Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (August 18, 1856, Wilton, Iowa – September 14, 1932, Hollywood, California) was a writer of gospel songs and composer of gospel tunes. He is said to have written and/or composed between 7,000 and 8,000 songs, many of which are available in 21st century hymnals. He used several pseudonyms, including Charlotte G. Homer, H. A. Henry, and S. B. Jackson.
Charles Hutchinson Gabriel was born in Wilton, Cedar County, Iowa, and raised on a farm. His father led singing schools in their home, and young Charles developed an interest in music. It is said that he taught himself to play the family’s reed organ. Even though he never had any formal training in music, he began to travel and lead his own singing schools in various locations around the age of 17.
His musical talent was well recognized in his boyhood home of Wilton. There is one folklore story, that the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Wilton (Pastor Pollock or McAulay) once saw Gabriel walking in town early in the week. He asked Gabriel if he knew a good song to go along with his sermon. The pastor shared the sermon topic and by the end of the week the boy had written a song for that Sunday, words and music. The Rev. N. A. McAulay was a pastor at the Wilton church for many years, and it is also said that young Gabriel wrote the music for one of McAulay’s songs. The song, “How Could it Be,” was later published in Songs for Service, edited by Gabriel, with the music being credited to “Charles H. Marsh,” possibly one of Gabriel’s pseudonyms.
Eventually he served as music director at Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, San Francisco, California (1890-2). While working at Grace Church, he was asked to write a song for a mission celebration. He wrote “Send the Light,” which became his first commercial song. He moved to Chicago, Illinois, and in 1912 he began working with Homer Rodeheaver’s publishing company.
Gabriel was married twice, first to Fannie Woodhouse, which ended in divorce, and later to Amelia Moore. One child was born to each marriage.
He died in Hollywood, California. Gabriel wrote an autobiography titled Sixty Years of Gospel Song (Chicago, Illinois: Hope Publishing Company, undated).