Born: December 31, 1837, West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Died: April 10, 1899, Chester, Pennsylvania.
Buried: Rural Cemetery, Chester, Pennsylvania.
A sweet singer of Israel.
Pseudonyms: 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.