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Dwight L. Moody Is Dead

Dwight L. Moody Is Dead poster

The New York Times
December 23, 1899


Succumbs at His East Northfield (Mass.) Home to Overwork.


When the End Was Near He Said: “The World is Receding and Heaven Opening”

East Northfield, Mass., December 22, 1899—With the words “God is calling me,” Dwight L. Moody, the Evangelist, died at his home here at noon to-day. His passing was as gentle as could be wished for. His family were gathered at his bedside, and the dying man’s last moments were spent in comforting them. Besides the family there were present also Drs. Schofield and Woods and the nurse.

Early in the day the Evangelist realized that the end was near, and talked with his family at intervals, being conscious to the last, except for a few fainting spells.

One he revived, and with a wonderful display of strength in his voice, said in a happy strain: “What’s the matter? What’s going on here?”

One of the children replied: “Father, you have not been quite so well, and so we came in to see you.”


A little later Mr. Moody talked freely to his sons, saying: “I have always been an ambitious man, not ambitious to lay up wealth, but to leave you work to do, and you’re going to continue the work of the schools at East Northfield and Mount Herman and of the Chicago Bible Institute.”

Once the stillness of the chamber was broken by the anguished cry of Mrs. A.P. Fitt, his daughter, in the words, “Father, we can’t spare you.”

The reply, so characteristic of the man, was, “I am not going to throw my life away. If God has more work for me to do, I’ll not die.”

As the noonday hour drew near, the watchers at the bedside noted the approach of death. Several times Mr. Moody’s lips moved as if in prayer, but the articulation was so faint that the words could not be heard.

Just as death came Mr. Moody awoke as if from slumber, and said, with much joyousness: “I see earth receding; Heaven is opening; God is calling me,” and a moment later he had entered upon what one of his sons described as “A triumphal march into heaven.”

The death of Mr. Moody was not unexpected, although hope for his temporary recovery from illness was hoped for. In the family there was fear that death was not a long way off. The cause of death was a general breaking down of his health, due to overwork. His constitution was that of an exceedingly strong man, but his untiring labors had gradually undermined his vitality until the heart showed signs of weakness. His exertions in the West last month brought on the crisis, and the collapse came on Nov. 16 during the series of meetings at Kansas City.


As early diagnosis by eminent physicians made it evident that Mr. Moody’s condition was serious, and, canceling his engagements, he returned to his home, in East Northfield, so near the greatest achievements of his later life. On reaching his home the family physician, Dr. N.P. Wood took charge of Mr. Moody, and for some days bulletins as to the patient’s condition were issued, all having an encouraging tone, seemingly, but unerringly pointing to the fact that the evangelist’s work on earth was about finished. Last week a change for the worse prepared immediate friends for what was to come.

This week however, the patient improved steadily until yesterday, when he appeared very nervous. This symptom was accompanied by weakness, which much depressed the family who were anxiously watching the sufferer. Last evening Mr. Moody appeared to realize that he could not recover, and so he informed his family. During the night the patient had spells of extreme weakness, and at 2 o’clock this morning Dr. Wood was called, at the request of Mr. Moody, in order that his symptoms might be noted. A hypodermic injection of strychnia caused the heart to become stronger. Then Mr. Moody requested his son-in-law, Mr. Fitt, and Dr. Wood to retire. Mr. Moody’s eldest son, Will R. Moody, who had been sleeping the first of the night, spent the last half with his father.

At 7:30 o’clock this morning Dr. Wood was called, and when he reached Mr. Moody’s room he found his patient in a semi-conscious condition. Then it was that the family was called to the bedside where they remained until death came.

The arrangements for the funeral have not as yet been fully completed, but the services will be held next Monday afternoon at 3 o’clock in the Congregational Church. The burial will be on Round Top.

This is a spot on the seminary grounds, near Mr. Moody’s home lot which has become famous in connection with the Summer meetings, and on which hundreds of student gatherings have been held, many of them conducted by Mr. Moody himself. On this account it seemed to the family fitting that the burial should be at that spot.


The Northfield, the Summer hotel connected with the Moody schools, will be opened for the accommodation of friends coming to attend the funeral services, the hour of holding the latter being governed by the time of the arrival and departure of trains.

All three of the Moody schools are at present closed for the Christmas vacation.

Telegrams and other messages of sympathy have been received by the family from friends, admirers of, and co-workers with Mr. Moody, in all parts of the country.

