Dec. 08, 2013 | By Erica Backus
Jingle Bells – Savannah’s Song?
So, our balmy winter temperatures and beautifully preserved Historic District may not be the perfect environment for “dashing through the snow” but the bells are jingling loudly in Savannah as citizens tell Medford, Massachusetts to hold your one-horse open sleigh! A debate has been renewed as both Savannah and Medford claim ownership of the one world’s most beloved Christmas carols, “Jingle Bells.”
Written by James Pierpont Jr. in 1857 while he was serving as organist at Savannah’s Unitarian Universalist Church, the song was originally copyrighted as “One Horse Open Sleigh” and later changed to “Jingle Bells.” Many local historians believe that Pierpont penned “Jingle Bells” while in Savannah experiencing his first snow less winter as an ode to his Massachusetts snowy upbringing.
The debate between Savannah and Medford began in 1985 when Savannah erected a historical marker in Savannah’s Troupe Square across from the Unitarian Church that Pierpont called home. In 1989 Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn sent a letter to then Savannah Mayor John Rousakis stating that Medford was the home of “Jingle Bells” and the song was composed in the town of Medford in 1850. Savannahians still proclaim Savannah the home of “Jingle Bells” because the song was copyrighted while Pierpont live in Georgia’s first city. Furthermore, Pierpont was married to a Savannah girl name Eliza Jane Purse who was the daughter of Savannah Mayor Thomas Purse and after living a long wonderful life and Jingle Bells being his only hit, his last wishes were to be buried in his beloved Savannah. Pierpont is buried in Savannah’s Laurel Grove Cemetery.
So, whichever side you take, Savannah’s or Medford’s, “Jingle Bells” is a classic tune of snowy good times and fun-filled open sleighs… in Savannah, Georgia.
Note: Savannah averages 0.1” inches of snowfall a year.
Hey! Did Y’all Know …
“Jingle Bells” was the first song broadcast from space, in a Christmas-themed prank by Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra. While in space on December 16, 1965, they sent this report to Mission Control: “We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit… I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit….” The astronauts then produced a smuggled harmonica and sleighbells and broadcast a rendition of “Jingle Bells.” The harmonica, shown to the press upon their return, was a Hohner “Little Lady”, a tiny harmonica approximately one inch long, by 3/8 of an inch wide.