West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
Annie F. Bourne
William was the son of school teacher Thomas Kirkpatrick and Elizabeth Storey.
He grew up in a musical atmosphere, and in 1854, went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to study music and learn a trade. He spent over three years as a carpenter, but was more interested in music than mechanics, devoting all his leisure time to its study. His ambition at the time was to become a violinist.
In 1855, Kirkpatrick joined the Wharton Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, and from then on devoted himself mostly to sacred music, giving his services to the choir and Sunday school.
As there were few church organs in that day, his violin and cello were in constant demand for choir rehearsals, singing societies, and church programs. During this time he wrote a number of unpublished hymn tunes and anthems.
Kirkpatrick married Susanna Doak in 1861, and had three children with her, including hymnist May D. Kirkpatrick. After Susanna’s death, he married Sarah Lankford Kellogg Bourne in 1893. After Sarah died in 1917, he married Lizzie Sweney, widow of John R. Sweney.
In 1861, at the start of the American civil war, Kirkpatrick enlisted in the army as a Fife Major. He was discharged the next year, apparently because of the act of Congress ending regimental bands.
Kirkpatrick studied vocal music under Professor T. Bishop, then a leading oratorio and ballad singer. He became a member of the Harmonia and Handel and Haydn Sacred Music Societies, where he heard the greatest singers of the day and became familiar with the principal choral works of the great composers.
Kirkpatrick’s first published composition was When the Spark of Life Is Waning, which appeared around 1858 in the Musical Pioneer in New York. He went on to publish about 50 hymn collections, including: