Hymn Story: Shall We Gather at the River

The hymn was written in 1864, by Robert Lowry, a poet and composer.  Lowry was born in Philadelphia on March 12, 1826.  From an early age he showed a great love for music.   He served as minister at Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York.

Dr. Robert Lowry

Dr. Robert Lowry

He described the inspiration of the song by saying “One hot afternoon in July 1864, I was resting on his sofa, visions of heaven pervaded his senses. I saw the bright golden throne room and a multitude of saints gathered around the beautiful, cool, crystal, river of life. I was filled with a sense of great joy. I began to wonder why there seemed to be many hymns that referenced the river of death, but very few that mentioned the river of life. As I mused, the words and music to Shall We Gather at the River came to his heart and mind.”

The song became a popular song for baptismal, funerals and camp meetings.

Lowry wrote more than 500 hymns, including Low in the Grave He Lay and I Need Thee Every Hour.

Lowry died on November 25, 1899.  Hymnary.org quotes, “Dr. Lowry was a great and good man, and his life, well spent, is highly worthy of a place among the world’s greatest gospel song and hymn writers.”

Shall We Gather at the River is also known as At the River and Hanson Place.

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