If the name Reverend George Orlia Webster sounds familiar to you, it’s likely because you’ve heard (or read) the hymn “Essex-on-Champlain” which he wrote in 1929. Or because you’ve read the commemorative plaque at the Essex Community Church (aka the Federated Church) in Essex, NY.
Son of a Baptist minister, Webster attended school at Saxon’s River Academy. His first pastorate after ordination was in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Of his over 50 years of service as a minister, over 30 were spent in non-denominational settings, often in combined churches with Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist members. In later years, Webster was pastor of the Federated Church at Essex, New York, where there is a plaque in his memory. (Hymnary.org)
In recent months we’ve received word from two great grandchildren of Rev. George Orlia Webster (1866-1942), Jane Palmer Baker of South Padre Island, Texas and her brother Thomas Palmer of Galion, Ohio. In addition to a handsome photo of her great grandfather, Ms. Baker shared the brief biography above and the following details which will prove especially helpful to genealogists:
George Orlia Webster, 1866-1942
Born: April 25, 1866, Fort Ann, New York.
Died: October 1, 1942, Essex, New York.
Buried: Bolton Landing, New York.
(via Jane Palmer Baker on Facebook)
Essex resident Norma Goff responded to Ms. Baker’s Facebook post with a poignant personal connection to Rev. George Orlia Webster.
“I have heard much about your great Grandfather, George Webster. I am quite sure he married my parents here in Essex in 1935, and know he was a beloved pastor in this town. I think he is also responsible for writing many hymns, among them, one about Essex!” (Norma Goff)
Undoubtedly there are many other past and present Essex residents and visitors who remember George Orlia Webster, and we hope that you’ll send us your memories and stories so that we can share them with the community. To prime the proverbial pump, we will be publishing a series of posts on George Orlia Webster over the coming days.
Here’s a sneak peak at the upcoming posts. We hope that you enjoy them.
George O. Webster’s Poetic Destiny
“When George was young, the family had a visit from a lady known as ‘Aunt Lucy,’ who ‘read’ the bumps on heads (‘phrenology’). She proclaimed that young George had a ‘poetic’ bump, and sure enough, he went on to author several hundred published hymns, cantatas, musicals, and other works…”
George O. Webster: The Sky Pilot’s Pulpit
“After his mother’s death, which occurred soon after Aunt Lucy’s visit, Mr. Webster went to a charge in Vermont and George ran wild. But not for long. Presently a famous lecturer and humorist, “Bob” Burdette, preached a couple of summers in the North River church. He got a grip on George, and this resulted in George’s conversion…”
George O. Webster’s “Essex-on-Champlain”
If you have not had the opportunity to sing, hear or even read Rev. George O. Webster’s “Essex-on-Champlain” we have transcribed the hymn’s lyrics for you…
Other Hymns by George O. Webster
While “Essex-on-Champlain” may be the most hallowed of George O. Webster’s hymns for Essex, NY residents and visitors, it by no means represents a unique accomplishment by the former Essex Community Church pastor. In fact, it didn’t even appear in this impressive directory of hymns…
- Essex, NY: Fourth of July 2013 (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Downtown Essex Day: Participant Deadline July 8 (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Vintage Stereoview: Main Street, Essex, NY (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Vintage Postcard: View from Steamer of Essex, NY (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex on Lake Champlain Hat Giveaway (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)