Behind the Hymn Sunday: In the Sweet By and By

The happy song, In the Sweet By and By, came from a moment of depression.

Joseph Webster

Joseph Webster

Joseph Webster, a composer, was friends with Dr. Sandford Bennett.

Joseph Webster was born in the east in 1819. As a young man he studied music with Lowell Mason. In his thirties, he moved west settling in Elkhorn, Wisconsin in 1857. He is said to have written more than a thousand tunes.

Dr. Sanford Fillmore Bennett, a man that enjoyed writing verses, moved to Elkhorn in 1861. He started out owning a drugstore, while he studied and earned his medical degree. He wrote a number of prose and poetry throughout his life.

The two men beca

me good friends and it is said that Dr. Bennett could read Webster “like a book.”

Webster, carrying a violin under his arm, was depressed one day when he went to see Dr. Bennett. The good doctor asked him “what’s the trouble now.”

‘Oh, nothing,’ came the dejected reply. ‘Everything will be alright by and by.’

Dr. Sanford Fillmore Bennett

Dr. Sanford Fillmore Bennett

Dr. Bennett pondered on those words, while Webster and two other patients stood by the stove to stay warm.

The doctor scribbled hastily before handing Webster a piece of paper with three verses and the course. “Here is your prescription, Joe,” he told his friend.

The story goes that Webster was taken with the lyrics and wrote the melody in even less time than the lyrics were written.

Dr. Bennett said “It was not over thirty minutes from the time I took my pen to write the words before two friends with Webster and myself were singing the hymn.” Webster than took his violin and began to play the song. The four men in the shop gave the song a try. Another customer entered while they were singing the song and remarked “Gentleman, I have never heard that song before but it is immortal.”

The song has remained immortal ever since.


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