Harriet Rhue Hatchett was an educator, missionary, musician, and writer/composer of songs,
hymns and poems. In the First World War, the Canadian armed forces chose a hymn she had
written, entitled “The Sacred Spot,” as the official marching song of the Canadian troops. The
fact that the military chose a Black woman’s composition to inspire and encourage Canadian
soldiers is indeed a milestone decision for those times.
Hatchett was one of 16 children. She was born in North Buxton, southwestern Ontario.
North Buxton was a sanctuary community, co-founded by former Black slaves and Irish-born
clergyman and abolitionist Reverend William King Buxton. North Buxton was part of the
Underground Railroad that helped refugees of slavery coming from the United States. Hatchett’s
parents were slaves who fled Maryland and settled in North Buxton to live in freedom.
Religion and music formed the centre of Hatchett family life. Reverend King recognized
Harriet Hatchett’s talents early on, and with his encouragement, she studied music at Chatham
Collegiate Institute. Sometime around 1911, she earned a “Certificate for School Music,”
qualifying her to teach music. She then taught in the Chatham area for a time.
At the urging of Reverend King and her mother, Hatchett went to Kentucky to teach former
slaves and their children. There, she met and married Millard Hatchett in 1892, continuing to
teach as she started a family. Around 1903 or 1904, the Hatchetts moved to North Buxton with
their three daughters. Unfortunately, the little girls fell ill and died. Hatchett suffered greatly
from grief and despair, but with courage and determination, she channelled her sorrow into her
music and her faith.
Hatchett’s musical influences were mostly from American hymnbooks, but also included
European sacred music. As a lifelong Baptist Christian, Hatchett was most familiar with hymns
from the Baptist Gospel tradition. One of her best-known hymns was “Jesus Tender Shepherd
Lead Us,” which she wrote in 1919, copyrighted and for which she sold sheet music.

Sadly, racism and sexism likely prevented Hatchett from finding work as a music teacher when
she returned to Canada from Kentucky. But she was a resourceful woman and a tireless
community leader. For example, she organized a choir for white churches in the area and
welcomed children to her home to teach them music, including playing instruments and readying
them for performance. Hatchett’s faith underpinned all her educational and musical activities,
and she did not charge a fee when she taught children. It is said that she strove to be an example
to children of how to live a Christian life.
Hatchett remained highly in demand as a teacher, singer, pianist and composer, well known and
respected in her community and beyond. She was versatile, able to play classical and popular
music, as well as hymns. Tragically, although Hatchett wrote the words and music for countless
hymns, spirituals and children’s songs, most were lost in fires over the years.
Harriet Rhue Hatchett died in 1958, at 94 years of age.
(Sources: “Canadian Baptist Women” by Sharon Bowler; “100 More Canadian Heroines” by
Merna Forster; “Chronicles and Connectedness of Canadian Church Music Composers” by
Natasha Walsh of York University; )