Sacred Harp

sacred harp

by Ron Rollins

Whitesville, once the Settlement of Mountain Creek, was Incorporated in 1837 and named for the pioneer “White” family.

In May of 1842, Benjamin Franklin White moved his family in a covered wagon to Harris County. Ben made friends in the surrounding area and found a place to settle.

In February 1843, Ben purchased 95 acres of land near Whitesville, Ga.

sacred harp

From the time Ben arrived in Harris County, he treasured the dream of compiling a songbook . He gathered tunes, experimented with them in his singing schools, and watched the reaction of his pupils. From 1843-1844; Ben edited a weekly newspaper in Hamilton, Ga. In the music section of the paper, where” fasola ” songs were printed, he placed 13 of his songs. After 13 weeks of printing songs, they became so popular that the songs from the 13 issues of the newspaper were clipped out and pinned together to make the first ” The Sacred Harp “. In the spring of 1844, the manuscript was sent to Philadelphia and 1500 copies of the songbook were printed.

After the publication of the Sacred Harp, Ben White’s reputation and popularity increased considerably. He held singing schools, taught shape note singing of the”fasola” syllables and promoted his book THE SACRED HARP. In 1850 the second edition was published with 97 new songs on 103 pages.

This style of singing became very popular in churches and music conventions. It could be done without musical accompaniment and was written in shaped notes for four to five part harmony . Easy to read and learn.

B.F. White lived a busy life while in Harris County—– In the 1840’s Ben taught music at the Hamilton Female Institute in Harris County. He was the editor of the Harris County Organ newspaper in 1852. He joined Mountain Creek Baptist Church , now Midway Baptist Church, in 1856. He was elected clerk of the Inferior Court of Harris County in 1858. He was Mayor of Hamilton in 1865. He was a Major in the Ga. Militia.

In 1866 he moved back to Dekalb County ,Ga. And died there November 28,1879 and is buried in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery along with his wife.

Wikipedia note: Sacred Harp singing is a tradition of sacred choral music that took root in the Southern region of the United States. It is part of the larger tradition of shape note music. Sacred Harp music is performed a capella (voice only, without instruments) and originated as Protestant Christian music. The songs sung are primarily from the book The Sacred Harp.

About Ron Rollins 22 Articles

Ron Rollins is the retired Fire Chief of the Whitesville, Ga Volunteer Fire Dept. Ron loves a good story and he can remember them too. The history of Harris County and surrounding areas is tucked away in the memories of our fathers and mothers and their fathers and mothers. You can find our history in old newspaper articles and some in books. Ron thinks we need to keep passing these stories down so he’s doing his part. But for Ron and people like him our root folk history would be lost.

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