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     Spilman, Jonathon Edwards (1812-1896)

    Often giving rise to much speculation, this composer has curiously been given the first names James, John and Jonathon in different publications, often using the middle name Edwards. 


    It has been suggested that he could possibly have been a son of a Philadelphia barber-dentist by one source but according to the Kentucky Historical Society and the publisher, James J. Fuld, he was a lawyer and minister born in Greenville, Kentucky, in 1812 who composed while he studied at the Transylvania Law School in 1837, and who died in Flora, Illinois, in 1896.  


    It is known, however, that in 1838 he published music that is used as an alternative setting to the popular Christmas carol “Away in a Manger”.   This music is an adaptation he made of  “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton” by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, still using the original words.  This version also appeared in Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchin’s Carols Old and Carols New in 1916.  At some time between 1840 and 1845 it is known also that George Willig of Philadelphia published six other songs of his.



    1. http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Notes_On_Carols/away_in_a_manger.htm
    2. http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/away_in_a_manger.htm
    3. http://kentucky.gov/kyhs/hmdb/MarkerSearch.aspx?mode=County&county=89
    4. http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=11200&messages=28
    5. http://www.gbod.org/worship/default.asp?act=reader&item_id=10257&loc_id=17,897,902









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