Mr. Moody is survived by his wife and three children—two sons and one daughter. Two of the children are married, namely, William R. Moody and Emma, who is married to A.P. Fitt. William R., Mr. Moody’s eldest child, lives with his family at Northfield, is a graduate of Yale, and is managing editor of The Record of Christian Work which is published in Chicago and gives a general record of Christian work in the United States and Great Britain. William R. Moody has had three children, one son and two daughters. The son died about a year and a half ago, and the daughter died last Summer. The death of this granddaughter, who was a great pet of Mr. Moody, had a great effect upon him. Since then another daughter has been born to William R. Moody, the only living grandchild of the evangelist by his eldest son. This babe is only about six weeks old.

Mrs. Fitt has only one child—Emma—about four years old. Mr. Moody’s youngest surviving child is Paul Moody, now a student in his second year at Yale. A.G. Moody, a nephew of the evangelist is manager of the seminary at Northfield.


Started Life as a Shoe Clerk and Began His Church Work in the City of Chicago

Dwight Lyman Moody was born in Northfield, Franklin County, Mass., Feb. 5, 1837, of Puritan stock. He as the sixth of a family of nine children. His father, Edwin Moody, owned a comfortable little farmhouse and a few acres of land, which he cultivated in his leisure hours, although following the trade of a stonemason. He died suddenly in 1841, when his son Dwight was four years old. At the age of seventeen the latter left Northfield, with his mother’s permission, to seek employment in Boston, where his uncle was in business as a shoe merchant. That relative engaged his country nephew with some reluctance and on two conditions. The lad agreed to be governed by his advice and to attend regularly the Sunday school and services of the Mount Vernon Congregational Church.


At Northfield young Moody had attended with his mother the Unitarian Church; and he was not well grounded in evangelical teachings. His bashfulness in the presence of cultured Christians and his poor command of words in which to express his thoughts led his Sunday school teacher Edward Kimball, through whose personal efforts he was converted, to say of him:

“He is very unlikely to become a Christian of clear and decided views of doctrinal truth, still less to fill any extended sphere of public usefulness.”

After his conversion young Moody applied for membership in the church, but was kept waiting a year, being admitted in 1856. Even after his admission to the Church his attempts to edify the brethren by remarks in the prayer meeting were of such a character that his pastor, the late Rev. Dr. Kirk, took him aside, and suggested to him that he might serve the Lord in some other way more acceptably. Others, too, advised him to keep silence. In the Fall of 1856 he left Boston for Chicago, where he became a salesman in the shoe trade. He entered the Plymouth Congregational Church, and showed his earnest spirit by renting four pews, which he kept filled with young men and boys. He asked that he might become a Sunday school teacher, and was told that he could if he would bring his own scholars. Next Sunday he marched into the schoolroom at the head of eighteen ragged boys whom he had collected during the week. Later he started a mission of his own in an empty tavern in North Chicago. His school grew so much that North Market Hall was occupied, and John V. Farwell supplied benches for the scholars and became its Superintendent. Largely through Mr. Moody’s personal canvassing, sixty teachers were obtained, and the average attendance of scholars was kept up to 650. There can be little doubt that had his desire been simply to get on in the world his extraordinary tact, energy, and business capacity would have made the road to success an easy one. He became known among his acquaintances for years as “Crazy Moody,” but, though an enthusiast, he imported into the work of evangelization the very qualities which made him successful in business and which never for a moment deserted him during his whole public career. He gave up business in 1860 to devote his whole attention to religious work. He reduced his expenses to a minimum, doing without a home and sleeping on a bench in the Young Men’s Christian Association rooms. In a short time he became a city missionary, and was able to assist others. In August, 1862, he married Miss Emma C. Revell, a sister of Fleming H. Revell, a Chicago publisher, by whom he had two sons and a daughter. Aided by his wife, he worked hard for his mission, and in 1863 a church building was erected. Two years later he was elected President of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Chicago.


For a long time Mr. Moody was beset by pecuniary difficulties. One morning, some time after his marriage, he said to his wife: “I have no money, and the house is without supplies. It looks as if the Lord had had enough of me in this mission work, and is going to send me back again to sell boots and shoes.” A day or two later he received contributions sufficient for his immediate wants.

As most of his converts were previously members of no religious denomination, he early found it necessary to assume the pastorate of the congregation himself, which he did as a member of the Congregational body. Though destitute of private means, he declined all offers of a regular salary, resolving to trust for his maintenance solely to such contributions as might be voluntarily made by those interested in the work. During the interval between 1865 and 1871 he traveled in the interest of Sunday school and Young Men’s Christian Association work, attending conventions, delivering addresses, and organizing societies for promoting the spread of the Gospel.

