In previous postings on hymnal publishing among the Churches of Christ in the Arkansas-Oklahoma-Texas region--a topic for which I must admit a native's partiality--I had encountered the name of Frank Grammer (1882-1949) a number of times. I certainly saw it enough to associate it with the region, and guessed from his associations that he was likely a member of the Church of Christ. But it was not until a descendant of his asked me for more information about his career, that it became apparent just how often his name appears, and in how many different places. Grammer's career is an illuminating study of the interconnectedness of the paperback hymnal businesses in this region. In the first half of the 20th century, Frank Grammer was involved directly or indirectly with nearly every major songwriter and hymnal publisher among the Churches of Christ west of the Mississippi.
From Arkansas to Texas
George Washington Franklin Grammer was born 4 October 1882 in Bentonville, Arkansas.(WW2 draft card) His father, John David Grammer, was born in Missouri 15 August 1854,(death certificate) though the Grammer family apparently was in Benton County early enough that Frank sometimes identified his father as a native of Arkansas. Frank's mother, Julia Ann Walters, was born in Ohio in 1861 and married John D. on 26 December, 1875 in Benton County, Arkansas.(Arkansas marriages) Frank was the third of seven children, all sisters except for Albert (b. 1886), next to Frank in birth order.(Grammer & Geyer)
Like many farming families in that era, the Grammers moved around searching for greener pastures. One of Frank's younger sisters, Mary E., may have been born in Texas in 1893.(1910 census, but cf. 1900 census) In 1900, however, the family was living in northwest Arkansas again, in the Elm Springs area of Washington County, just south Frank's birthplace in Benton County.(1900 census) Grammer would later identify his birthplace more generally as Bentonville, the larger community to the northeast.(WW2 draft card) By 1910, however, the Grammers were in North Texas to stay, living in the Collinsville community in Grayson County. Collinsville is a quiet little town on U.S. 377 (or more significantly for the times, along the M. K. & T. railroad!), roughly halfway between Gainesville and Sherman and a little south.(1910 census)
Professor Grammer, Music Teacher
The 1910 census gives Frank Grammer's occupation as "music teacher," and in the new decade his teaching, songwriting, and publishing activities give evidence of a well established career. In a 1918 newspaper article from Bonham, Texas he is referred to as "Professor Grammer," indicating an education beyond the scope of the usual one- or two-week singing schools.(Bonham Daily Favorite, 9 Mar 1918). This raises the question: where did Grammer get his education, and when?
There were at least two diploma-granting "music normals" (schools with advanced training for singing-school teachers) operating in the Arkansas-Oklahoma-Texas area at the beginning of the 20th century: the Southern Development Normal based in Waco, Texas, and the Eureka Normal School of Music based in Stigler, Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). Schools of this type were modeled on the Virginia Normal School of Music, founded in 1874 by gospel music pioneers Ruebush and Kieffer as a counterpart to their publishing efforts. Not only did it increase the number of men teaching singing schools in their relatively new seven-shape notation system, thus increasing demand for their songbooks, it was also a means to cultivate songwriting talent. And once a music normal's reputation was established, it became virtually a franchise operation, with branches operating in as many locations as business would allow.(Goff, 49ff.)
The Southern Development Normal of Waco, Texas, was founded by Frank L. Eiland in 1898. Eiland also co-founded a publishing house, the Trio Music Company, in 1895. If Grammer had happened to attend sessions in Waco during the first decade of the 1900s, he might have been classmates with Tillit S. Teddlie; during this time Eiland's school was a magnet for songwriters in the Churches of Christ in Texas.(Harp, "Eiland") The S.D.N. songwriters were also frequently involved with the hymnals published in Austin by Firm Foundation, a landmark religious journal and publishing house among the Churches of Christ--and the first songbook Grammer is known to have edited, Zion Melodies, was published in 1910 by Firm Foundation. The Southern Development Normal is also known to have conducted sessions in other locations; there is a wonderful picture on Flickr of an S.D.N. session at Farmersville, Oklahoma (north of Tipton in the western part of the state?), and a session was taught in Golden, Texas in the summer of 1902.(Democrat (McKinney, Texas), 21 August 1902) Golden (home town of Tillit Teddlie!) is more than 100 miles from Collinsville, but this does show that the S.D.N. had a presence in North Texas and beyond.
