wing my way to the mansions of light.

Refrain

illustration
Weatherwax Brothers