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“Great is the Lord”

After a moment Pa sang again, and the stately measures were suited to the thankfulness they were all feeling… –The Long Winter, Chapter 28, “Four Days’ Blizzard”

In The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls reminds her family that they can have music even without the fiddle, which Pa’s hands are too cracked and stiffened to play. Laura begins to sing a song, and the family joins in. After this song, Ma and Pa each begin to sing new selections in turn. While waiting out the four days’ blizzard and following a pause to listen to its fury, Pa begins to sing “Great is the Lord” – the words are taken from Psalm 48. Although the storm rages, the family is thankful to be together and safe. It is during these days that the Ingalls family doesn’t know the fate of Almanzo Wilder and Cap Garland, who had not returned from their trip to find seed wheat prior to the start of the blizzard.

Music for “Great in the Lord” can be found in Laura’s singing school book, The Conqueror. In These Happy Golden Years, one of the town activities participated in by Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder during their courtship was singing school. There were classes held in De Smet from February through April 1884, conducted by a Mr. Forbush. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that singing school was taught by Mr. Clewett; Frank Clewett had taught the De Smet (academic) school during the spring 1883 term. A homesteader in neighboring Clark County, Mr. Clewett often lived in De Smet prior to moving to California in the 1890s. It is possible that he taught a singing school that was never mentioned in the local newspapers.

The Conqueror was written by C.E. Leslie and R.H. Randall and published in 1880 by the The Chicago Music Company. Leslie wrote a number of hymnals and singing school books, and he traveled widely, promoting his program and holding classes in a number of states. Many of the songs in The Conqueror were composed by Leslie or Randall. Laura’s singing school book originally sold for seventy-five cents and is today on display at the Laura Ingalls Wilder / Rose Wilder Lane Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. The book begins as Wilder wrote in These Happy Golden Years, with an explanation of notes, rests, and clefs. It then continues with simple exercises, starting with “do re mi fa sol la si do” and moving on to simple songs.

Laura Ingalls Wilder went into more detail about singing school in both the Pioneer Girl manuscripts and the manuscript for These Happy Golden Years. Obviously an important and pleasant memory from her young adulthood, she included complete lyrics for a number of songs which were omitted from the published These Happy Golden Years. Although “Great is the Lord” is found in The Conqueror, Wilder did not mention the song in any Pioneer Girl manuscript in connection with either singing school or the winter of 1880-1881. Though The Conqueror was published in 1880, it seems highly unlikely that the Ingalls family had access to the songbook version of the song during the Hard Winter. It is possible, however, that Wilder referred to her old songbook when working on her Hard Winter manuscript and selecting songs to include.

(from The Conqueror)

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be prais-ed;
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be prais-ed;
Great is the Lord, great is the Lord,
Great is the Lord, greatly to be praised.

In the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness;
In the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness,
Great Is the Lord our God.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.

Great is the Lord, great is the Lord,
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.
Great is the Lord, Great is the Lord,
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
Great is the Lord, Great is the Lord.


1 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
2 Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
3 God is known in her palaces for a refuge.
4 For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.
5 They saw it, and so they marveled; they were troubled, and hastened away.
6 Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
7 Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.
8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it forever.
9 We have thought of thy loving kindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.
10 According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness.
11 Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.
12 Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
13 Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.
14 For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.

(from The Long Winter)

Great is the Lord
And greatly to be prais-ed
In the city of our God,
In the mountain of His holiness.


From The Conqueror:




“Great is the Lord” (TLW 28)
     “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised”