1854–1916

Introduction

Born: Feb­ru­a­ry 5, 1854, New Marl­bo­rough, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Died: Oc­to­ber 13, 1916, Man­hat­tan, Kan­sas.

Buried: Wa­baun­see Ce­me­te­ry, Wa­baun­see, Kan­sas.

portrait

Biography

Laura was the daugh­ter of Ed­ward A. Pix­ley, and wife of Laur­en New­ell, a car­pen­ter from Man­hat­tan, Kan­sas (mar­ried 1871). Or­phaned as an in­fant, she was adopt­ed by her aunt, Mrs. Hir­am Ma­bie, who at the time lived in New York.

In 1858, the Ma­bie fa­mi­ly moved to a farm south of where Wa­me­go, Kan­sas, now stands. Two years af­ter the move, Mr. Ma­bie died, and his wife re­sumed teach­ing.

In 1860, Mrs. Ma­bie ac­cept­ed a po­si­tion in To­pe­ka, Kans­as, where she taught ma­ny years. Un­der her tut­el­age, Lau­ra re­ceived her ed­u­ca­tion. as ear­ly as age 12, Lau­ra was writ­ing rhymes, and two years lat­er her po­ems be­gan to ap­pear in lo­cal news­pa­pers. She had no thought of a lit­er­a­ry ca­reer; she simp­ly wrote to give vent to her po­et­ic­al mind.

In 1873, Lau­ra was list­en­ing to an ad­dress by a speak­er who la­ment­ed the death of gen­ui­ne hymns, and she re­solved to try her hand in that line of work. That be­gan a long per­i­od of writ­ing songs, sacr­ed and sec­u­lar, ser­vic­es for an­ni­ver­sa­ry oc­ca­sions, can­ta­tas, adapt­ing words to mu­sic, and mu­sic to words.

She be­longed to the Con­gre­ga­tion­al de­nom­in­a­tion.

Mrs. New­ell is in­deed a pro­lif­ic writ­er. Her po­ems num­ber in the thou­sands. She has had over eight hun­dred poe­ms pub­lished in a sin­gle year, a most re­mark­a­ble record. The great ease with which Mrs. New­ell writes is one of her spe­cial gifts.

Not long since an or­der, acc­om­pan­ied by mu­sic and ti­tles, was sent her for eight po­ems to suit. At sev­en o’clock in the ev­en­ing she sat down to her or­gan to catch the mu­sic. Then she went to her desk, and at ten o’clock the or­der was rea­dy for the re­turn mail. Her work pleased the pub­lish­er so well that he sent her an or­der for for­ty-eight ad­di­tion­al po­ems. Mrs. Newell writes sev­er­al hun­dred po­ems an­nu­al­ly. She is a ve­ry mod­est and un­pre­ten­tious la­dy, and goes about her dai­ly work as cheer­ful­ly as her po­ems ad­vise oth­ers to do.

The deep­ly re­li­gious char­ac­ter of the wo­man stands out bold­ly in near­ly all her work. The next world is ap­par­ent­ly as real to her as the pres­ent. Her heart is in her work, and to the end of life’s chap­ter, while able, may she wield her pen to tell the Sto­ry so dear to her heart, in verse and song.

Hall, pp. 316–17

Lyrics