Leila Naylor was born in Pennsville, Ohio, USA, on April 15, 1862. She married Charles Morris from the Morris Hardware lineage in 1881, and together they became active in the Methodist Episcopal Church (“Episcopal” because Methodists in the USA had bishops). They lived for 47 years in McConnelsville, Ohio.
At the age of twenty-nine she began writing gospel songs, keeping a writing pad handy in the kitchen as she went about her daily chores. Her songs were used in Methodist Churches and Camp Meetings which she was actively engaged with.
When her eyesight began to fail, at the age of 51, her son erected a huge blackboard, 28 feet long, with music staff lines upon it.
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Altogether about 1000 gospel songs (one historian suggests 1,500) came from her talented pen over 37 years of writing: The Stranger of Galilee; The Fight is On; Nearer, still Nearer; and the great Second Coming hymn, What if it were Today? The favourite Elim Chorus, No. 25, Sweeter as the Days go by, also came from her pen, in 1912.
For most of these, Mrs Morris composed the tune as well as writing the words.
She died on 23 July, 1929.
Younger readers, raised in churches where song lyrics are projected onto screens and hymnbooks have never been used, should consider a time before such technology. Hymnbooks and Chorus books, such as the Elim Choruses, were extremely influential and popular songs had an enduring quality. Where today a song is considered ‘old’ after a year or even a few months in some modern churches, the era of hymnbooks kept good songs in the popular domain for decades.
This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com
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Tags: choruses, elim choruses, hymnwriter, leila naylor, methodists, sweeter as the days go by
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