A Song for the Ages

In 1834 the Warner family brought their two young daughters, Anna and Susan, to Constitution Island, located in the Hudson River near the West Point Academy. In more prosperous times, the family had purchased a summer home there at the urging of the girls’ Uncle Thomas, an academy chaplain and professor. Hard times and family circumstances forced them to take up year-round residence; the sisters would live out their lives there.

Due to unavoidable poverty, both sisters began to write novels. Susan’s first book, “The Wide, Wide World,” was, in its day, second in sales and popularity only to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” She soon began turning out a novel a year. Anna’s most successful book was “Dollars and Cents,” a memoir of the family’s difficult times.

Across the Hudson River can be seen the spot of their former home. Every Sunday these two sisters would row across the Hudson and teach Bible to the cadets, many of whom went on to be military leaders.

On occasion the West Point students rowed over to the island on Sunday afternoons. The sisters would prepare lemonade and ginger cookies for their young guests. In the winter when the Hudson would freeze cadets would cross the river and escort them across the ice. When war broke out  they could no longer continue to teach. The sisters wrote a song for the soldiers to sing not only during services, but it was sung during drills. It was a reminder to these military personnel of the love of Jesus. It was originally written as a poem in Anna’s novel “Say and Seal.” Therein the words were written as comfort to a dying child. In 1861 the words were set to music.

After Susan died in 1885, the Sunday School classes became Anna’s “one thought in life.” She continued teaching until her death in 1915. That year’s graduates, known as the “class the stars fell on,” included Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower — a pupil of the Warner sisters.  It is believed President Dwight Eisenhower was among the last cadets to sing the song during drills.

Visitors to the graveyard at West Point Military Academy can see the graves of the two sisters, Anna and Susan Warner. They are the only two civilian women who lie buried in the cemetery at the U.S. Military Academy. Susan and Anna Warner earned this signal honor as Sunday School teachers to generations of West Point cadets.

Their home, Good Crag, was willed to West Point Academy and made into a National Shrine. The home is now a museum in their honor.

That simple song has been used through the years to teach little children that profound thought. It has comforted many in the military, others in their hour of need, and reassured many dying individuals. Great orchestras and choirs have beautifully proclaimed it.

That song is, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.”

Pause a moment and sing it to yourself. Do it several times today as a reminder He does love you.