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"Dashing thru the snow, On a one horse open sleigh"

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- "Jingle Bells" by James Pierpont

Often thought of as a traditional Christmas song, the words and music to the famous Christmas Carol “Jingle Bells” were written in 1857 by organist and choir director James Pierpont for a Thanksgiving church service in Savannah, GA. It was so well received that the children were asked to repeat the performance at Christmas service and it has remained a Christmas standard ever since. The sheet music, first published in 1857 by Oliver Ditson with its original title “The One Horse Open Sleigh,” was reissued two years later with only one title change chosen by the public: “Jingle Bells.”

James Pierpont was born in 1822 in Massachusetts the son of an ardent abolitionist. In the 1850’s he moved to Savannah, Georgia, joining his brother John who ministered to Savannah’s Unitarian congregation. James took a post as the organist and music director of the church and it during the fall of 1857, with Pierpont living in the south, that he began writing of his New England Christmases and longing for the snow and traditional New England customs.

After the death of his first wife, Millicent Cowee of Troy, NY, James married Mayor Thomas Purse’s daughter, Eliza Jane in the late 1850’s. At the outset of the Civil War, he joined the Isle of Hope Volunteers to the Confederacy, the Fifth Georgia Calvalry. Pierpont survived the war and lived until 1893 when he passed away in Winter Haven, FL. He was buried in Laurel Grove beside his brother-in-law Thomas who had been killed in the first battle of Bull Run. The family would again come to great national prominence through the…

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