de Fluiter, Henry (1872–1970)
By Dan Shultz
Dan Shultz, emeritus professor of music, Walla Walla University, has researched and written extensively about Seventh-day Adventist music history and musicians. His publications include A Great Tradition–a history of music at Walla Walla University, and the Adventist Musicians Biographical Resource–an encyclopedia with biographies of over 1100 Adventist musicians. He founded the International Adventist Musicians Association, serving as its president for ten years and editing its publications and website for over thirty years. Shultz and his wife, Carolyn (nee Stevens), live in College Place, Washington.
First Published: January 29, 2020
Henry (Hendricus) de Fluiter was a singing evangelist and prolific writer of gospel music in the early decades of the twentieth century.
Early Life and Family
De Fluiter was born in Hilversum, Holland, on August 29, 1872, the son of Franz and Johanna Maria Jansen de Fluiter, devout members of the Dutch Reformed Church. His parents emigrated to the United States in 1881, when he was nine, and settled in Cleveland, Ohio.1 Within a year of their arrival, Henry attended a Dwight L. Moody evangelistic meeting where Ira Sankey was singing and leading the music. The singing made such an impression on the boy that he decided he wanted to be a singer and song leader in evangelistic meetings.2
When his parents moved a few years later to Ravenna, Ohio, Henry stayed in Cleveland, where he boarded with the musically active Martin family, who were Methodists. Mr. Martin was a sign painter, and Henry trained to do the same. While he was living there, the family and Henry took Bible studies from Willard H. Saxby, a Seventh-day Adventist minister, which led to Henry’s accepting the beliefs of that church. By coincidence, his parents had converted to the Adventist Church at the same time without his knowledge. He was baptized in Lake Erie in 1899 at age 27.3
On July 23, 1899, Henry married Elsie Lenora Huffaker.4 They had four children, Dallas, Ruth Lenore (Duffney), Victor, and Henry Jr. In 1924, Henry and Elsie divorced. In 1932, Henry married Alyce Leoma Guest.5
After joining the Adventist Church, de Fluiter began to become involved in evangelistic meetings, singing and leading music with several evangelists, and painting signs that announced the events. While he had dabbled in writing songs for special occasions while directing choirs in his teenage years, he wrote his first significant song, Matthew Twenty-four, in 1902, inspired by D. E. Lindsey’s preaching on the prophecies in that chapter of Matthew’s gospel. His knowledge of music theory was limited, and this first song, along with other early and later ones, had to be harmonized by someone else.6
In all, de Fluiter wrote more than 200 songs. To some extent he was continuing the work of Franklin E. Belden, who had written numerous hymns and gospel songs during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The lasting impact of Belden’s work, however, has remained greater. While 22 of Belden's hymn tunes were included in the 1941 Church Hymnal and sixteen in the 1985 Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, these hymnals each included only two of de Fluiter’s compositions, albeit not the same two. The 1941 hymnal included “God Bless and Keep You” (#38) and “Tell It to Every Kindred and Nation” (#543). The compilers of the 1985 hymnal selected “Hail Him the King of Glory” (#202) and “Over Yonder” (#431).
From 1914 to 1916, de Fluiter worked with Charles T. Everson in New York City, where he provided the music and organized a large choir. It was the World War I era, and de Fluiter picked up on the popularity of the song “Over There” in composing “Over Yonder,” which became a favorite in evangelistic campaigns of that time.7
De Fluiter’s association with H. M. S. Richards’ evangelistic campaigns and eventual radio broadcasts in California began in 1926 and would continue for twelve years. This involvement led to greater recognition for his musical leadership and song writing.8
De Fluiter pastored churches in addition to his musical and evangelistic work during his 68 years of Adventist ministry. He died in Azusa, California, on March 5, 1970, at age 97.9
Boucher, Sharon. “A Song in His Heart.” The Youth’s Instructor, October 26, 1954.
“Henry De Fluiter obituary,” Review and Herald, May 7, 1970, 41.
Minchin-Comm, Dorothy. “Sing Along with Uncle Henry: The Story of Henry de Fluiter.” Adventist Heritage 14, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 27–33.
“Hendricus de Fluiter, Netherlands,” GenealogieOnline Trees Index, 1000-2015; U.S. Naturalization Records, 1840–1957, March 11, 1937, both at Ancestry.com.↩
Dorothy Minchin-Comm, “Sing Along with Uncle Henry: The Story of Henry de Fluiter,” Adventist Heritage 14, no. 1 (Spring 1991): 27, 28; Sharon Boucher, “A Song in His Heart,” Youth’s Instructor, October 26, 1954, 13.↩
Boucher, “A Song in His Heart,” 13, 14.↩
1900 U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry.com.↩
1900 and 1910 U.S. Federal Census; Colorado Divorce Index, 1851–1985, July 27, 1924; Arizona County Marriage Records, 1865–1972, April 11, 1932, Yuma, Arizona; all at Ancestry.com.↩
Minchin-Comm, “Sing Along with Uncle Henry,” 30.↩
Ibid., 30, 31.↩
“Henry De Fluiter obituary,” Review and Herald, May 7, 1970, 41.↩