The Music of Jonathan Edwards Spilman

Byrd Spilman Dewey’s father was Jonathan Edwards Spilman. A man of many talents, he was born in 1812 in Greenville, Kentucky. je-spilman_edited-1A precocious child, his mother Nancy Rice Spilman, tutored him in many subjects. He entered Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois in its very infancy, and was one of two graduates in the college’s first graduating class in 1835. He was torn between the study of law or theology, as his mother’s family was among the most important in the Presbyterian church in America.

He chose Transylvania Law School in Lexington, Kentucky. It was there in 1837 that he set Robert Burn’s immortal poem “Flow Gently Sweet Afton” to music. The George Willig music publishing firm in Philadelphia published the song and it became one of the most popular tunes of the 19th century.

The Willig firm published six other songs from Spilman, which can be played or downloaded from the links below. The songs were published between 1836 and 1844 and are in the public domain and preserved in the Library of Congress, and is provided here as a courtesy.

After a very successful law career in Kentucky, Spilman left that career and returned to school to become a minister. He graduated from the Central University in 1858 with a Doctorate in Divinity. He had many pastorates in Kentucky, Illinois and Mississippi. He passed away May 23, 1896.

Sheet music for the Compositions of Jonathan Edwards Spilman –  Click Here


Pianist: Zita Jefferson, featured Artist on – Click Here

The Seven Published Songs of Jonathan Edwards Spilman

Flow Gently Sweet Afton

Flowers! Bright Flowers!


Speed Thee Pearlina Fair


The Star of Eve


I Own the Tear


The Beautiful and True


Record Label from 1909

Record Label from 1909


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