That Cross marker stood there for sixty-one years as one of Albion’s “claim to fame,” until 2020, when it was hit by a vehicle and destroyed due to a medical incident. Are there any plans for replacing this historical marker?
Morning Star, March 28, 2021, pg. 4
As we approach the Easter season, we are reminded that the “famous” hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross,” was written here in Albion in December, 1912 by Rev. George Bennard. Bennard lived in an apartment of the home of Albion College Professor Delos Fall at 1101 E. Michigan Ave. and penned the first verse and chorus in the kitchen area with his guitar. The house later became the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at Albion College, before being demolished in the late 1960s. Since then, it has been a vacant lot.
A State of Michigan historical marker commemorating the birthplace of The Old Rugged Cross was erected in front along E. Michigan Avenue between the sidewalk and the curb and dedicated in the fall of 1959. The Cross marker was one of three dedicated on October 15, 1959 as part of Albion College’s upcoming 125th anniversary year (1960). In his College history book, author Keith Fennimore writes, pp. 592-593: “Shortly after school opened that fall, Dr. Lewis Beeson represented the Michigan Historical Commission in the dedication of three commemorative markers in connection with the anniversary. The first of these was a large bronze plaque across from Susanna Wesley Hall giving a concise history of the College. A second marker was erected in front of the Delta Tau Delta chapter house in honor of George Bennard, composer of “The Old Rugged Cross.” The third was a similar marker attached to South Hall, the former chapel, where F. Dudleigh Vernor and Byron Stokes wrote the music and words to “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” between classes, never suspecting it would have such a bright future.”
That Cross marker stood there for sixty-one years as one of Albion’s “claim to fame,” until 2020, when it was hit by a vehicle and destroyed due to a medical incident. Are there any plans for replacing this historical marker? Who would be responsible for getting a replacement made? This is a historical project that definitely needs to be undertaken, and I don’t know its status as I’ve seen nothing written in the paper about this. Isn’t there some Albion institution or organization that would provide the leadership to see that this marker is replaced/restored? Let’s get this accomplished.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the now-destroyed State of Michigan historical marker No. 215, the text of which stated, “Birthplace of Old Rugged Cross. The Old Rugged Cross, one of the world’s best-loved hymns, was composed here in 1912 by the Rev. George Bennard (1873-1958). The son of an Ohio coal miner, Bennard was a lifelong servant of God, chiefly in the Methodist ministry. He wrote the words and music of over 300 other hymns. None achieved the fame of The Old Rugged Cross,” the moving summation of his faith. I’ll cherish the Old Rugged Cross, till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross, and Exchange it some day for a crown.”
Will your church be singing The Old Rugged Cross this coming Easter Sunday?
On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross; the emblem of suffering and shame.
And I love that old cross, where the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down.
I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.
The “Old Rugged Cross”
An Albion native, Frank Passic is a 1971 graduate of Albion High School and has been writing Albion history articles since 1976. He is the author of several books including Albion in Review, and Growing Up in Albion.
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