Frank M. Davis
No doubt every reader of these lines has often sung " Lord, I care not for riches " (with a reservation in some cases, perhaps, but none the less with pleasure and spiritual exaltation). It is a popular song and the people will sing it regardless of what the critics may say.
He wrote many other songs that are as good and nearly as popular, for instance, "Lead Me, Saviour," "Sheltered in Thee," "Flash the Toplights," "In Whom I have Redemption," "All the Way," "As We've Sown so Shall We Reap," etc. The song entitled, " Is My Name Written There ?" was composed in the month of July, 1876, while the author was at Burr Oak, Mich. "Lead Me, Saviour " was written, both words and music, on deck of an incoming steamer that plies between Baltimore and Savannah. It was a lovely August day in 1880 and the steamer was making her way up the Chesapeake Bay bound for Baltimore. In all the numerous books in which the song is to be found, it stands just as written on the steamer, although it was not played or sung for many days afterwards.
Frank M. Davis was born January 23, 1839, on a farm near the town of Marcellus, Onondaga County N. Y. He was the youngest in a family of ten children. The family was musical, although none but Frank chose music for a profession. When a mere boy he began composing tunes, and setting words to them, although he had never studied the laws of harmony. These were crude and imperfect compositions, of course, but with a persistent study of new music and a careful observation of the construction of tunes he kept improving, and although his father had set his mind on making a farmer of him, he finally acceded to his son's wishes to the extent of buying him an instrument; not a grand piano, however, but a four octave Prescott Melodeon. The little treasure was brought into the house on March 4, 1857. If the boy could have written his now famous song at that time it would have exactly expressed his sentiments.
Up to this time he had attended the village singing schools, and was quite proficient in vocal music, and with the advent of his melodeon he began the study of instrumental music. It was not long till the melodeon was exchanged for a piano and his studies took on a larger range with more earnestness. Mr. Davis travelled extensively, principally in the Eastern and Southern states. He lived at different times. in Marcellus, N. Y., Vicksburg, Miss., Baltimore, Md., Cincinnati, Ohio, Burr Oak, and Findley, Mich. Being of a retiring disposition, he did not seek to make himself known, and was extremely modest ; yet the music which he sent forth won for him a name and fame which shows how earnestly and faithfully he devoted himself to his chosen profession.
He taught vocal classes and had charge of choirs in various places and sang solos with great acceptance. He also did much instrumental teaching. His first composition given to the public was a march printed in the Waverly Magazine. His first book for Sundayschools, " New Pearls of Song," was published in 1877. Since that time he had published nine other books for Sunday-schools and temperance workers, all of which were well received and found ready sale. " Notes of Praise," published by himself, has reached near the 100,000 mark. His songs and music can be found in nearly every music book published. He was also author of over one hundred pieces of vocal and instrumental compositions published in sheet form.
Besides being a good musician, Mr. Davis was an artist of more than ordinary ability, as was evinced by the many beautiful pictures in oil, water color, and crayon which adorned the homes of his many friends where he visited. He was always busy with pen or brush when he was not engaged in study. He was a man of sterling qualities whose heart was tilled with charity and brotherly love for all humanity. His music breathes forth that joyous, buoyant and sympathetic spirit which was his, and which he ever tried to infuse into the souls of others.
Mr. Davis died very suddenly of heart failure August 1, 1896, at Chesterfield, Indiana, camp meeting, where he had gone with friends to spend a few weeks basking in the sunshine of true spirituality, in which sort of religion he had been a lifelong believer. Mr. Davis was never married. His cousin, Mr. M. A. Dexter, took his remains to Findley, Mich., for interment. The funeral was held at the home of Mr. Dexter, where Mr. Davis had made his home at various times, and where his last book, " Brightest Glory," was edited and prepared for the press, music from which was sung on the occasion of his funeral.
There are thousands upon thousands who have been cheered and blessed by his songs. Dead, yet will he speak through coming years in the beautiful melodies which he created.
Source: Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers by J. H. Hall; 1914