It was in 1913 that the Revd George Bennard finally completed his hymn ‘-e Old Rugged Cross’, while staying in Pokagon, Michigan; and it was sung for the first time at a revival meeting of the First Methodist Episcopal Church. He had taken some time over the composition, beginning initially with no more than the opening line, ‘On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross’ that could have come direct from Caspar David Friedrich himself [see page 12].
He had, so some say, been meditating on Galatians 6.14, ‘But may it never be that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.’ Slowly he added more, at two other Michigan towns, Albion and Marion, until he arrived at his final version. All three towns now lay claim to it.
George Bennard [1873-1958] was the son of an Ohio coal miner. Converted at a revival meeting, he later became a Methodist minister, preaching all around North -America, and Michigan in particular.
He wrote the words and music of over three hundred other hymns, but none achieved the fame of ‘The Old Rugged Cross’.