Growing up in the small East Tennessee church that I did, hymns and the songs of faith we sang became woven into my being at an early age. From as far back as I can remember life revolved around church, Sunday School and singing in the choir when was a little boy. I recall singing the songs: “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”, “In the Sweet By and By” and “How Great Thou Art” and the joy I felt as we sang them in the choir. I knew the words to all these songs and would sing with all my might and at the top of my lung, especially when it came to the chorus. But as a child, I never really grasped the meanings of the words I sang nor the hope they gave. But just like the writer of Sweet Beulah Land, I remember the look on the faces of the saints as they would look toward heaven and sing.
One song I often wondered why we would sing was Beulah Land. To a 7 or 8 year old, the song seemed sad and wasn’t upbeat like the others. A few of the church members would have tears streaming down their face. I mistook their tears as tears of sadness instead of tears of joy. I didn’t understand the meaning of it and couldn’t relate to the longing of heaven, that the others could. But as the years have gone by and I’ve grown into a man, things have changed and those words which we sang, now have come alive in me. What once seemed to be a sad and depressing song now offers me hope, a promise, a peace and a joy that await us there.
Recently I reached out to Squire’s office and learned how this song came to be written.
When I was about 9 years old, Squire begins, my father was the Song Leader in our small country church in Newton, West Virginia. One of the songs he would lead the congregation in singing was a song called, “Is This the Land of Beulah”. It seemed my Father’s face would glow and the entire congregation seemed to be swept up into a wonderful prospect of the eternal land about which they were singing. That image stayed with me for years, Squire recalls, all through my young years and I would often remember thinking, Dad was looking into Beulah Land as he sang the song.
It wasn’t until years later, Squire recalls, that I was driving to my teaching job and thinking back to that service in our little church and I was humming the same sweet song. And just as I topped one of the mountains on my drive in, I was faced with a view of the brilliant sun and all its glory. While still thinking about to the scene in our church I suddenly began to sing again, only this time it was a different song, one I had never heard or sung before. Squire states, I was singing the chorus to what became my most known song, “Sweet Beulah Land”.
I traveled on to school and when arrived before the student that morning. I sat there and wrote a verse to go with the chorus that had just been born. I put the song away and another five years went by before I wrote the second verse. From there it was that I recorded the song, Sweet Beulah Land and it launched me into the ministry of traveling as a gospel singer and songwriter.
The song Sweet Beulah Land was written in 1973 and recorded by Squire in 1979. In 1981 it became a #1 song and was awarded Song of the Year by the Singing News Fan Awards. It has been recorded countless times by a multitude of artist including the Gaither Vocal Band, The Chuck Wagon Gang, Jason Crabb, and Lynda Randall among others. The term Beulah land is defined by Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress as “the peaceful land in which the pilgrim awaits the call to the Celestial City”.