By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
December 24, 2003
The story behind Jingle Bells
When you hear the song Jingle Bells, you probably have a picture of snow-covered trails in New England where a horse-drawn sleigh is caring a loving couple to a Christmas party.
Here is a little secret: Jingle Bells was not written in New England or any other part of the country where snow is regularly seen. A homesick church organist named James L Pierpont wrote about riding in the snow on a one-horse open sleigh at his home in Savannah, Georgia!
Pierpont, the son of an ardent Massachusetts abolitionist minister, came to Savannah to serve as organist of the Unitarian church where his brother was pastor. John Pierpont often delivered strong anti-slavery messages from his Southern pulpit, leading to frequent disputes with local residents. Soon he gave up his ministry and returned north. James Pierpont remained in Savannah with his bride, Eliza Jane, a daughter of the citys mayor. When the War Between the States began, Pierpont joined the Isle of Hope Volunteers, a part of the 1st Georgia Cavalry.
His father, Rev. John Pierpont joined the Union army as a Chaplain, making the family one of many that was divided by the war. He served in the Washington D.C. area and became a favorite of Mary Todd Lincoln. The Pierpont family gained national prominence through James nephew, J. Pierpont Morgan.
Pierpont used his songwriting abilities to support the Confederacy, publishing a number of patriotic songs in praise of the South.
After the war, Pierpont engaged in a number of commercial ventures in several locations in Georgia and Florida, none of which were particularly successful. He died in Winter Haven, Fla., and is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah next to his brother-in-law, Thomas Purse, who was killed in the first Battle of Bull Run.
Originally titled One-Horse Open Sleigh, the song was copyrighted in 1857, and retitled Jingle Bells two years later. Pierpont saw little income from the song. Its great popularity emerged well after his death.
In 1985, a group of Savannah residents decided that Pierpont deserved more recognition for his song. They erected a plaque at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Savannah in June of 1985. The James Lord Pierpont Music Scholarship Fund was established at Armstrong Atlantic State University in 1997.
As strange as it may seem, a lively song about riding an open sleigh through snow-covered New England trails, a song that became one of the worlds most popular Christmas melodies, a song written in Savannah by an ardent abolitionist just prior to the War Between the States, is a part of Georgias heritage.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
By Margie Richards
December 24, 2003
A Moment With Margie
A thought for the season of giving
I was trying to come up with an appropriate seasonal column for this week when a lady walked into the office at The Journal and handed me a perfect subject. (Thank you, Ms. Hudson.)
I had been thinking along the lines of how Christmas can make us feel empty: our wallets are empty, our emotions are often not what they should be, etc. etc. etc.
Well she and I, in the course of doing business, began discussing getting older and what that means in terms of time on earth, health, etc. and somehow the subject of eyesight came up. She mentioned how eyesight is one of those things that tend to get a little worse as we get older, and I told her of how a simple surgery has made all the difference to me in that department, of how great it is to see for the first time in years without glasses.
Oh thats so wonderful, she said. Truly a miracle. It makes you think about how someone must feel whos been given a new organ, like a heart or a kidney, how it literally is a life-giving miracle.
We went on to discuss organ donation and she told me of her own committment to be an organ donor.
That really struck a chord with me, never more so as this week, while were all trying to get ready for Christmas in one way or another. As we honor the birth of Jesus Christ and that is the reason for the season, after all its good to remember that in His teachings He said that there is no greater gift than that someone would give their life for another.
And while most of us will never be asked to give that ultimate sacrifice, most of us can be an organ donor; giving someone else the chance to live after our lives are over.
Some have even chosen to be living donors a truly selfless act of sacrifice.
For example, last year at a family reunion a relative asked for help in raising money, and awareness, of his need for a kidney transplant.
Someone at the reunion (not a blood relative) felt profoundly impressed to go and get tested to see if she could be a living donor by giving him one of her kidneys. Against the odds, she turned out to be an almost perfect match.
Later she would say that she had felt the hand of God so overwhelmingly that she never hesitated in her decision, never doubting that she would be able to go through with it.
Seeing both of them at this years reunion, it was hard to tell which one had received the better gift, the recipient or the donor. By their glowing faces and flowing tears, Id say its a toss up.
There are many examples like that, some right here in our own county and whose stories we have written about over the years.
All of us, whether we admit it or not, like to receive gifts. Ive certainly enjoyed receiving my new sharper eyesight. But knowing how good that feels, it seems incredible indeed to imagine what its like to be blind and receive new corneas, or to be dependent on dialysis and receive a new kidney, or to have a sick heart and then feel the beat, and the vitality, of a new one.
What a great and selfless gift to give.
If youre not an organ donor, perhaps thats a gift to consider for this holiday season. But its not enough to sign the back of a drivers license. Let (and Im speaking to myself here) those closest to you know your wishes on the matter; make a living will so precious time wont be lost when that day comes.
That way, when our own lives are over, we know that we can go on making a difference for someone else.
Just something to think about in this the season of giving.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.