Another excerpt from the book ” living stories of famous hymns” by Ernest K. Emurian
Holders of life-insurance policies in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company may not know the name of the distinguished Americans who founded the firm, but millions of church-goers are familiar with some of the music composed by is equally distinguished wife. Married to Joseph Fairchild Knapp, who was prominent enough to be offered the nomination for Mayor of New York City, And mother of Joseph Palmer Knapp, who at the time of his death in 1951 at the age of eigthy-six was head of the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, One of the country’s leading publishers of magazines and periodicals, Phoebe Palmer Knapp is beloved by Christians the world over.
This daughter of evangelist Dr. Walter Palmer and his wife, Phoebe, was born in New York City in 1939 and early displayed unusual musical talent. Her marriage to Knapp was described as ” an ideal one in every way.” Both were members of St. John’s Methodist Church, being active, consistent and liberal Christians. It was in 1873 that this gifted woman visited Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn-writer there who was to become the most prolific poets of all time. Got the record this memorable visit in these words, ” My dear friend, Mrs. Joseph F. Knapp, So well-known as a writer and singer and most of excellent music, and as an aid and inspiration to all who knew her, had composed the tune, and it seemed to me one of the sweetest I had heard for a long time. She asked me to write to him for it, and I felt while bringing the words and tones together that the air in the hymn are intended for each other.”
That she was right in her assumptions is evidenced by the universal regard in which her stanzas are held. The lines, written to fit the music, began:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior, all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior, all the day long.
At the death of her husband in 1891, Mrs. Knapp was left an annual income of $50,000.00, much of which was dispensed in charitable and philantropic work. Later this two remarkable women produced the solo which associated with Easter Sunday ” Open the Gates of the Temple,” Fanny Crosby writing the words and her friend composing the music. Her son, thrice-wed sportsman, possessed his mother’s generous spirit, and gave widely to many worthy causes, generally through the Knapp Foundation, Incorporated of New York and North Carolina. Although born in Brooklyn, in a home in which Union Generals Grant and Sheridan have been entertained as guests, he presented to Currituck County, North Carolina, a Confederate monument, specifying, however, that there was to no statue of a soldier.
Mrs. Knapp, “sweet singer, accomplished organist and earnest Christian worker,” I died at Poland Springs, Maine, July 10, 1908. History may record that the memory and influence of the wife of the founder of a great life insurance company, and the mother of one of the country’s leading publishers, outlived famous husband and son; and the name “Knapp” may be remembered because of ” Blessed Assurance” and ” Open the Gates of the Temple.”