Born: De­cem­ber 31, 1837, West Ches­ter, Penn­syl­van­ia.

Died: Ap­ril 10, 1899, Ches­ter, Penn­syl­van­ia.

Buried: Rur­al Ce­me­te­ry, Ches­ter, Penn­syl­van­ia. A sweet sing­er of Is­ra­el.

Pseudonym: S. J. Rob­son (Swe­ney, John Rob­son). Fan­ny Cros­by’s song that be­gins Fly, fly to the ci­ty of re­fuge! (in hym­nals pub­lished in 1880 & 1883), gives the com­pos­er as both Swe­ney and Rob­son.



John was the son of John H. Swe­ney and Ann Hodg­son. He mar­ried twice, to Eli­za­beth A. Gould and Liz­zie E. Hink­son.

While still a boy, he be­gan to teach mu­sic in the pub­lic schools and lead Sun­day school per­for­manc­es. At age 19, he start­ed stu­dy­ing mu­sic in ear­nest und­er Pro­fes­sor Bau­er, a cel­e­brat­ed Ger­man teach­er.

He took vio­lin and pi­ano les­sons, and about this time be­came a choir lead­er. He was al­so in con­stant de­mand for child­ren’s con­certs and for con­duct­ing glee clubs.

At age 22, Swe­ney was called to teach in Do­ver, De­la­ware. When the Am­eri­can ci­vil war broke out, he took charge of the band of the Third De­la­ware Re­gi­ment.

After the war, he be­came Pro­fes­sor of Mu­sic at the Penn­syl­van­ia Mi­li­ta­ry Aca­de­my in West Ches­ter, Penn­syl­vania. He worked there ov­er 25 years, and re­ceived the de­grees of Ba­che­lor of Mu­sic (1876) and Doc­tor of Mu­sic (1886).

Sweney wrote mu­sic for ov­er 1,000 Gos­pel songs, and col­lab­o­rat­ed on ma­ny col­lect­ions.