Old Rugged Cross Museum In Financial Trouble
When the Reverend George Bennard penned the church hymn the “Old Rugged Cross” in 1912 in Albion, it’s a virtual certainty he had no idea how far and wide the impact would be. Albion was where the hymn was first performed. It gained more notoriety over the years. Evangelist Billy Sunday began featuring the hymn at his revivals before 1920. But it may have been country music star Ernest Tubbs who put the hymn in front of America as he selected it for the title song of his 1952 gospel album. Since then a long list of America’s most influential recording artists have performed the hymn, from the Oak Ridge Boys, to June Carter, to Alan Jackson.
The Reverend Bennard sold the rights to the hymn early on and never saw the financial rewards of his work. He retired in the northern Michigan town of Reed City. A memorial cross went up there in 1954. In 1968, a local building was repurposed as a county museum and then became the Old Rigged Cross Historical Museum. It has housed mementos from the Reverend’s home and some related items. But it’s running short of money and may soon be forced to close. The Detroit News reports there just isn’t enough money in the local municipal or county budget to make up for the shortfall. There’s no word how much longer it can remain open but it won’t be long. The museum is trying to sell memberships at $10 a month to plug the financial hole.