1879 - 1975 Hymnal Title: Soul-stirring Songs and Hymns (Rev. ed.) Author of "A Soul Winner for Jesus" in Soul-stirring Songs and Hymns (Rev. ed.) Born: October 31, 1879, Texas.
Died: May 13, 1975, Park Place Nursing Home, Mart, Texas.
Buried: Faulkenberry Cemetery, Groesbeck, Texas.
James W. Ferrill was born on Oct. 31, 1879, and raised on a farm at Davis Prairie near Thornton in Limestone County, TX, outside of Grosbeck and about thirty miles east of Waco. His family were members of the church of Christ, and he became a Christian too. At about age fifteen he began his study of music under J. E. Thomas and Franklin L. Eiland. After graduating from North Texas Normal College at Denton, TX, where he received his teacher’s degree, he began conducting singing schools with his first one at Forace Chapel near Grosbeck in 1901.
Continuing to teach singing schools regularly from then through 1932, Ferrell sometimes held up to fifteen schools a year. His love for music brought him employment with first the Trio Music Co. of Waco, TX, and he went to Louisiana for a time selling their music books. But while attending a convention in 1904 at Tiger Prairie, he ran into J. E. Thomas, his former teacher and the owner of the Quartet Music Co. With Thomas’s encouragement, Ferrell then became a stockholder and director in the Quartet Music Co. and remained with them about thirty years. In 1905, he took a more thorough music course with the Analytical New Light Normal School of Music in Waco, and on Dec. 20 of that year he married Callie B. Anderson.
While Ferrill was taking the New Light course, the class was given the assignment to write words to the title, "I Want To Be A Soul Winner For Jesus." After the class was finished, he continued to work on it for two more years before submitting it to a publisher. It was copyrighted in 1907 by the Quartet Music Co. In 1932, the Ferrills returned to Davis Prairie and lived on the approximately 65 acre farm left to him by his mother. They stayed there until 1967. In addition to farming, he taught music at every opportunity, and during his life, he published around forty hymns. His last days were spent at the Park Place Nursing Home in Mart, TX, where he died in 1973 at the age of 94.
Another hymn by Ferrill that have been used in several of our hymnbooks is "Wonderful City of God." Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century, "A Soulwinner for Jesus" appeared in the 1938/1944 (New) Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs for the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
J. W. Ferrill