In 1871, during the great conflagration, the chapel in which his congregation met for worship was destroyed. Mr. Moody was forced to flee with his family and leave everything behind. The family found temporary shelter in the house of a friend. The calamity only served to incite the evangelist to fresh and greater efforts, and never was his indomitable energy exerted to better purpose. Within a month a temporary building had been erected, and this was speedily replaced by a fine structure that cost $70,000, and afforded accommodation for nearly 4,000 people. A debt of $20,000 remained on the building. Funds, in the estimation of the evangelist, did not come in quickly enough. One Sunday night after a stirring address, he astonished his large audience by upbraiding them for what he called their “stinginess,” and declared empathically that unless the debt were paid off by the following Sunday night the church would be closed and kept locked up until the money was forthcoming. That very evening $14,000 was subscribed, and the balance was received long before the time of probation had expired.


The edifices mentioned, however, were by no means the only ones that Mr. Moody was instrumental in having erected. Major D.W. Whittle, his friend and associate in Christian work, recently wrote as follows concerning the monumental result of the evangelist’s efforts:

“The first building he erected was the Illinois Street Church, in Chicago, erected about 1858, for the shelter of his mission school and the church which grew out of it. His second building enterprise was the Young Men’s Christian Association Building in Chicago, erected in 1866, the first commodious edifice for Young Men’s Christian Association purposes in this country. His third enterprise was the re-erection of the first Young Men’s Christian Association building, destroyed by fire, both known as the Farwell Hall. This also was destroyed in the great fire of 1871 and again rebuilt, mainly through Mr. Moody’s efforts. The fourth and present beautiful edifice, the finest perhaps in the world, stands partly upon the original site on land given by John V. Farwell. At the dedication of Farwell Hall Mr. Moody confessed his faith that, by the Lord’s blessing, a religious influence was to go out from there that should extend ‘through every county in the State, through every State in the Union, and finally, crossing the waters, should help to bring the whole world to God.’ The other Young Men’s Christian Association buildings in America for which money was raised by Mr. Moody and in whose erection he was more or less conspicuous were at New York, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Scranton. In addition to these are twenty more buildings at Northfield, Mass; the Chicago Avenue Church, and Bible and Institute Buildings, Chicago.

“In Great Britain these buildings were erected by Mr. Moody’s personal efforts or from the inspiration of his works: Christian Union Buildings, Dublin; Christian Institute Building, Glasgow; Carubber’s Close Mission, Edinburgh, the story of which is not only interesting but romantic; Conference Hall, Stratford; Down Lodge Hall, Wandsworth, London, and the Young Men’s Christian Association Building, Liverpool.”


At his beloved Northfield no fewer than three institutions were under his direct supervision. These are the Northfield Seminary for Girls, which was erected in 1879, and comprises a dozen buildings; the Mount Hermon School for Boys, opened two years later, and a Bible Training School, established in 1890.

The seminary was established primarily for the daughters of the farmers of that section who could not afford to send them to existing educational institutions. The idea had been conceived as early as 1875, when Mr. Moody had resolved to make Northfield his permanent home. Driving through the country, he came, one day, upon a poor home before which he saw a mother and two daughters braiding straw hats. The father was a paralytic, and helpless. Deeply affected by the evidences of privation and of the narrow life and meager opportunities to which the young women were subject, but examples of many, he decided that his efforts should be directed toward securing for them better things.

The founding of the school followed. He first purchased a few acres of barren farm land in front of his own house on which to erect a suitable building for his school, but without waiting for this improvement he opened a school in his own home with eight pupils quartered in an extension which he built to his house. Soon he had twenty-five pupils. From that the school has grown to 350 students. There are 210 acres of land, eight dormitories, a gymnasium, a library, a recitation hall, an auditorium, and farm buildings. Over 2,300 students have been trained in its halls. So great are the demands upon it that many pupils are annually turned away.

Many of the students leave the seminary to engage in missionary work at home and abroad, while others take a course preparatory for university work, but a large proportion, of course, return to their homes after a term or two at the school, and they have made the name of Northfield a familiar one through a wide section.


The establishment of the school for boys next engaged Mr. Moody’s attention, and the beautiful home of the institution at Mount Hermon followed. This started on a larger scale than had the seminary. It now boasts of a recitation hall, science hall, chapel, dormitories, and twelve cottages, with a farm of 800 acres. Its faculty numbers twenty-six, and the students about 325 annually, many of whom are fitted for Yale, Harvard, and other New England colleges, while others are fitted for missionary work. As with the girls, the majority receive their final training here.

