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Edwin O. Excell: Reminiscences

by George C. Stebbins (1846-1945)

Edwin ExcellIn the passing of Mr. E. O. Excell on June 10, 1921, evangelism, as represented by its leaders, singers, writers, and publishers of Gospel songs, lost one of its most prominent figures. No man in the history of modern sacred song possessed the combination of leader, singer, writer, and publisher to the degree of success as did Mr. E. O. Excell, or stood higher in the estimation of his contemporaries. He had a marvelous voice range, extending from low C to G above, and of a quality and power seldom heard. As a leader he was the peer of any one in the field during the years of his activities.

I met him for the first time in San Francisco in 1889, when he was with Sam Jones conducting a series of meetings. Of his hymns that have become known around the world, and everywhere loved, may be mentioned the following: "Let Him In," "God Calling Yet," "Scatter Sunshine," "Count Your Blessings," "Since I Have Been Redeemed," etc.

His father, the Reverend J. J. Excell, was a minister of the German Reformed Church, and a good singer, it is said. Mr. Excell spent some years at the trade of a mason and brick layer, where it may be assumed he acquired his strong physique, which was a notable characteristic of his personality. His passion for music led him out of this work at the age of twenty, when he began teaching country singing schools.

He labored with many of the most famous evangelists, and for twenty years was associated with the Reverend Sam Jones. His last work was with Gipsy Smith in Louisville, Kentucky, in the midst of which he was obliged to stop his labor and return home. After more than thirty weeks in Wesley Hospital he answered the call of the Great Reaper, June 10, 1921. He was born in Stark County, Ohio, December 13, 1851.

It is interesting at this point to call attention to the fact that Chicago has been the home, at some period of their lives, of more celebrated writers, singers and leaders of evangelistic song than any other city in the world. If we should call the roll and they should stand before us, we would see such men as Dr. Root, Dr. Palmer, Dr. Towner, P. P. Bliss, Ira D. Sankey, E. O. Excell, T. M. Towne, Charles M. Alexander and others, each of whom has left his mark on his day and generation that the passing of years will not erase.

Then, if we were to add the names of those still living, all of whom have earned the right to stand with those gifted men, one would be still more surprised. That great city might well be thankful that such a number of distinguished men have lived and wrought within her borders, for it is such men, with their compeers, that are the vital and saving factors in our cities and nations. Whether the coming generation will add to that number is yet to be seen.

From George C. Stebbins: Reminiscences and Gospel Hymn Stories by Himself. New York: George H. Doran Company, ©1924.

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