The Eureka Music Normal was founded by Stephen Jesse Oslin (1858-1928), a Methodist minister from Rockford, Alabama. He married Mollie P. Highfill in 1881 in Waldron, Arkansas,(marriage certificate) and during the early 1890s published a music journal titled Tempo in nearby Fort Smith.(American Newspaper Directory, 1894, p. 30) A search of Worldcat.org shows that he published through the Ruebush-Kieffer Company in the 1890s, and co-wrote Harmony, Composition, and Versification, with Twelve Lessons on Rudimental Class-Teaching with J. H. Ruebush.(Worldcat 24837703) In 1911 Oslin persuaded Ruebush, one of the most famous shape-note teachers and publishers in the nation, to hold a music normal in Whitefield, Oklahoma, suggesting a personal relationship between the two.(Haskell County Leader, 25 May 1911)
Oslin certainly copied the Ruebush-Kieffer business model, setting up the Eureka Publishing Company in tandem with the Eureka Normal Music School, and editing the Eureka Messenger, "a monthly journal of music, poetry, religion, and literature."(Haskell County Leader, 28 September 1911). According to local historians, Oslin founded his "Eureka" businesses in Stigler, Indian Territory in 1898, with incorporation in 1901. Within the next couple of years a fine brick building was constructed, which later became the Eureka Hotel after Oslin's company moved to Arkansas.(Haskell County History, 56)
The earliest instance I have found of the Eureka Music Normal is a session held by J. R. McEwing in Jacksboro, Texas (northwest of Fort Worth) in February 1900.(Jacskboro Gazette, 1 Feb 1900). Oslin had already conducted a music normal in Commerce, Texas (northeast of Dallas) in 1896, though it is unknown whether he used the "Eureka" name.(Holmes) There was also a Eureka music normal in Scott County, Arkansas in 1901,(Echoes) and in Enterprise, Indian Territory (15 miles west of Stigler), the Eureka Normal Music School was already in "annual" sessions by 1902.(Checotah Enquirer 22 August 1902, p. 8) One of Oslin's star pupils, William W. Slater, taught a Eureka Normal in Little Cedar, Arkansas (southeast of Fort Smith) in 1907.(Advance Reporter, 12 July 1907) Did Frank Grammer attend the Eureka Normal School of Music, before his association with that company as an editor and songwriter in the late 1910s? (He certainly did advanced studies there later; his family is in possession of diplomas from 1923.) Until further evidence is uncovered, I can only point out that he had ample opportunity in his youth to encounter Stephen J. Oslin, and was within reasonable traveling distance of places where the Eureka Schools are known to have been held, both when he was living near Arkansas and after he moved to Texas.
Frank Grammer and the Firm Foundation Hymnals
The earliest published work by Frank Grammer that I have found is Zion Melodies (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation, 1910), which he co-edited with Austin Taylor, G. H. P. Showalter, and J. S. Dunn. It was only the second hymnal to come from this press, and the first edited by Taylor and Showalter, whose work would dominate the Firm Foundation hymnal tradition over the following decades (see my post on Firm Foundation hymnals). It contained at least two songs with music by Grammer: "On the rock of ages" and "Peace in my soul," both written to lyrics by Austin Taylor. (Copyright Entries 1910, Music, 689, 842) Grammer wrote both words and music for "Hear the Savior calling," a song copyrighted by Firm Foundation in 1911.(Copyright Entries 1911, Music, 996) It is not indicated what book this appeared in, if any. His "Dew of mercy" appeared in the 1913 Firm Foundation book Select Songs, edited by Austin Taylor and J. M. Hagen.(Copyright Entries 1913, Music, 1175) His last known collaboration with this publisher was "Believing in my Savior's word," which appeared in the popular New Gospel Song Book, edited by Taylor and Showalter in 1914.(Copyright Entries 1914, Music, 318)
His career by this time becoming well established, Frank also began a family; on 17 June 1911 he married Virgie Reaves (b. 1885) from Savoy, Texas (near Bonham). Interestingly, they were married across the river in Durant, Oklahoma by a minister of the Church of Christ.(Marriage license) Their first child, Austin Larimore Grammer, was born in Sherman, Texas in 1912.(Death certificate) The name "Austin," of course, has long been popular as a boy's name in Texas, though it is tempting to suppose that Frank named him after Austin Taylor. "Larimore" may have been the prominent preacher T. B. Larimore, who taught at the short-lived Gunter Bible College in Grayson County, Texas, less than 20 miles from the Grammer family home in Collinsville. He also co-edited the New Christian Hymnal with William J. Kirkpatrick, one of the best of the early Gospel Advocate hymnals.(Harp, "Larimore">)
