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F. L. Eiland and Southern Development Normal

By W. D. Jeffcoat

religion, articles, christianity

Among the names of the past that stand out in brotherhood hymnody is that of Franklin Lycurgus Eiland. Eiland, who was born in Noxubee County, Miss., in 1860, had much to do with setting the trend for superior teaching and quality song writing in the 19th and 20th centuries. Along with J.E. Thomas he edited his first song book in 1892, The Promised Crown, and compiled many books in following years.

J.E. Thomas will be remembered as the writer of "Hallelujah, We Shall Rise" in 1904, and Eiland as the composer of "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand" in 1905. Eiland likewise penned many other compositions, several of which are often sung today.

Eiland founded the Trio Music Company in Waco, Texas, in 1892, along with Thomas and J.M. Greer of Ellijay, Georgia. Greer had taught music with the renowned J.H. Showalter on many occasions. In 1896 Eiland began a music periodical, The Musical Trio, which was to have wide circulation. In 1898 he, along with Homer W. Elliott and Emmett S. Dean, began an advanced music school in Waco. Eiland, the head of the school, called it the Southern Development Normal. 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. Several of his songs were sung 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," 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 Teddlie considered him as the premier of song writers among our people and once described his music to this writer as "soulful music."

Musically, we stand on the shoulders of such men as Franklin Lycurgus Eiland. His accomplishments, not only in song writing and in song book compilation, but in training others in Southern Development Normal and, even today, through The S D N Theory of Music are worthy of our grateful applause and appreciation.

Published September 1995