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.