Wednesday, June 8, 2011


We were sitting outside yesterday drinking coffee and I was looking at the gardens in my yard.  In one spot I have cannas and chives and a redwood bush growing in one area.  In the middle of it I have a white CHURCH bird house.   This song came to my mind and I've been humming it for two days:


by Dr. William S. Pitts

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.


Oh, come, come, come, come,
come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the vale;
No spot is so dear to my childhool
As the little brown church in the vale.

Song History

William Pitts was on his way to visit his bride-to-be in Fredericksburg, Iowa. The stagecoach in which he rode stopped at Bradford, 14 miles west of Fredricksburg. There he strolled about enjoying the trees, the lush green growth and the gentle rolling hills as he anticipated the joy of seeing his beloved.

Of particular beauty was a wooded area in the valley formed by the Cedar River. Pitts envisioned a church building there and could not seem to ease the vision from his mind. Days later, when he returned home, he wrote a poem about the imagined church and set it to music in 1857.

Pitts returned to Bradford Academy to teach music seven years later. To his surprise he discovered a small church building being erected on the very spot where he had imagined a church years before. It was painted brown because that was the color of the cheapest paint to be had.

Pitts located the copy of his almost forgotten song, and, at the dedication of the new church building, his singing class from the academy sang it for the first time.

In 1865, Pitts sold the song to a Chicago music publisher for $25. He used the money to enroll in Rush Medical College, but his song was forgotten. After graduation in 1868, Pitts returned to Fredericksburg where he practiced medicine until his retirement in 1906.

By the turn of the century, the village of Bradford had almost ceased to exist. It had been bypassed by the railroad that went through Nashua, two miles to the west. Weeds grew in the churchyard, and the dilapidated building was closed.

A few years later the congregation experienced revival, the church was opened and re-painted its original color. Traveling musicians discovered Pitts's song, and its popularity spread through the country.

The Little Brown Church in the Vale has become a famous tourist attraction in Iowa, and the song describing its beauty is still sung. Standing in a picturesque rural setting among pine trees, the church is a favored place for weddings.

Each year several hundred couples, young and old, are married there. Following the ceremony, each bride and groom together pull the rope that rings the church bell.

Many artists have recorded it,  Alabama, Dolly Parton, Carter Family, Kitty Wells, Charley Pride and Loretta Lynn to name a few.

Even though I live in the city, I'm a country girl at heart.

Happy Outdoor Wednesday


Rose @ Walnut Acre said...

The Church in the Wildwood is one of my favorite songs. Lovely pictures :-)

Deborah Kay at The Paint Splash said...

I have always loved this song as well! Thanks for the music history . Love your bird house. Lv u sis

LV said...

This is great old song. Very appropriate for the little bird house watching.

Sherry from Alabama said...

How interesting! I remember Andy Griffith and Barny Fife singing it on The Andy Griffith Show. :)

Sherry @ A Happy Valentine

hip-chick said...

I love this song thanks for sharing the info.

Cindy@OldTimePickers said...

Your church birdhouse is adorable.

Glenda/MidSouth said...

Have not heard that song in years - thanks for the memory. Thanks for sharing the history .
Enjoy your evening.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful bird house, and I would love to sit there and listen to the bird chirping.

Kaye Swain - SandwichINK for Grandparents and Caregivers said...

How sweet. I love reading the story behind old Christian hymns like this - especially ones I'm familiar with. And i love the picture of your Disc Sunflower - I should try to do that for the Sunflower House garden my senior mom, and grandkids, and I enjoy for a gardening project. :) Have a blessed Spiritual Sunday!

Shanda said...

I love this son and also love the old white churches in the country sides! Those will soon be gone :(

Michelle said...

love that birdhouse! I have a sun room full of them and I'm running out of room, LOL.

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