(To learn how to play “Unclouded Day” on piano, watch the video at bottom of page)
The Unclouded Day, by Josiah K. Alwood, circa 1885. Also known as The Land of Cloudless Day. Another favorite song of mine. Not sure why, but even at a very young age this hymn just resonated with me. I’d put all my heart into singing it during the music service, and especially enjoyed the chorus. Now that I’m old enough to be curious about it’s beginnings, it’s disappointing to find not much is available about Josiah Alwood. He was born July 15, 1828, and passed away January 13, 1909. Originally from Cadiz, Ohio, he somehow wound up in Morenci Michigan, and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery of that same location.
Other than that, all I can find is that he was a circuit riding preacher in the Midwest, and an elder of the North Ohio Conference of the United Brethren Church. Not much to work on. Apparently, that’s all anybody’s got, because no matter where I look, these same few facts are all that’s published. For the writer of such a wonderful, and well-known, song that seems surprising. On the other hand, considering it’s the only song he seems to be known for, I guess maybe not ‘that’ surprising.
I’d still like to know more. The fact that he was a circuit rider catches my imagination. Circuit riders, officially known as Traveling Clergy, brought their faith to the wild frontiers. Often ministering to large territories, taking as much as a month or more to complete a circuit, being a circuit preacher was not a job for the timid. The meek, maybe, but courageous all the same.
I remember somewhere in my youth reading about a circuit preacher who walked everywhere, being caught out in hostile territory by mounted Indians. They chased him over 10 miles before running him down. In honor of his determined run, rather than kill him, they sliced his Achilles tendons. For the rest of his life, he continued to preach on a circuit… but rode a horse.
That’s a pretty harsh tale, but whatever book it was in, it was presented as truth. If anybody can shed some light on that tale, I’d appreciate it. I mention it here only because it’s pertinent to the dangers of the time for circuit riders. Though the calling has since been romanticized into adventurous stories and novels, the truth is that it was a dangerous and risky calling.
When you think of Reverend Alwoods hymn in context of the dangers he likely endured, it gives the words a whole new context. He’s talking about a land of peace, a gathering of family and friends, a place where nobody needs to cry ever again. A place where God rules over an eternal city in joy and happiness, a land where no storm clouds rise.