There is disagreement in the biographical literature about the birthplace of P. P. Bliss. Some sources indicate Bliss was born in Rome, Pennsylvania (Bradford County), while others say he was born in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
The majority of the evidence examined indicates that Bliss was born in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
Before citing the evidence, it would be helpful to provide the following facts found while researching Bliss' place of birth.—
There are presently two Rome, Pennsylvania's; one in Bradford Co. (located in northeastern Penn.) and the other in Crawford, Co. (located in northwestern Penn.) The biographies that cite Rome as Bliss' birthplace and also mention the county, say it was Bradford County, Penn.
Kenneth Osbeck in his 101 Hymn Stories, p. 59, states of Bliss, that "he had visited his old childhood home in Rome, Pennsylvania, at Christmas time in 1876…"
When Bliss was twelve years old, he joined the Baptist church of Cherry Flats, Tioga County, Penn. (this county borders Bradford Co. on the west).
According to How Sweet the Sound by George Beverly Shea [and] Betty Free Swanberg, Tyndale House, 2004, "in 1858, Philip Bliss was living and working in Rome, Pennsylvania. He boarded with the family of O. F. Young, and while living in their home he met and fell in love with their daughter Lucy. They were married on June 1, 1859."
Lucy Young Bliss was born in Rome, Bradford Co., Penn., March 14, 1841.
The biographical sources that mention that Bliss was born in Clearfield Co., Penn. do not give a specific village or town in that county.
As far as can be determined, there has never been a village or town of Rome in Clearfield Co., Penn.
There is a cenotaph in memory of P. P. Bliss and his wife in Rome, Bradford Co., Penn. erected by the Sunday-schools of the United States and Great Britain. The P. P. Bliss Gospel Songwriter’s Museum is also located there.
In 1947, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania erected an historical marker for Philip P. Bliss on PA255, 2.2 miles northeast of Penfield, Clearfield County, Penn.
The following sources state that P. P. Bliss was born in Clearfield Co., Pennsylvania:
Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, American supplement, being the sixth volume of the complete work. Macmillan Co., 1920.
English Hymns: their authors and history by Samuel Willoughby Duffield. Funk & Wagnalls, 1886.
Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns by Henry S. Burrage. Portland, Me.: Brown Thurston & Co., 1888.
The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church Hymnary by John Brownlie. Reprint of 1899 ed. Kessinger Publishing, 2006.
Memoirs of P.P. Bliss edited by D.W. Whittle. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1877.
Who Was Who in America, Historical volume 1607-1896. Rev. ed. c1967. p. 128.
American National Biography edited by John A. Garraty, Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. p. 28-29.
The following two facts further support that Bliss was born in Clearfield Co., Penn.:
On the back of the front of the monument (inscribed on four sides) erected in memory of P. P. Bliss and his wife in Rome, Penn. is inscribed the following: "Sacred to the memory of Philip P. Bliss, born in Clearfield county, Pa., July 9, 1838, and Lucy Young Bliss, his wife, born in Rome, Bradford County, Pa., March 14, 1841…"
The historical marker dedicated 5/27/1947, located on PA255, 2.2 miles northeast of Penfield, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, states: "Philip P. Bliss. The great singing evangelist and gospel song writer was born July 9, 1838, in a log house which stood a little distance from here. He lived and worked on the farm and in nearby lumber camps until the age of 16." Source: http://www.phmc.state.pa.us
The only thing noted in the historical record that casts doubt on the conclusion that the birthplace of P. P. Bliss was Clearfield Co., Penn. is the following.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania historic marker says "He lived and worked on the farm and in nearby lumber camps until the age of 16," while other sources say that when Bliss was twelve years old, he joined the Baptist church of Cherry Flats, Tioga County, Penn. This is interesting because Tioga county borders Bradford Co. (where Rome, Penn. is located) on the west and is two counties away from Clearfield Co.
Regardless, based on the majority of evidence, it is this researcher’s conclusion, that P. P. Bliss was born somewhere in Clearfield County, Penn., not in Rome, Bradford County, Penn., as some sources indicate.
Researched and written by Stephen Ross, 2007.
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