Born: March 24, 1820, Brewster, Putnam County, New York.
Died: February 12, 1915, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Buried: Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport, Connecticut. On her tombstone are the words,
Aunt Fanny and
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine. Blessed Assurance, one of her best known songs, appeared in at least 937 hymnals.
Fanny was the daughter of John and Mercy Crosby, and wife of organist Alexander Van Alstyne, who like her, was blind.
Though blinded by an incompetent doctor at six weeks of age, she wrote over 8,000 hymns. About her blindness, Fanny said:
It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation.
If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.
One of the most prolific hymnists in history, in her lifetime Fanny was one of the best known women in the United States. To this day, the vast majority of American hymnals contain her work.
On her 85th birthday, American president Grover Cleveland wrote to Fanny:
My dear friend:
It is more than fifty years ago that our acquaintance and friendship began; and ever since that time I have watched your continuous and interested labor in uplifting humanity, and pointing out the way to an appreciation of God’s goodness and mercy.
Though your labors have, I know, brought you abundant rewards in your consciousness of good accomplished, those who have known of your works and sympathized with your noble purposes owe it to themselves that you are apprized of their remembrance of these things. I am, therefore, exceedingly gratified to learn that your eighty-fifth birthday is to be celebrated with a demonstration of this remembrance. As one proud to call you an old friend, I desire to be early in congratulating you on your long life of usefulness, and wishing you in the years yet to be added to you, the peace and comfort born of the love of God.
Yours very sincerely,
I stood upon the mount, called Olivet,
The spot where once the blessed Savior sat;
And from His lips divinely flowed
Accents of mercy, to a fallen race.
The sun had sunk beneath the crimson west,
And night, around its dusky mantle threw.
All—all was still—and as mine eyes surveyed
The ruins of that city, once so fair,
I wept; and half unconscious, from my lips,
Broke forth these scattered thoughts—
How like that glorious orb, thou once wert lovely!
But, alas! how changed thy glory is
A night of deeper gloom enshrouds thee now.
Here once, magnificent, a temple stood,
And Israel’s God was worshipped and adored;
But where that temple now? Oh, not one stone
Is left, to mark the spot where once it stood.
Jehovah’s name, by heathen lips blasphemed,
And Israel, once a mighty nation strong,
O’er all the earth dispersed—a scattered few—
Shunned, and despised, alas! in exile roam;
Ill-fated city, ’twas thy crimes alone,
That hurled upon thy head this misery!
Would thou hadst known, in thy prosperity,
The things that to thy peace belonged
But now, they from thine eyes are hid.
Oh! thou hast slain the Lord’s anointed Savior of thy race,
And thou hast said,
His blood on us and on our children be.
Yet, there is hope for thee, Jerusalem!
Weep o’er thy sins, and to thy God return;
Believe Messiah has already come,
And plead the merits of His pardoning blood.
The Blind Girl, 1844
Eliza Hewitt wrote this poem, read at Fanny’s funeral:
Away to the country of sunshine and song,
Our songbird has taken her flight,
And she who has sung in the darkness so long
Now sings in the beautiful light;
The harp-strings here broken are sweetly restrung
To ring in a chorus sublime;
The hymns that on earth she so trustfully sung
Keep tune with eternity’s chime!
What heart can conceive of the rapture she knows
Awakened to glories so bright,
Where radiant splendor unceasingly glows,
Where cometh no shadows of night!
She knows her Redeemer, for her crucified,
That made earthly midnight as naught!
New Song of joy shall unceasingly roll
To Him who her ransom had bought.
What bliss, in the Homeland, to meet
With those she has told of the Lord’s saving might,
Together, to bow at His feet.
Good-bye, dearest Fanny, goodbye for a while,
You walk in the shadows no more;
Around you, the sunbeams of glory will smile;
The Lamb is the Light of that Shore!
Someday we will meet in the City above;
Together, we’ll look on His face;
Together we’ll sing,
Rothwell, p. 47
For more information on Fanny’s pseudonyms, see Crosby, page 627, and Jackson, page 25.