This week in Christian history: Mars Hill holds final service; hymnwriter dies in train accident

Philip P. Bliss dies – Dec. 29, 1876

Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876), a notable 19th century hymnwriter and singer. | Public Domain

This week marks the anniversary of when notable 19th century hymnwriter Philip Paul Bliss died when a train he was riding on fell into a ravine when the bridge it was on collapsed. He was 38.

Bliss had been the author of many hymns, with the notables including “Wonderful Words of Life,” “Dare to be a Daniel,” “Hallelujah, What a Saviour!” and “Let the Lower Lights be Burning.”

He and his wife were riding on a train through a bad snowstorm when the bridge they were crossing near Ashtabula, Ohio, collapsed and the train fell 75 feet into a river, and then caught fire.

“No trace of their bodies was ever discovered,” wrote Ed Reese of the Christian Hall of Fame series. “For days it was not known who were among the dead, as there had been no passenger list. It was tabulated that out of 160 passengers there were only 14 survivors. Later official sources said 92 died.”

“On December 31st, D. L. Moody spoke at a memorial gathering in Chicago. On January 5th, a song service was held to honor Mr. Bliss there and 8,000 filled the hall, and another 4,000 were on the outside.”  

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