Phoebe Palmer Knapp (1839 –1908)

Phoebe Palmer Knapp (1839 –1908)
Phoebe Wor­rall Palmer (1807–1874), mother of Phoebe Palmer Knapp, was one of the most widely known women of the nine­teenth cen­tury. Phoebe Palmer was born in New York City on Decem­ber 18, 1807 to Henry and Doreth Wade Wor­rall. On Sep­tem­ber 28, 1827, Phoebe Wor­rall mar­ried Wal­ter C. Palmer, a Methodist Epis­co­pal Church lay leader, lay preacher, and home­o­pathic physi­cian in New York City.

The resources received from Walter’s prac­tice allowed Phoebe to extend her speak­ing and writ­ing career. As a result, Phoebe’s influ­ence was felt well beyond the bor­ders of the reli­gious life of nineteenth-century Amer­ica. From 1840 until her death in 1874, she con­ducted a well-attended prayer meet­ing and fel­low­ship in her New-York-city home known as the “Tues­day Meet­ing for the Pro­mo­tion of Holi­ness.” She trav­eled exten­sively as a guest speaker to revivals, spe­cial ser­vices, and camp meet­ings in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. In addi­tion to her speak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties, Phoebe under­took exten­sive writ­ing assign­ments. Among her lit­er­ary legacy are well-known works, includ­ing The Way of Holi­ness Entire Devo­tion to God (1845), Faith and Its Effects (1848), and Promise of the Father (1858). In addi­tion, she edited the Guide to Holi­ness, one of the nation’s most widely cir­cu­lated reli­gious month­lies, from 1864 to 1874. Hav­ing retired early from his prac­tice, Wal­ter trav­eled with Phoebe as a preach­ing team from 1859 to her death in 1874.

Fanny J Crosby

Fanny J. Crosby

The Palmers had six chil­dren, three of which died in infancy. Of the three sur­viv­ing chil­dren, two were girls, Sarah and Phoebe, and a son, Wal­ter Clark, Jr. It was name-sake Phoebe who was to fol­low in the spir­i­tual foot­steps of her mother, though she would never real­ize the same level of noto­ri­ety afforded to her mother. Daugh­ter Phoebe was born March 9, 1839 in New York City. At the ten­der age of 16, Phoebe mar­ried a ded­i­cated Sun­day school worker by the name of Joseph Fair­field Knapp, one of the founders and the sec­ond pres­i­dent of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Life Insur­ance Company.

As mem­bers of the St. John’s Methodist Church in New York City, they were afforded the friend­ship of one of St. John’s most beloved mem­bers, Fanny J. Crosby, the famed blind hymn writer. Per­haps it was Miss Crosby’s exam­ple that encour­aged Phoebe Palmer Knapp to write the tunes for more than 500 hymns. But her great­est suc­cess was to come through a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort with Miss Crosby. One day Phoebe com­pleted the com­po­si­tion of a tune, and with a sense of its unique­ness impressed upon her heart, she made her way to Miss Crosby’s home in Brook­lyn. After play­ing the tune, she turned from the piano to see Fanny kneel­ing in prayer. Think­ing she had not heard it, Phoebe played it once again. Later Fanny would reflect upon that expe­ri­ence in the fol­low­ing words: “My friend, Mrs. Knapp, com­posed a melody, and played it over to me two or three times on the piano. She then asked me what it said, and I imme­di­ately replied, ‘Blessed Assur­ance, Jesus is mine! O what a fore­taste of glory divine!’” Within a few min­utes of hav­ing heard the tune, Fanny had effort­lessly com­posed three verses and a cho­rus for Phoebe’s new tune, and in 1873, their joint effort, “Blessed Assur­ance,” was pub­lished for the Chris­t­ian world to celebrate.

Phoebe Worrall Palmer

Phoebe Wor­rall Palmer

The text and tune of this much-loved hymn has bathed the sor­row­ing brow of many saints, and its use in the church from its pub­li­ca­tion more than a cen­tury ago to the very present speaks vol­umes of its endur­ing and endear­ing qual­i­ties. Of the nearly nine thou­sand hymns which Fanny Crosby wrote over her life­time, “Blessed Assur­ance” remained one of her most cher­ished. This hymn was so well loved by Miss Crosby that she chose the first verse for the inscrip­tion on her head­stone at her death in 1915.



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