Henry Burton was born in 1841 in Leicestershire, the son of farmers Henry Burton and Frances Earp.
Sometime between 1851 and 1860, the family moved to Illinois. Henry Burton attended Beloit College in Wisconsin, where he later recalled that "it was in the fall of 1857 that with fear and trembling I passed the Lighted Door of the Academy, which was then under the mastership of that prince of teachers, John P. Fisk, whose brother at that time occupied the Chair of Rhetoric and English Literature. In the year '58 we matriculated as the class of '62--the largest Freshman class the College had known. There were no elective studies in those days, and no specializing; the curriculum was well stereotyped, and in our excelsioring up the Alps we straitly followed the beaten path of our predecessors. If one may be allowed to criticise the curriculum of the early '60s we should say that it attempted too much; it was extensive rather than intensive; it lost in depth what it gained in breadth, while its estimate of the practical values of the subjects required was set too low. The coming of the "majors" has remedied this defect."
After graduation, he became a preacher in the local Methodist Episcopal Church. After serving for six months as a pastor in Monroe, Wisconsin, he returned to England and entered the Wesleyan ministry.
Henry Burton married Ellen Williams Pearse, the sister of Wesleyan preacher and author Rev. Mark Guy Pearse.
Henry Burton's "Wayside Songs of the Outer and Inner Life," a book of poetry, was published in 1886, and his Commentary on St. Luke was his contribution to the multivolume Expositor's Bible, and was published in 1890. In 1926, Henry Burton was elected to honorary membership by the Hymn Writers Society of New York. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library reports that "His famous little poem titled "Pass It On" has been set to music by no less than ten different composers."
As of 1923, Henry Burton was living in West Kirby, England. Henry Burton died in 1930.
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