According to the information submitted for the copyrights noted above, the Grammers lived in or near Sherman, Texas at least through 22 September 1914, when their second child (a daughter, Frankie Edgel Grammer) was born.(Geyer & Grammer Family Tree) At some point, however, he moved east to Bonham, Texas; the birth certificate of Jessie Verbal Grammer, born 21 March 1918, says that her father Frank was employed as a voice teacher in Bonham. "Prof. Frank Grammer" is mentioned in the local newspaper on the 9th of the same month, speaking to the Board of Trade (Chamber of Commerce?) about bringing the Fannin County Singing Convention to Bonham.(Bonham Daily Favorite, 9 March 1918, p. 4) He is mentioned in the newspaper again that summer as the president of the Fannin County Singers, Teachers, and Music Publishers Association.(Bonham Daily Favorite, 25 July 1918, p. 7) The Grammer family resided in Bonham at least through 1920, when they were listed by the U.S. Census.
The Eureka Normal School of Music and Publishing Company
As his career progressed and his family grew, Grammer began to branch out in his associations with publishers. His next works are found in the Eureka Sacred Banner, published by a branch of the Eureka Publishing Company in Seymour, Texas in 1914. (Seymour is west of Wichita Falls, Texas; it would be interesting to know if Grammer were connected with this Texas wing of the Eureka Company.) Grammer's songs in this book were "Dear Lord, indeed, Thy love I need," "I from sin have been made free," and "Softly falls the dew at evening."(Eureka Sacred Banner, Hymnary.org)
Soon after he began to serve as a co-editor along with Will Slater (another important songwriter/editor from the Churches of Christ), and the boss, Stephen Jesse Oslin. Along with other songwriters, they produced the Eureka songbooks Christian Hymnal(1916) and Eureka Joy Carols (1918), published in Stigler, Oklahoma. Other songs by Grammer during this period included: "I am persuaded now to believe" and "We are marching on to Canaan's fair shore" from the Eureka Song Climax, 1916; and "I cannot see for blinded eyes," with lyrics by Grace Stoddard Dennstedt, in the Eureka Highway Songs, 1918.
By the fall of 1918, the Eureka company moved across the state line to Mena, Arkansas.(MTR 19 Oct 1918, p. 13) The first Eureka publication with a Mena imprint was Eureka Highway Songs in 1918, and from that point forward there are no more known publications from Oklahoma. And though it is not clear what Grammer's official role was during the preceding years, in 1919 he was selected as 2nd Vice President of the company, subordinate only to Slater and Oslin.(MTR1 Nov 1919, p. 5) His business was still conducted long-distance at this time, however; the 1920 U.S. Census shows the Frank Grammer family still living in Bonham, Texas.
But eventually Grammer's involvement with the Eureka Music enterprises led him to move the family to Mena, Arkansas, where the company was headquartered. The Adair Gleaner (Adair County, Oklahoma) of 22 June 1923 stated the following news:
Prof. Frank Grammer of Mena, Ark. will open an 18 day session of the Eureka Normal School of Music at Westville next Monday. Prof. Grammer taught a school at Starr and one at Horn this spring ... We hope that a goodly number will attend this.(p. 18)The borderlands of Oklahoma, though sparsely settled, proved fertile ground for the Eureka schools. Westville, Oklahoma is just west of the Arkansas border, north of Fort Smith; the Horn community and the Starr School (to which this may refer) were near Stilwell, the county seat. The newspapers of eastern Oklahoma were full of notices, for a time, of the newly relocated Eureka Company. Frank was also busy with the editing and publishing side of the Eureka Company after his move to Arkansas. In 1921 he edited Eureka Sacred Carols with Oslin and Slater, which included his original songs, "I once was lost and doomed to die," "Is the Savior crowded out of your busy life today?," and "There's a beautiful land, 'tis the land of the blest." Grammer took up a catch-phrase from World War One in the title of another song, "Over the top for the Savior today."
|"Marching On" first published in Eureka Song Climax, 1916|
The Grammer family continued to grow with the birth of Harrietta in 1925, the only one of the children born in Arkansas.(Virgie Grammer household, 1930 U.S. Census) Around this same time Frank was involved with Will Slater in another publishing project, the Herald of Song no. 1 (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Herald of Truth Association, 1925?). Grammer and Borden had worked together earlier on a revision of the Eureka book Songs of Truth, published by Borden in Oklahoma City in 1920. Borden was a significant gospel preacher and debater among the Churches of Christ in Oklahoma. (N.B. His Herald of Truth was not related to the later radio/television broadcast of the same name.) This association may also have brought Grammer into contact with Rue Porter, another prominent Oklahoma preacher, who would be co-editor of Grammer's last books.
Business apparently was good during the 1920s, but like much of the American economy, the Eureka Music Company faded away at the end of the decade. The latest mention of the company I have found is an advertisement in the 24 October 1929 issue of the Evening News from Ada, Oklahoma.(Evening News, 24 Oct 1929, p. 5) Changes were also afoot among the leadership of the company; Stephen Jesse Oslin passed away in 1928, and Will Slater started his own publishing house, Slater Music Company, around the same time. The last documented connection of Grammer to the Eureka company is 1923; Grammer's next hymnal,Tidings of Joy, was published in 1928 by the Fort Smith Music Company.
Near the end of the 1920s there was also a major change within the Grammer family; Frank and Virgie divorced. The 1930 U.S. Census shows Frank back in Sherman, Texas with his brother-in-law Andrew Dooley, teaching voice; his son Austin Larimore went with him. Virgie remained in Mena, Arkansas with the girls, supporting herself by working as a nurse.(Virgie Grammer household, 1930 U.S. Census) No further account of the split has been forthcoming. Both remarried; Frank married Blanch Willis of Sherman on 2 August 1930 (oddly enough, they went to Durant, Oklahoma, where he had married Virgie).(Grammer-Willis marriage certificate) Virgie married Eugene Richey of Amarillo, Texas on 9 March 1932.(Richey-Grammer marriage certificate) Frank and Blanch lost their first child, a son who was born prematurely, but later had other children.("Blanch Grammer," Geyer & Grammer) Frank and his new family stayed in Sherman, Texas until at least 1935, with Frank working at least part of that period as a salesman.(Sherman City Directory 1935, p. 133)
New Connections: The Hartford Music Company
Despite setbacks in his personal life and career, Frank continued to press forward during the 1930s, establishing relationships with other publishers. In 1931 he was credited as a co-editor (along with many others) in Garden of Song published by the Hartford Music Company in Hartford, Arkansas. In 1933 he edited the Herald of Song no. 2 with E. M. Borden, Will Slater, and others (though this apparently does not indicate a publisher, it seems likely that it was connected with Borden's Herald of Truth Publishing in Oklahoma City. In 1936 he edited Songs of Praise and Devotion with Will Slater, published by the Slater Music Company in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
His songwriting continued as well, collaborating with Don Hooper in "Some Happy Day" in 1933 and with D. M. Rice in "My life was once all stained with sin" in 1935. Grammer also wrote both words and music for "With Christ the Lord who leads the way," published in 1935. These publications also demonstrate a developing association that would figure prominently in Grammer's life throughout the 1930s: the first song appeared in The Wonderful Message, and the latter two in Charming Melodies, both of which were publications of the Hartford Music Company in Hartford, Arkansas.
The Hartford Music Company and Hartford Music Institute were founded in 1918 by Eugene M. Bartlett (best remembered for the song "Victory in Jesus") in Hartford, Arkansas, halfway between Fort Smith and Mena. The most famous alumnus of the school was Albert Brumley, who also served on the faculty and later bought the company. Bartlett retired in 1931, leaving the management of the business to his long-time partner John A. McClung.(Gibson & Way) Grammer, after serving as one of a large number of co-editors on the 1931 Garden of Song, was McClung's only partner in editing The King's Pilot in 1938 and God's Billows of Love in 1941.