Courses in Bible study, dressmaking, and cooking are given at the Bible Training School. In addition to the arduous duties the care of these enterprises involved, he superintended the famous Summer conferences in Northfield, attended by thousands from all parts of the United States and many other parts of the world; spoke at revivals all over the country, and exercised personal supervision over his Bible Institute in Chicago.

Wherever he went he attracted vast audiences, and often stirred them to the highest pitch of devotional fervor. His great campaigns of former years in this city, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, and other centres, in conjunction with Ira D. Sankey, are well remembered.

In their evangelistic campaign, in 1875, Moody and Sankey held meetings which packed the old Madison Square Garden and attracted attention which made their fame world-wide. Moody had a rapid delivery, and the reporting of his talks was a sore trial to the most expert of stenographers, who were compelled to take down as many as 230 words a minute. But so incisive was Mr. Moody’s method that it was not difficult for the mind of the hearer to absorb the flow of his oratory.

The effect of their work here was a repetition on a larger scale of their triumph in Great Britain, and while not all of their hearers went to hear the Gospel, but only to hear and see the evangelists who were attracting so much attention, their work was attended with equal religious success.

Two years ago he held revival meetings at Carnegie Hall. As late as last October he journeyed to Brooklyn to help along the revival movement started by the Rev. Dr. Carson. He spoke twice a day for a week at various churches, and on each occasion hundreds were unable to gain admittance, so great was the crowd.

Mr. Moody went abroad several times. His first trip to Great Britain was made in 1867. His sojourn on that occasion was brief, and his evangelistic methods occasioned more surprise than anything else. Soon after the great fire in Chicago he again crossed the Atlantic and preached in several parts of England, in co-operation with Philip Phillips, the author of the “Singing Pilgrim,” who was then making a tour of the United Kingdom.

His most memorable visit, however, was in 1873. It was protracted through a period of nearly three years, and he was accompanied by Ira D. Sankey, with whom for many years his name was inseparably associated.

Moody had first met Sankey at a Young Men’s Christian Association Convention in Indianapolis and being impressed with his vocal powers and his methods of Sunday school work, induced him to become his associate in Chicago.


Moody and Sankey were invited to undertake a series of evangelistic services in Great Britain by a clergyman of the English Church and a prominent Christian layman, both of whom resided at Newcastle-on-Tyne. A striking coincidence occurred in the death of both the clergyman and layman while the evangelists were on their way to Newcastle, which was to have been their starting point. Much perturbed, but not discouraged, they went to York, where their labors created such an impression that ere long invitations began to pour in upon them from all sides. They went to Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland, and created a furor. Despite adverse influences they succeeded in arousing the clergy of all sects, who had been astonished at their success, to join in the work of evangelization. In London they encountered opposition and were subjected to hostile criticism on the part of some of the newspapers. The “illiterate American Evangelists” as they were called, however, went ahead, and attracted ever-increasing multitudes to their meetings, made up of all classes, until the power of their methods had to be acknowledged. They preached through the provinces and in Wales and Ireland. On their return to this country, Sankey’s health broke down and he was unable to co-operate with Moody. They returned to England again in 1883, and on that occasion went to Paris, where they held services in an American church for the benefit of the Anglo-American colony. They also visited Canada on several occasions.

At the outbreak of the Civil War Mr. Moody became an active lieutenant of George H. Stuart of the Christian Commission, and on several occasions went to the front, but his main work was in Chicago as the head of the local branch. Again, during the war with Spain, Mr. Moody carried his work into the ranks by going down to Tampa, where in a large tent his voice was raised in his evangelistic work.

Mr. Moody never allowed anybody to run things for him. He always insisted upon having the services conducted in his own way, no matter in whose church he might be, and he was always careful to see that ample accommodation for reporters was provided. He was a firm believer in the efficacy of publicity. “The more publicity given to evangelistic meetings and addresses the better,” said he during his recent visit to Brooklyn. “There is no medium of propagation like the press. While what I or another man can say is heard only by one or two thousand people—and that’s a large audience—the essence of the sermon is often conveyed to two or three hundred thousand in a single newspaper.”

In addition to the many printed accounts of his meetings and reports of his addresses, Mr. Moody published a number of pamphlets and books written by himself, including “Heaven,” “Secret Power,” and “Way to God and How to Find It.”


