Franklin Lycurgus Eiland
Brief Sketch Of The Life Of F.L. Eiland
Franklin L. Eiland was born March 25, 1860 in Noxumbee County, Mississippi. When he was a child, he moved with his family to Texas. Early in his life he learned to love music and to compose words and music. When he was seventeen, he attended a singing school taught by Miss Sally Campbell.
In the early 1880's he was married to Miss Mary Nesbett. She traveled with him, helping him in his work. Their only son, Knowles Shaw Eiland was born January 1, 1909.
In 1893 he became a singing partner with J.E. Thomas. They published their first songbook entitled The Promised Crown in 1894. In 1895, Eiland, J.E. Thomas and John M. Greer of Ellijah, Georgia, organized the Trio Music Company at Waco, Texas. Its first songbook was The Dawning Light. Soon others were added to the company, among them Emmett S. Dean and H.W. Elliott. This company printed many books. In 1896 Eiland produced a music periodical, The Musical Trio, which enjoyed a sizeable circulation.
In 1898 he established the Southern Development Normal (S.D.N.) in Waco, Texas. This company flourished in the south and southwest. The S D N Theory of Music, which is perhaps the best rudiment book ever published came from this school. Elliott and Dean, composers of "The Lord Is My Shepherd" (c. 1905) and "Ye Are the Light of the World" (c. 1908) were very adept teachers and song writers who had been tutored by Eiland.
Southern Development Normal likely did more toward the advancement of Christian song composition than any other school, and its impact is greatly felt today because of Eiland's unusual ability to teach and write sacred music, and because of the many persons who attended and later penned numerous songs of lasting quality. Courses offered included theory, harmony, composition, and voice. The highly respected Dr. J.B. Herbert, composer of "What Shall It Profit?," was another instructor, along with J.B. Vaughan. In his work brother Eiland was associated with several very capable persons in sacred music including in addition to the aforementioned, Knowles Shaw ("Bringing In the Sheaves"), J.R. Rosecrans ("There Is a Habitation"), H.N. Lincoln (a later teacher of L.O. Sanderson), Robert Lowry ("Shall We Gather At the River?"), W.J. Kirkpatrick ("Hallelujah Praise Jehovah"), Charles H. Gabriel ("God Is Calling the Prodigal", James McGranahan ("I Will Sing of My Redeemer"), E.R. Latta ("Live For Jesus"), and James D. Vaughan ("I Feel Like Traveling On"). Many other songs that churches of Christ utilize today were penned by these writers.
In 1904 Tillit S. Teddlie, who later proved to be one of the most able song writers our brethren have had with such compositions as "Heaven Holds All to Me" and "Worthy Art Thou," studied theory and harmony under the scholarly Dr. J.B. Herbert. Although Eiland was sick at the time and not able to teach in the school, he later tutored Teddlie by correspondence. Eiland, in fact, helped Teddlie with the first song that Teddlie published "Round the Hills In Galilee," in 1907.
Other early students who sat at the feet of Eiland include Thomas S. Cobb (later along with Austin Taylor to edit several hymnals for the Firm Foundation), J.W. Acuff, author of "Just Over in the Glory Land" (1906), W.D. Evridge, composer of "For the Soul That's Redeemed" (1906), J.W. Ferrill, writer of "A Soul Winner For Jesus" (1907), Mark D. Ussery, author of "Don't Let Your Light Burn Low," and Ira D. Brister, who authored "Not A Step Without Jesus." Eiland's school drew large numbers of students from Texas and other states. Teachers of great ability were trained and one of his best song books, The Gospel Gleaner, was edited during that period.
Ira D. Brister wrote of Eiland that he knew how to help others "feel what they sang and sing what they felt." In correspondence with this writer several years ago Tillit S. Teddlie stated that all the songs he had written since boyhood days when he learned Of Eiland were inspired by Eiland's songs. Eiland however was not to have a lengthy career of service for the Lord because of health problems.
He was not healthy even as a child, and in his adult years he was often sick. In the winter of 1909 he conducted a singing school in Golden, Texas, the boyhood home of Tillit S. Teddlie. During this time he became ill with pneumonia and died there on December 3. Some days before, he had written "Singing a Wonderful Song." He was only 49 years old. George W. Winningham, R.E. Campbell, R.L. Powell, and Woodie Valentine sang several of his songs at his funeral including his well-known "From the Cross to the Crown," (written in 1895), and "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand." Other notable songs of Eiland include "Where the Blood Can Heal," "Trusting In Jesus, O Wonderful Theme" (sung when Tillit S. Teddlie obeyed the gospel), "For Him, My Lord," "Beautiful Gleanings Bring," "Don't You Want to Be Ready?," "Lean on His Arm," "Singing A Wonderful Song," and "Too Late." He penned some 120 songs and assisted in some 100 others. Many of his songs published by the Firm Foundation Publishing House have been used through the years.
Brother Eiland was a very loveable person. He was a musical genius who sang with a rich bass voice and left us a multitude of the most beautiful songs ever written. George W. Winningham spoke of him as "a poet and musician who breathed into his songs such beauty, eloquence and pathos that they persuaded more sinners to repentance than the songs of any other writer of his generation."
Music was a great part of the life of the Eiland family. His daughter, Oree Walker, was an accomplished pianist, and very musically inclined. She had a daughter named Cindy. Cindy Walker was a widely known and respected songwriter in the Country Music industry. Some of her music was recorded by Bob Wills, Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and Eddy Arnold. With nearly 500 song writing credits she was the first woman to be inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 1970. She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame as well. Cindy Walker passed away in March, 2006 at the age of 87.
Only eternity knows the amount of musical influence F.L. Eiland and his family have had upon humanity.
-Sources: Our Garden Of Song, A Book Of Biography Of Song Writers of the Church of Christ and Articles and Other Items of Interest Of Our Worship In Song, Edited By Gene C. Finley, Howard Publishing Company, West Monroe, LA.; Also, Jeffcoat, W.D., F.L. Eiland And Southern Development Normal, Firm Foundation, September, 1995. Also, Various Internet Sites Reporting The Life, Accomplishments, And Death Of Cindy Walker
"Leaving the home of a friend whom, my companion and I in other days had visited,
looking back upon the house, (the cross) and thence to the sun (the crown)
just peeping up from behind the Eastern hills in all of its brilliancy and splendor,
this title (From The Cross To The Crown) was suggested."
-F.L. Eiland, Carlton, Texas, September 10, 1899
FRANKLIN L. EILAND
In His Early Texas Period
Herein for the first time is printed the story of brother Eiland during the first dozen years after he, at age 18, and his people came from Noxubee County, Mississippi, in 1878 to Robertson County, Texas, where they settled. It's very well known that Franklin, a son of plantation life, knew by heart every Negro song and story thereon. He was a fine entertainer. His pious Methodist mother now encouraged him to enroll in a music school taught by beautiful, inspiring Miss Sally Campbell. She at once sensed his vast musical potentials, appointed him as her assistant, in which school for only a few months this young musical genius received the only formal schooling of all his life.
Filled with confidence and high hopes, he spent all time available at the farm home where he lived studying music. All the way through henceforth Frank was selftaught. Thus he was pointed out by great teachers as a shining example, and still is pointed out, to show how Eiland without formal schooling and with many handicaps, kept going onward and upward, so that when he reached the summit of his career, he all but held the gospel-singing-world of all the South in his hands. This climax came in about the year 1901 when he published his Gospel Gleaner song book, perhaps his best one. Tillet Teddlie declared Eiland songs inspired him to write all his songs. Young song leaders and college teachers of sacred music oft inquire about the how and the why of Eiland's phenominal march to fame. Let Eiland, himself, give the secret in lines so often quoted in music journals:
"I'm seeking not the praise of men, in theory nor in song;
People that knew him say that his rare spiritual qualities and character is the secret. "He gave us all the best in subject matter, plus character, life, love for people and for things true and good. He studied to couch his poetry in words at the level of the masses. Simplicity was written all over his life and works. He wrote and sang for Go and not for man’s glory. He had not place for display or show.”
Brother Alex Nesbitt First-Hand Knowledge Of Eiland’s Early Musical Career In Texas, 1880-1892
Here is, perhaps, the happiest period in all the career of Frank and his wife, Mary, as they sang, composed and taught as partners in Robertson and near-by counties. This is when Frank gathered momentum for his later onward march. Out at Abilene, Texas, is a faithful Christian, Alex Nisbett, now 93, whose sister, Mary Nisbett Eiland, was for nine years the happy and inspiring wife of Franklin Lycurges Eiland, and to whom he was married in 1884 in the Wooten Wells vicinity, on her mother's farm. Brother Nisbett loved Frank and Mary dearly and pays high tribute to Frank's sterling worth, his love for humanity, his humility, honesty and goodness of life. He tells the secret of his high rank as writer, teacher and singer, and his originality in all he did, even in studying and teaching God's word. He copied from none. Nisbett depicted vividly the dramatic religious period Frank went through in quest of "The New Testament Way," and how he and Mary taught many.
A high point Nisbett relates is the building of a boarding school of vocal music in a hotel Frank and Mary rented at Wooten Wells from J. W. Massey in 1885, whose wife, Georgia Eiland, was a sister of Frank. From localities in nearby counties came students to enroll in this, the first such boarding school in Texas, perhaps. Here was the foundation for the largest such school in the South, which Eiland developed, beginning about 1898 at Waco, known as the Southern Development Normal. The hotel was soon a center for missionary work by Frank and Mary after they were baptized by a lovable gospel preacher, J. R. Lane of Marlin, Texas. This dedicated couple, filled with new zeal to save and bless humanity, still young and vigorous, did much personal work teaching friends while building a great school, in which Christian education was evident. Here, daily, the classes were opened with Bible reading and prayer. Around the dining room tables a sort of open forum was held, purely informal. For years the school continued to grow and serve as a shining light. Frank and Mary were satisfied to make only a bare living. Frank was often called into the territory to sing in meetings, at song conventions, and even to preach in places that were not able to pay a preacher. Tillet Teddlie related that in later years when brother Eiland was invited to preach for a strong church in Golden, Texas (where Eiland died, December 3, 1909) he declined because, said he, "There are others who have attained toward the high calling farther than I."
How The Gospel Advocate Was Linked With The Eilands And Nisbetts
In their personal work in the hotel Frank and Mary were anxious to teach Alex Nisbett and wife the simple faith they had embraced. Alex brought his wife-to-be to Wooten Wells in 1892. They were married there and were guests of the Eilands for two months. The Nisbetts departed for Abilene without responding to the teaching of Frank and Mary. Alex had asked the Eilands to ship an organ, belonging to Alex's mother, to Abilene. Frank and Mary had purchased copies of a book of sermons by one of the pioneer Sewell preachers from the Gospel Advocate Company, Alex related. Many had read the book with much interest. Mary conceived the plan to slip a copy into the organ. Within a few weeks a letter from the Nisbetts bore good news of their reading the book carefully and of their having been baptized. They had others read it. The Nisbett's became charter members of the first congregation in Abilene, later known as the old A. C. C. congregation. Thus a little gospel light burning from a single book or paper may shine in many dark corners! Today the Nisbett parents and their children and grandchildren are encouraged by that missionary zeal of Frank and Mary Eiland to press on.
Mary, just under 25 years of age, passed to her eternal reward June 9, 1893. Henceforth for many years Frank was pierced by sorrow, for he loved Mary dearly. He wrote several beautiful hymns in memory of her; also of his mother, Sarah Ann Eiland, who departed soon after Mary.
- Carl A. Gardner - Research Director Eiland Song Service, 2205 Primrose, Fort Worth 11, Texas. A Memorial Edition of F. L. Eiland's Life and Songs is expected to go to press in July. It is a non-profit service. Cloth binding, $1.75. Only a limited number to be printed.
Location of the Grave Of F.L. Eiland
F.L. Eiland is buried in the Bold Springs Cemetery in the town of West, Texas. North Of Waco, take I-35 to exit 351. Get on FM1858 and head west. Turn right on 4 Corners Rd. Go about 1/4 mile and the first cemetery you come to on the left is Brethren Cemetery. The next cemetery, just down from it, is Bold Spring Cemetery. Enter the cemetery and go to the first little road to your left and turn onto it. Eiland's grave will be about 15 to 20 graves down on your right. The marker faces you.
The Dead In Christ Are Only Sleeping