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I Am Singing Up Here!
Written August, 2001


Harry G. Buckingham of Cambridge, Ohio, died in his home at 8:15 Tuesday evening, July 19, 1955.  He was three weeks short of his 70th birthday.

"Yes," wrote the pastor of his little church, "one of the greatest saints our church has ever known has gone to be with Jesus."

I was only eight years old at the time.  I don't remember my grandfather very well.  I have no letters or anything else he ever wrote.  But there are a few photos, a few artifacts, a few scraps of memory.

One thing that I do remember is that the Buckinghams were not afraid to sing out in church.  My mother, Ann Thomas, was an alto in our choir in Richwood.  Her distinctive voice never really blended in with the rest, so you always knew she was there.

Her mother, my grandmother Emma Buckingham, had a way of hitting notes flat and then sliding up to the correct pitch as she opened her mouth fully.  Only recently, when listening to a 1959 Smithsonian/Folkways recording called Mountain Music of Kentucky, did I realize that this was a regional style of hymn singing.

And Emma's husband Harry sang out so enthusiastically that he sat in the Amen Corner, the front pew on the left, leading the congregation's response to the preacher.

As far as secular songs go, my mother told me that this one (written in 1851, printed here in a 1929 songbook) was one of her father's favorites.

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A modern recording of this song, November 19, 2005.

Harry Gladstone Buckingham was born in rural Noble County, Ohio, on August 10, 1885, a son of Thomas and Mary Curtis Buckingham.

I found this Christmas card which the 11-year-old Harry received from his teacher in 1896.

On November 8, 1905, at the age of 20, Harry married Emma Lieuellen (five months younger than him), and they started a family on his parents' farm.  Click here for a picture feature.

The family grew to include three evenly spaced children:  from right to left, my uncle Ralph (born 1907), my uncle Jim (1910), and my mother Ann (1913).

In 1924 they left the farm and moved 20 miles northwest to the village of Byesville, Ohio.  There they dressed up for the portrait below:  Harry, Ralph, Ann, Jim, and Emma.

In Byesville, the Buckinghams ran the Byesville Dairy Company, and Harry was elected to the village council, topping the list of candidates with 648 votes to his nearest opponent's 635.

Here he is with his mother in June 1926, when their ages were about 41 and 75.  (Click here or here for other photos.)


Later Harry and Emma moved to the nearby city of Cambridge.  He became a coal dealer, using trucks to deliver coal to the homes of people who still used it for fuel.

It was in Cambridge that Harry's daughter Ann met and married my father, Vernon Thomas.  I was born in 1947, their only child.

Harry suggested to Vernon that now that he had a son, he ought to quit smoking.  Vernon thought about this.  One day while smoking a cigarette he decided that it would be his last, and it was so.  He never smoked again.

I think this was the church.  It’s now known as the Beckett United Methodist Church, at 1401 Beckett Avenue on the south side of Cambridge.

Around this time, Harry fell ill.  Here's how his pastor, James Florence of the Free Methodist Church in Cambridge, told it in 1955.

"Brother Buckingham was a truly remarkable Christian gentleman, possessed of a most profound faith in God, deepest Christian convictions, and great Christian strength and poise.

"By way of Christian testimony, to encourage the faith of many, it ought to be told that more than seven years ago this man was given up by the doctors to die of cancer.  But he prayed and others prayed.  His health was restored.  To medical science, he was a living miracle.

"Not only was he great in faith, but he was ever faithful by being present at the W.M.S. meetings and Missionary Services.  He was also a very liberal giver to the cause of Christ and Missions.  As Class Leader, he not only gave of his means, but he gave of himself as he went from house to house, hospital to hospital, visiting sick and helping the needy.  He put into practice what he believed in his heart.  He was a great man of prayer."

I remember sometimes staying with my grandparents at their home in Cambridge.  Each night Harry would kneel in front of a chair, his elbows on the seat of the chair, his forehead resting on his folded hands, and pray.

Emma and Harry visiting me and my rabbit, about 1949

Once they took me to a midweek "testimony meeting" at the home of another member of their church, where each of the adults took turns testifying to the difference that Jesus had made in their life.  There was also an old-fashioned camp meeting in a tent somewhere, with much singing and preaching.

The Buckinghams gently tried to get me interested in all of this, but I was still just a little boy.

In 1955, H.G. Buckingham was named as one of six Ohio delegates to the 24th Quadrennial Session of the Free Methodist Church in Winona Lake, Indiana.  But the cancer which had been in remission came back.  As his pastor continued the story:

"After more than seven years, when the disease returned, he said, 'I am ready to go.'  And the later faith was as great as the former, perhaps greater.  And it was perhaps because he possessed the latter faith that the former faith brought such miracle as it did bring.  A story like this cries out to be told and we tell it — for the praise and glory of our Christ. 

"The W.M.S. would like also to pay tribute to our dear Sister Emma Buckingham, who has been Treasurer of the W.M.S. for several years.  She devoted so much love, care and attention to her husband during his extended illness, and her example of a faithful and loving wife and mother is truly exemplary."

Edgewood Cemetery, Cambridge, Ohio (2001)

Harry died on a Tuesday and was buried on Friday.

On Sunday, our family was back in church in Richwood.  My mother was, of course, still grieving over the loss of her father.

A couple of days later, she received the following letter from Elmer Miller.  Elmer was a local church member who had gotten to know Harry on his visits to our home in Richwood.

Hello!  Mrs. Thomas:

We came home from church Sunday.  The missus picked up a paper and dropped on the couch.  I picked up the Readers Digest and turned to page 55, "Can a Scientist Believe in God?"

But I never got to read a word, because the missus remarked sort of hesitatingly, "I love to hear Mrs. Thomas sing, and she never sang a word."

I dropped the Digest and started gazing out the window.

Mrs. Thomas didn't sing.  Was her heart too full?

And as I mused — if Brother Buckingham were to call back from Heaven, would he cry out:

"Ann, sing!  Elmer, sing!

"I am singing up here!

"In fact, everybody is singing up here.  And you be faithful as I have been; in a little while, you can be up here singing too."

We will, won't we, Ann?

Oh!  God bless all of you.

I think I know how you feel.  In fact, I stopped four times in writing this, to wipe the tears away.

Your Very Good Friend,
Elmer Miller




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