Besides composing lyrics, Sanford Bennett also worked as a druggist, superintendent of schools, editor of a weekly newspaper and second lieutenant in the Fortieth Wisconsin Volunteers during the Civil War. Joseph P. Webster, the composer of the lyrics of “In the Sweet By and By,” was the composer of the classic Civil War song, “Lorena” and also the music to the popular old-time song, “Wildwood Flower.”
As told by Mr. Bennett: Mr. Joseph Webster, like many musicians, was of an exceeding nervous and sensitive nature, and subject to periods of depression. I found that I could rouse him by giving him a new song on which to work.
He came into my drug store, walked down to the stove, and turned his back on me without speaking. I was at my desk writing. Turning to him I said, “Webster, what is the matter now?” “It’s no matter,” he replied, “it will be all right by and by.”
The idea came to me like a flash of sunlight and I replied, “The Sweet By and By! Why would not that make a good hymn?” “Maybe it would,” said he indifferently. Turning to my desk, I penned the words as fast as I could write. I handed the words to Webster. As he read, his eyes kindled, and stepping to the desk, he began writing the notes. Taking his violin, he played the melody and then jotted down the notes of the chorus. 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. Thankfully, so can we: https://youtu.be/tvagoD8T0u4