Charles William Everest was born in East Windsor, Conn. in 1814. He graduated from Washington College (now Trinity College) in Hartford in 1838, was ordained in 1842 and became rector (pastor) of Grace Episcopal Church in Hamden. To supplement his meager salary, the next year he established the Rectory School, a boarding school for boys. Instruction in military tactics was included in the curriculum. Horsemanship being a necessary skill at the time, ponies were kept for student use in a barn. The Rectory School was modestly successful, enrolling as many as 65 students, but after a series of fires was forced to close in 1873. Everest died in Waterbury in 1877.
The church and the barn are still standing, neither in its original location. The church was moved directly across Dixwell Avenue in 1966. The barn, originally behind the present site of the church, was moved to Town Center Park in 2001.
While Everest was a student at Washington College he composed a poem entitled “Take Up Thy Cross,” inspired by a verse in the gospel of Matthew (16:24): “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
In 1845, Everest published a book of poetry entitled Vision of Death and Other Poems, including “Take Up Thy Cross.”It consists of five stanzas, each with four lines of iambic tetrameter. Stanzas in this configuration are said to be in long meter, and easily set to music for a hymn. In 1861 it appeared as text only, without any musical setting, in a British collection entitled Hymns Ancient and Modern, which included only one other American hymn.
The editor of the collection made some changes to Everest’s text, and alterations have continued to be made through the years. One of the stanzas is sometimes omitted, and a final stanza, a doxology invoking the Holy Trinity, is sometimes added.
It has continued to be included in hymnals used by many denominations including Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Congregationalist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian, appearing in some newer collections with the title “Take Up Your Cross”.
It has been set to many different long meter hymn tunes, among them “Erhalt uns, Herr”, harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Everest also composed a hymn tune with the name “Alexander”. Although it is also in long meter, it has never appeared in a hymnal with the words of “Take Up Thy Cross.”
CLICK HERE to view a YouTube video of "Take Up Your Cross," the Choir's recessional hymn at the 9:00 o'clock Mass on Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011, at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church, in Fairchance, PA.
Hartley, Rachel. The History of Hamden, Connecticut 1786-1959. pp. 252-253.
Becker, Martha May and Sachse, Nancy Davis, Hamden: Our Architectural Heritage. 1986. p. 123.
Everest, Charles W. Vision of Death; and Other Poems.1845. Available at Google Books: