Original 'Poor Wayfaring Man' haddifferent tune
By Tad Walch
Published: Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008
PROVO, Utah -- New research has recovered the more upbeat tuneJohn Taylor used when he sang "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" toJoseph Smith just before the founder of The Church of Jesus Christof Latter-day Saints was murdered on June 27, 1844.The tune had been lost to history. For 140 years, church members have sung the song to adifferent tune, one commissioned by Taylor himself.A year before President Taylor died in 1887, he sang the song for composer Ebenezer Beesley theway he sang it at Carthage jail in Illinois before a mob stormed the jail and shot and killed Smith andhis brother Hyrum and wounded Taylor and Willard Richards.Beesley recorded the tune in his choir book. Then he composed a different one for the song for anew hymn book commissioned for the church by Taylor, and Beesley's arrangement is the only oneknown to generations of Latter-day Saints.A Taylor descendant recently uncovered the Beesley choir book, and historianJeffrey N. Walkerpresented his arrangement of the song at a church history symposium on Taylor held Friday atBrigham Young University.A quartet that included Walker's son performed the song at the conference. Taylor's tune wouldn'tbe completely unfamiliar to Latter-day Saints, but it is more upbeat and some notes have a distinctIrish-Celtic sound."We heard a hymn that changed us a bit," Walker said after the performance, "that transported usback to a day in Carthage, amongst the leaders of the church as they contemplated the role that thechurch would have through the world, and while that day (the mob) may have taken two of thegreatest who have ever lived, John was there (as) more than just a recorder, he was there tocapture the essence of the day."The Smiths were in jail on a charge of treason based on the affidavit of two men whose word,according to Taylor, wasn't worth 5 cents. Taylor and Richards joined them for support, and on theafternoon the brothers died, Taylor sang "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief."Hyrum Smith so liked the song that he asked Taylor to sing it a second time. Taylor tried to declinebecause of the gloomy mood -- he later called it "a remarkable depression of spirits" -- in thesecond-story room of the jail but Hyrum Smith insisted, telling Taylor he'd get the spirit of it once hebegan. Those facts endear the recovered tune to Walker."I like it because John Taylor sang it that way," Walker said. "I like it also that Hyrum liked it."The song began as a poem written by English poet James Montgomery during two chilly, drearytrips in horse-drawn carriages in England in December 1826. Titled "The Stranger and His Friend,"