The Singer Talks of His Dead Associate—Dr. A.C. Dixon Gives His Estimate of the Man

Ira D. Sankey, the singer, who was at one time associated with Mr. Moody, received a telegram at his home, 148 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn, yesterday, notifying him of Mr. Moody’s death. Although Mr. Sankey knew that Mr. Moody was seriously ill, the news of his death was a surprise, as he had been led to believe that his friend was improving. Mr. Sankey will leave Brooklyn for East Northfield this evening, to be present at the funeral.

He said last evening:

“Mr. Moody’s death comes upon us with a suddenness that is very trying, as we have been receiving letters every day from Northfield speaking of his improvement, as indicated by his sleeping and resting better. One letter spoke of his telling his son-in-law a little story of how he and I were caught on one occasion by the incoming tide near Sunderland, on the north coast of England, and of how we had to wade through the water and climb a high cliff to reach the land. Had we remained a few minutes longer our escape would have been cut off.

“I mention this just as one instance of Mr. Moody’s frame of mind, as described in these recent letters.

“I went to see him a week ago to-day, but as he was very weak I refrained from going into the room where he was. Had I thought then that there was so great danger of his dying, I would have gone in to have a last word with him.

“We were connected in revival work for twenty-seven years. We began our joint work at Indianapolis in 1870. He and I were delegates to a Young Men’s Christian Association convention there, and we then became acquainted. Mr. Moody urged me to give up the Government position I then held and join him in religious work in Chicago. I did so after six months’ persistence on his part. Until he spoke to me about it I had never had any idea of engaging in this work.

“The story that we ever separated is without the slightest foundation. It is true that I have been holding meetings, singing and speaking both, but this course met with Mr. Moody’s entire and hearty approval.

“We last appeared together at Dr. Storrs’s church last Summer. The last time I spoke to Mr. Moody was on the last Sabbath he was presiding in Dr. Hall’s church. I called upon him at the Murray Hill Hotel, and we had a long talk. I have not seen him since then. The last letter I received from him was just as he was starting on his trip to the West. He wrote to me that he would stop at the Murray Hill Hotel while in New York on his way West, and would be pleased to see me there. I was in Rochester at the time. As soon as I received his letter there I telegraphed him that I would start that night for New York and would call upon him. I arrived at the Murray Hill Hotel the next morning, but Mr. Moody had already gone West to the meeting where he was taken ill.

“What was the greatest meeting we ever addressed? The one in Agricultural Hall, London, during our first visit abroad in 1874. We had an audience of 17,000. Our biggest meeting in the United States was in the Wanamaker building in Philadelphia in 1875.

“In my opinion, Mr. Moody was one of the greatest men of this century in the marvelous common sense he exhibited, in his earnestness in his life work, and in his desire to help people and to do goo. He was the most unselfish man I ever knew, and I believe he died without one dollar of money belonging to himself. He cared nothing of money for himself, but raised large sums for others.

“He was the greatest revivalist of his age. Tens of thousands have professed conversion under his preaching in this and in the old country. He appeared in every city in this country and in every State, from California to Maine, in Winter and in Summer, in sunshine and in shadow, and never had to give up an appointment on account of ill-health. Mr. Moody’s health had been running down for years. He knew it. The doctors five years ago told him that he must cut down the number of his sermons from three to two a day.”

Among Mr. Sankey’s callers last evening was his venerable neighbor, the Rev. Dr. Theodore L. Cuyler, who dropped in on his way to the evening services to express his deep regret at the news of Mr. Moody’s death.

The Rev. Dr. A.C. Dixon of the Hanson Place Baptist Church, who was actively associated with Mr. Moody in his revival work at Cooper Institute, Carnegie Hall, and elsewhere, in this city, spoke of Mr. Moody at the prayer meeting in his church last evening. He will preach to-morrow morning on “Moody: the Man and His Message.”

Dr. Dixon said that as an evangelist Mr. Moody was second to none. As an educator he was, though himself not an educated man, unique.

“He was one of the truest and loveliest men I ever met,” said Dr. Dixon, “simple as a child in faith and as full of fun as a boy on proper occasions. He was one of the greatest leaders of men. Had he commanded Grant’s army he would have got it into Richmond long before Grant did.”

Tributes Paid at Plymouth Church

The death of Dwight L. Moody, the evangelist, was discussed with deep regret at the weekly prayer meeting in Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, last evening. Both the Rev. Dr. Newell Dwight Hillis, the pastor of the church, and the Rev. Dr. Lyman Abbott, the former pastor, who was present, paid high tributes to the dead evangelist.