Posted by: rcottrill | March 22, 2010

Today in 1819 – Joseph Webster Born

Joseph Philbrick Webster was born in Manchester, New York. He studied music under Lowell Mason, and was skilled in playing the flute, violin and piano. In addition to giving music lessons, Webster directed a quartet, and wrote over a thousand secular ballads and hymns. The most popular of the former was Lorena, for which Webster wrote the tune. A song about a lost love, it was popular during the Civil War.

The years creep slowly by, Lorena,
The snow is on the grass again.

During the latter years of his life, Joseph Webster lived in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Of his hymns and gospel songs, the only one that is still in use is Sweet By and By, for which Webster again wrote a tune for Sanford Bennett’s text. (For the full story of the song, see Today in 1836.)

There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.

In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

Here is a rendering of the Bennett/Webster song, sung as a congregational hymn, without accompaniment. Just lovely! Wouldn’t you be delighted to have parts-singing like this in your church? (If you do, God is greatly blessing you!)

(2) Today in 1836 – Edgar Stites Born
Edgar Page Stites was a direct descendant of John Howland, who came to America on the Mayflower. He served in the Civil War, and then became a pilot on the Delaware River. He was licensed to preach by the Methodist denomination and for a time served as a missionary in Dakota. Mr. Stites was the cousin of hymn writer Eliza Hewitt, and he wrote a number of hymns himself, including Trusting Jesus, and Beulah Land. (For Trusting Jesus, see the second item under Today in 1888.)

The word “Beulah” is Hebrew for married, and it is found in Isa. 62:4, which says:

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah [beloved of the Lord], and your land Beulah; For the LORD delights in you, And your land shall be married.

The text refers prophetically to the special relationship the nation of Israel will have with Jehovah God in Christ’s coming Kingdom, and the tender affection He has for her. In the New Testament, the comparison of the marriage relationship to that between Christ and His church (II Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25) provides a similar assurance. For Edgar Stites, the image of Israel’s place of blessing paralleled the joy of his own fellowship with the Lord.

I’ve reached the land of corn and wine,
And all its riches freely mine;
Here shines undimmed one blissful day,
For all my night has passed away.

O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land,
As on thy highest mount I stand,
I look away across the sea,
Where mansions are prepared for me,
And view the shining glory shore,
My heav’n, my home forever more!

My Saviour comes and walks with me,
And sweet communion here have we;
He gently leads me by His hand,
For this is heaven’s border land.


  1. […] The creation of the song, words and music, took only thirty minutes. Finally, the two men called over a couple of acquaintances, and they sang the hymn “Sweet By and By” for the first time. Someone just entering the store stood listening to the impromptu quartet. With tears in his eyes he exclaimed afterward, “That hymn is immortal!” (For a bit more about Webster and a lovely rendering of the song, see Today in 1819.) […]

  2. Hello Bro Robert,

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and letting me know about your blog, indeed its a wonderful repository of information.
    I love it and will keep checking it more often.
    Yes, I like hymns and by God’s grace I’m blessed with a church that sings hymns and plays godly music. I and my friend recently have been discussing about the influence of music in various aspects of christianity especially missions.
    I think God got me introduced to you in the right time. Is there an email addrss I contact you brother?
    Thanks again for dropping by my blog.

    truly in Christ,

    • Thanks for the encouragement! Your comment about “a church that sings hymns and plays godly music” reminded me of something. (You’re not from Calgary, Alberta, are you?) One time when my wife and I were visiting that city, I looked in the Yellow Pages of the phone book for a church we might attend on the Sunday. And right in the church advertisement it talked about their godly music. We went there and were not disappointed! The pastor and his wife have been friends ever since. God bless you.

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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