” William H. Doane: 1832-1915

by Henry S. Burrage

Dr. William Howard Doane, musical composer, was born in Preston, New London County, Connecticut, [United States], February 3, 1832. He received his education in the public schools of that place, and subsequently he attended the Academy at Woodstock, where he was graduated in 1848.

His father was an extensive cotton manufacturer, and at an early age William was placed in an important position in his counting-room. About three years later he accepted a still higher and more responsible position in the counting-room of James S. Treat, an extensive manufacturer of cotton goods in Voluntown.

After remaining there three years he was called to Norwich to take charge of the books and finances of J. A. Fay & Co., at that time extensive manufacturers of wood-working machinery. He remained with them about five years and then was transferred by the company to Chicago, Illinois, and placed in charge of their western business as general agent. In 1860, he became a partner in the business, and having removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, he became president of the company, and has since had the complete control and management of the business. The sole manufacturing establishment of the company is now in Cincinnati.

Dr. Doane was converted in 1847, and in 1851, he was baptized by Rev. Frederic Denison, and united with the Central Baptist church in Norwich, Connecticut. In 1857, he was married to Fanny M. Treat, daughter of his father’s partner. Dr. Doane lives at Mount Auburn, a suburb of Cincinnati, and is a prominent member of the Mount Auburn Baptist church.

From his early boyhood Dr. Doane was interested in music. At the age of six years he sang frequently in public, and at the age of ten he sang in the church choir. At twelve he was considered an exceptionally fine flutist. At thirteen, he could play on the double bass viol, and at fifteen with equal skill he could play on the cabinet organ. About this time, he commenced musical composition. In thorough bass, etc., he was favored with good instructors, among them, Holbrook, B. F. Baker, A. N. Johnson, and the great German musician, Kanhoiser.

In 1852-4, he was conductor of the Norwich Harmonic Society. In 1854, he assisted B. F. Baker in a musical convention. His first Sunday-school hymn book, “Sabbath Gems,” was prepared in 1861. This was followed, in 1864, by “Little Sunbeams,” in 1867, by” Silver Spray,” and by “Songs of Devotion,” in 1868.

Since that time, in connection with Rev. Robert Lowry, D.D., he has published “Pure Gold,” “Royal Diadem,” “Temple Anthem,” “Tidal Wave,” “Brightest and Best,” “Welcome Tidings,” “Fountain of Song,” “Good as Gold,” “Glad Hosanna,” “Joyful Lays,” “Glad Refrain,” and others. He was also connected with Dr. Lowry in preparing “The Gospel Hymn and Tune Look” for the American Baptist Publication Society, and more recently he was one of the musical editors of “The Baptist Hymnal.”

In 1875, Denison University conferred upon him the honorary degree of doctor of music.

Dr. Doane has written a few hymns, among them

“No one knows but Jesus,” “Savior, like a bird to thee,”

and the following in “Good as Gold”:

Precious Savior, dearest Friend, While we bend the knee, Come and give our longing hearts Deeper love for thee. Come and consecrate us now, Seal us ever thine; May we to thy holy will Every power resign. Trusting as a little child, Help us Lord to be; While we ask in simple faith Deeper love for thee. Deeper love, yes, deeper love, This our constant plea; Deeper love, yes, deeper love, Till we’re lost in thee.

Dr. Doane has devoted himself especially to musical composition, and many of his tunes are as familiar as household words. The music to the “Old, Old Story” was composed under the following circumstances. The words were given to Dr. Doane in 1866, or 1867, at Montreal, by Maj. Gen. Russell, then the commander of the Queen’s forces in Canada. Gen. Russell had read the words at the farewell meeting of the International Convention of the Y.M.C.A. With others Dr. Doane went from Montreal to the White Mountains, and on a stage-coach, between the Glen and the Crawford House, he wrote the music to the “Old, Old Story.” That evening in the parlor at the Crawford a little company gathered around the piano, and there this sweet hymn was first sung.

“Safe in the arms of Jesus” was composed on the railway, between Philadelphia and Newark, while Dr. Doane was on his way to attend the International Sunday-school Convention in 1867.

“Rescue the perishing” was composed for the anniversary meeting of the Y.M.C.A. at Indianapolis, and was first published in “Songs of Devotion.”

“More like Jesus would I be” was composed for an anniversary of the Howard Mission in New York. The words were written by Fanny Crosby, while on her knees just after a season of prayer.

“Near the cross, a trembling soul” was written and first sung from manuscript in Baltimore, at a public meeting, at which Dr. Doane was asked to favor the audience with a song. He happened to have the manuscript in his pocket, and with it answered the invitation. It touched the hearts of those present, and at once became popular.

Among other well known hymns for which the music was composed by Dr. Doane, are the following:

“Pass me not, O gentle Savior,” “Jesus, keep me near the cross,” “More love to thee, O Christ,” “Take the name of Jesus with you.”

Dr. Doane has composed more than six hundred Sunday-school songs, at least one hundred and fifty church and prayer-meeting hymns, and two hundred and fifty other songs and ballads, beside anthems, cantatas, etc.

[Dr. Doane died in 1915.]

Copied and coded by Stephen Ross for WholesomeWords.org from Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns by Henry S. Burrage. Portland, Maine: Brown Thurston & Co., ©1888.