Around this time Frank and Blanch relocated to northwestern Arkansas, presumably to work more directly with the Hartford Music Company. An announcement in the Fayetteville Daily Democrat said that "Frank Grammer of St. Paul will teach a session of the Hartford Musical Institute at Greenland Church of Christ, beginning Monday, March 22."(20 March 1937, p. 7) Greenland is a little to the south of Fayetteville, and St. Paul to the southwest on the edge of the Ozark National Forest.
A notice in the Northwest Arkansas Times, 2 Aug 1938, p. 7, shows that they had moved yet again. This is a more elaborate advertisement than most, and helps us imagine the setting. If only I had a time machine!
ALL-DAY SINGING AT OAK GROVE AUG. 7
There will be an all-day singing at Oak Grove three miles west of Springdale, Sunday Aug. 7th. The singing will be at the shed on the school grounds where there is plenty of good shade and parking ground, also plenty of good water.
Prof. Frank Grammer of Huntsville will have charge of the singing. All singers and lovers of good music are invited to be there.Huntsville is about 23 miles north of St. Paul, lying more directly west from Fayetteville. Presumably Frank had other employment that led him to these out-of-the-way locations, none of which were particularly convenient to the Hartford Music headquarters.
California and the Church Music Company
Like many a person from the Depression-stricken central part of the United States, Frank Grammer found his way to California. He was in Bakersfield in the fall of 1941,(Bakersfield Californian, 11 October 1941, p. 7) and since his last hymnal with Hartford Music (God's Billows of Love) appeared the same year, it seems likely that he moved from Arkansas to California that year. Frank resided in Fullerton from 1942 until his death in 1949.(Death certificate) His 1942 draft registration indicates that he worked as a fruit packer for the Mutual Citrus Product Company in Anaheim; but his first love, gospel music, was never far away. The Bakersfield Californian advertised the following interesting method of church outreach:
FREE MUSIC LESSONS
Free music instruction is offered by the Magunden Church of Christ which has procured Frank Grammer of the Eureka Normal School of Music in Tennessee to conduct a course of voice culture and harmony. The church school is held in Magunden hall.(15 October 1941, p. 12)Magunden is a neighborhood of Bakersfield. The reference to Tennessee seems to be an error; I can find no evidence that either Grammer or the Eureka Company was ever in Tennessee.
The difficulties of a wartime economy were doubtless discouraging to the many small gospel music publishers spread across the United States during the early 20th century. Grammer does not appear to have been involved with any new hymnals until after the war, when the More Perfect Gospel Hymnal appeared. This was published by Ditler Brothers in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1946, but was a revision of Hall's earlier Cross and Resurrection in Song, first published in 1917.(Copyright Entries 1946, Part 1 (Books), p. 454) Samuel Henry Hall (1877-1961) was one of the most prominent evangelists among the Churches of Christ in the southeastern United States, and also in California, where he relocated in the 1940s. He was also a significant songwriter and hymnal publisher.(Harp, "Hall")
Grammer edited another hymnal published in 1946, this time through the Church Music Company of Fullerton, California: Favorite Songs of the Church. This was followed by Favorite Songs of the Church, no. 2 in 1948. Besides these two I have found only one other publication connected with this company: Church Praises, published by a Church Music Company in Neosho, Missouri in 1952. It was edited by Rue Porter along with Albert E. Brumley and W. N. Bohannon. According to the Grammer family, Porter was a partner in the Church Music Company, and took it over after Frank's death. Though he was not able to keep it actively publishng, he managed its copyright affairs and made sure Blanch received the royalties.
Grammer's last hymnal, Favorite Songs of the Church, no. 2, is a fitting testimony to his goals as a music teacher, songleader, songwriter, and editor. I own a copy, and in an earlier post I gave a more complete description of this book along with an author-title index. The title page of Favorite Songs of the Church, no. 2, lists Springdale, Arkansas and Pine Apple, Alabama as places of publication in addition to Fullerton, California; according to the Grammer family, Rue Porter was handling the Church Music Company business back in the gospel heartland.
