Fanny Crosby


Fanny Crosby : biography

March 24, 1820 – February 12, 1915

Van Alstyne rarely accompanied Crosby when she travelled, and she vacationed without him.Blumhofer (2005), p. 314. Despite living separately for more than two decades, Crosby insisted that they "maintained an amiable relationship", kept in contact with one another, and even ministered together on occasions in this period. For example, on June 15, 1895 in Yonkers, New York, Van Alstyne played a piano solo, and Crosby read an ode to Captain John Underhill, the progenitor of the American branch of the Underhill family, at the third annual reunion of the Underhill Society of America."A FEW OF THE 7,000 UNDERHILLS; They Meet for Their Third Annual Reunion and Honor the Memory of Captain John", The New York Times (June 16, 1895), Crosby’s only recorded admission of marital unhappiness was in 1903, when she commented on her late husband in Will Carleton’s This is My Story: "He had his faults—and so have I mine, but notwithstanding these, we loved each other to the last".

In 1896 Crosby moved from Manhattan to an apartment in a poor section of Brooklyn,Ray Beeson and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker, The Hidden Price of Greatness (Tyndale House Publishers, 1991):242. living with friends at South Third Street, Brooklyn, near the home of Ira D. Sankey and his wife, Fannie, and near the mansion owned by Phoebe Knapp.


Crosby, who considered herself a "primitive Presbyterian",Blumhofer (2005), pp. 54, 18. and the other students of the Blind Institution were required to attend daily morning and evening prayers, as well as Sunday morning and evening services held there and conducted by visiting clergymen of a variety of denominations, including Dutch Reformed, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Methodist.Blumhofer (2005), p. 54. From 1839 Crosby usually attended church services and class meetings,Blumhofer (2005), p. 107. at the Eighteenth Street Methodist Episcopal Church (established in 1835) at 305–307 West 18th Street,Benjamin Q. Force, History of the Charter Church of New York Methodism, Eighteenth Street, 1835–1885: With Some Introductory Chapters on the Beginning and Progress of Early Methodism in New York (Phillips & Hunt, 1885). in what is now the Chelsea district of New York City. Later Crosby’s understanding of the Christian faith could be described as "rooted in Puritanism, developed by Methodism, warmed by the Holiness movement, and nourished by her Congregationalism".Blumhofer (2005), p. 279.

From May to November 1849, there was a cholera epidemic in New York City. Crosby remained at the NYIB to nurse the sick, rather than leaving the city. Subsequently, according to Blumhofer, "Crosby seemed worn, languid, even depressed" when the Institution re-opened in November, forcing her to teach a lighter load.Blumhofer (2005), pp. 78–79. According to Bernard Ruffin: In this atmosphere of death and gloom, Fanny became increasingly introspective over her soul’s welfare. She began to realize that something was lacking in her spiritual life. She knew that she had gotten wrapped up in social, political, and educational reform, and did not have a true love for God in her heart. She had attended Methodist church meetings twice a week for several years, and although she helped with the music, she did so on the condition that she would not be called upon to testify.Ruffin (1995), p. 67.

In November 1850, Crosby was invited to attend the annual fall series of revival meetings at the newly constructed Thirtieth Street Methodist Episcopal Church (later renamed the Chelsea Methodist Episcopal Church). Despite attending each evening service during the fall campaign, and after two previous unsuccessful attempts to pray through to spiritual victory during those meetings, on November 20, 1850, Crosby left her pew again and knelt at the "anxious seat" at the front of the church sanctuary, and sought an assurance of her salvation.Blumhofer (2005), p. 108. Crosby later testified: "My very soul was flooded with celestial light. I sprang to my feet, shouting ‘Hallelujah’". She described this "November Experience" as "a watershed of sorts in her life".Crosby (1906), pp. 200–201. However, Crosby acknowledged that there "was no sudden or dramatic change in her way of life", writing: "My growth in grace was very slow, from the beginning".Ruffin (1995), pp. 68–69.