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W. S. Pitts

William S. Pitts (1830-1918) was an American physician and composer who wrote the well-known song "The Church in the Wildwood" in 1857.

William Savage Pitts was born at Lums Corners within the town of Yates in Orleans County, New York on August 18, 1830 to Charles Pitts and Polly Green Smith Pitts who were descended from New England Puritans of English and Scottish ancestry. Pitts was the eighth of nine children and had musical ability from an early age, taking formal music lessons from a graduate of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society. At age nineteen Pitts traveled with his family to Rock County, Wisconsin where he worked as a rural schoolteacher. In 1857 Pitts traveled to Fredericksburg, Iowa to visit his fiancee, Ann Eliza Warren, a teacher, and along the journey he stopped in Bradford, Iowa. Pitts found particular beauty in a wooded valley formed by the Cedar River. While viewing the spot, Pitts envisioned a church building there and could not seem to ease the vision from his mind. Returning to his home in Wisconsin, he wrote "The Church in the Wildwood" for his own sake, eventually saying of its completion, "only then was I at peace with myself."

By 1862 Pitts was married in Union, Wisconsin, and he and his wife moved to Fredericksburg to be near her elderly parents, and they remained there forty-four years and had three children. Upon his return to the Iowa, Pitts was surprised to find a church being erected where he had imagined it five years before. The building was even being painted brown, because that was the least expensive color of paint to be found and became known as The Little Brown Church. During the winter of 1863-64 he taught a singing class at Bradford Academy. Pitts had his class sing the song at the dedication of the new church in 1864. This was the first time the song was sung by anyone apart from Pitts himself.

Birth and Death Data: Born January 1st, 1830, Died January 1st, 1918

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1914 - 1932

Roles Represented in DAHR: composer, lyricist

Recordings

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor B-16099 10-in. 6/14/1915 The little brown church in the vale Victor Male Quartet Male vocal quartet, with organ lyricist, composer  
Victor B-25474 10-in. 8/29/1921 Die kleine Kappelle im Tal Methodist Ministers Quartet Male vocal quartet, unaccompanied composer  
Victor BVE-37907 10-in. 2/16/1927 The church in the wildwood Calhoun Sacred Quartet Male vocal quartet, with piano composer  
Victor BVE-47158 10-in. 10/6/1928 The church in the wildwood Gentry Family Male vocal quartet composer  
Victor BVE-56145 10-in. 9/24/1929 The church in the wildwood Tietge Sisters Female vocal trio, with piano composer  
Victor BS-59028 10-in. 10/13/1932 The church in the wildwood Carter Family Mixed vocal trio, with guitar and autoharp composer  
Victor BVE-67746 10-in. 12/30/1930 The little brown church Ralph Crane Male vocal solo, with instrumental quintet composer, lyricist  
Columbia 39482 10-in. 7/8/1914 The church in the wildwood Chautauqua Preachers’ Quartette Male vocal quartet, unaccompanied composer  
Columbia W150285 10-in. 4/18/1930 The church in the wildwood Smith’s Sacred Singers Male vocal ensemble, with piano composer  
OKeh 8726 10-in. Aug. 1924 The church in the wildwood Jenkins Family Mixed vocal trio, with organ composer  
OKeh W80661 10-in. 3/23/1927 The church in the wildwood The Jenkins' Sacred Singers Mixed vocal trio, with bell and organ composer  
Brunswick 3369 10-in. approximately Dec. 1919 Church in the wildwood Criterion Male Quartet Male vocal quartet, with orchestra composer  
Brunswick 3669 10-in. approximately Feb. 1920 The church in the wildwood Criterion Quartet Male vocal quartet, with orchestra composer  
Brunswick E20176-E20177 10-in. 9/16/1926 The church in the wildwood Criterion Quartet Male vocal quartet, with organ composer  
Brunswick E20471-E20472 10-in. 10/21/1926 The church in the wildwood Criterion Quartet Male vocal quartet, with organ and chimes composer  
Edison 5305 10-in. 1/19/1917 The church in the wildwood Apollo Quartet of Boston Male vocal quartet, with organ composer  
Edison 9521 10-in. 5/19/1924 The church in the wildwood Aida Brass Quartet Brass quartet composer  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Pitts, W. S.," accessed May 13, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104782.

Pitts, W. S.. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved May 13, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104782.

"Pitts, W. S.." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 13 May 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104782

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