The title page of this songbook is a who's who of songwriters and preachers of the Churches of Christ during this period. I have linked these names to their pages at Scott Harp's Restoration Movement website where possible. Contributing songwriters included:
W. N. Bohannan
C. E. McCord
Clarence C. Gobbel
Floyd B. Lee
Mrs. May Thompson
|Albert E. Brumley|
Earl E. McCord
P. A. Crum
Earnest N. Edwards
V. A. Shoke
Mrs. G. W. Nichols
A. C. Carpenter
W. A. Harrison
R. N. Hogan
Mrs. Bertha Hall
J. R. McClung
W. E. Williams
Topping the list, of course, are Porter and Brumley, old friends and associates. Flavil Hall was a Georgia colleague (though apparently not a relative) of Grammer's partner S. H. Hall. Palmer Wheeler was another prominent songwriter among the Churches of Christ. An interesting name to find here as well is R. N. Hogan, one of the greatest African American evangelists in the Churches of Christ.
"Associate authors and compilers" included:
T. Y. Morrison
J. M. McCaleb
L. O. Sanderson
J. H. Fillmore
Gardner S. Hall
|James L. Neal|
Horace W. Busby
W. H. Dunagan
E. M. Borden
Will G. Hager
Ira Y. Rice*
N. W. Allphin
|Tillit S. Teddlie|
Will W. Slater
Mrs. Frank Grammer
Mrs. Palmer Wheeler
George W. DeHoff
L. F. Martin
What exactly is meant by "associate authors and compilers" is a good question. High on the list are Showalter, Taylor, Teddlie, and Slater, old associates of Grammer, and also E. M. Borden from the Herald of Truth songbook days. Albert Lovelady, one of the pillars of the Churches of Christ in California during the 20th century, was also heavily involved. But J. H. Fillmore died in 1936--unless Grammer refers to James Henry Fillmore, Jr. (1881-1956), who was much better known as a trombonist and bandleader. The editorial contribution may have consisted in Grammer using quite a few of the elder Fillmore's songs!
The introduction to this hymnal also expressed Grammer's deep concern about the words of the songs. Every song, he promised, was gone over carefully by himself, by James L. Neal, a preacher and business partner from Springdale, Arkansas, by Rue Porter, a preacher known throughout the country, and by Albert Lovelady, one of the most prominent ministers in the Churches of Christ in California.
Frank Grammer passed away on the 4th of July, 1949. Fullerton, California was home to many immigrants from the central part of the United States, and for a number of years there was an "Arkansas Picnic Festival" on the Independence Day holiday. According to the Grammer family, Frank was there to lead singing and promote his new hymnal when he collapsed on the stage. It seems fitting that he died among "home folks" gathered for fellowship and song.
In the course of his career, Frank Grammer edited hymnals with Austin Taylor and G.H.P. Showalter at the Firm Foundation, and with Will Slater, first at the Eureka Music Publishing Company and then through Slater's own publishing house. Through his work with the Hartford School of Music, Grammer was likely in contact with Albert E. Brumley. He also published with Rue Porter and S. H. Hall, and was probably at least occasionally in contact with Tillit Teddlie and perhaps Lloyd O. Sanderson. He seems to have interacted with almost every publisher of hymnals for the Churches of Christ in this country during his lifetime, with the exception of Elmer Jorgenson (Great Songs of the Church), who was less associated with the Southern Gospel scene.
Though Frank Grammer worked for years with Stephen J. Oslin, a Methodist, and with Hartford Music, which was generally Baptist in orientation except for Brumley (so far as I know), he obviously had a real interest in uniting and cultivating the songwriting and publishing efforts of members of the Churches of Christ. For half a century he spent his efforts in this field, from the 1910s work with the Firm Foundation to his final hymnal, a grand collaboration with many old friends. Though he never made the "big time," and even if he had to work as a salesman or a fruit packer on the side, Frank Grammer was ever faithful to his commitment to promoting gospel music--and in particular, promoting the gospel.
Following Frank: This interactive map lists most of the places mentioned in the post, and may help to show the geographic proximity of so many of these activities.
View Frank Grammer - Locations in a larger map
List of hymnals edited by Frank Grammer
List of songs written by Frank Grammer
Because of the large number of sources used for this post, I have made the References list available as a separate document: