Johnson, Martha Ellen Blockson "Lorena"


The years creep slowly by, Lorena
The snow is on the grass again
The sun’s low down the sky, Lorena
The frost gleams where the flow’rs have been.

But the heart throbs on as warmly now,
As when the summer days were nigh;
Oh, the sun can never dip so low,
A-down affection’s cloudless sky.

A hundred months have passed, Lorena,
Since last I held that hand in mine,
And felt the pulse beat fast, Lorena,
Though mine beat faster far than thine.

A hundred months, ‘twas flowery May,
When up the hilly slope we climbed,
To watch the dying of the day,
And hear the distant church bells chime.

We loved each other then, Lorena,
More than we ever dared to tell;
And what we might have been, Lorena,
Had but our lovings prospered well.

But then, ‘tis part, the years are gone,
I’ll not call up their shadowy forms;
I’ll say to them, “Lost year, sleep on!
Sleep on! No heed life’s pelting storms.”

Words and music by H.D.L. Webster and J.P. Webster

Martha Ellen Blockson Johnson

    The woman who inspired the lyrics and love behind the song, “Lorena,” was actually named Martha Ellen Blockson Johnson. Born on December 8, 1928, “Ella” (as she was called) was born to Judge and Mrs. William Blockson of Zanesville, Ohio. When her parents died, Ella moved in with her sister, Amanda Blockson Brandy, and her brother-in-law, Henry Brandy. Henry employed a young man named, Henry Webster.
    The nineteen year old Ella and the twenty-five year old Henry Webster fell in love. The young couple wanted to get married right away, but Amanda opposed the match. Obeying her older sister, Ella did not marry Henry. Henry left Zanesville in 1851 for Revenue, Ohio and later Chicago, Illinois. 
    Eventually, Ella met and fell in love with William W. W. Johnson. Johnson became a Supreme Court Judge of Ohio. The couple moved to Ironton, Ohio and had two children. Their daughter died in infancy. Their son died at the tender age of fifteen. William and Ella were married for thirty-three years when William died.
    Shortly after William’s death Ella moved to Massachusetts, but only stayed for a short time. She returned to Ironton and her family home on the intersection of 7th and Center Street. She became lonely in the large house by herself, so she moved again. This time she moved to Marietta, Ohio where she had family. She did continue to live by herself even after she lost her sight.
    Upon her death, she was brought back to Ironton to be buried in Woodland Cemetery next to her husband and two children. Her tombstone is located in Section 7.

Henry Webster
    Ella’s former beau, Henry Webster, did marry. His first marriage resulted in two children. When his first wife died, he remarried and had two more children. 
    While preaching at the Universal Church in Madison, Indiana, Henry made a friend who helped immortalize Ella and his love. Joseph Webster (no relation), a New Hampshire native, became friends will Henry. Joseph was a music lover and played four instruments. During a discussion with Henry, Joseph discovered his friend was still in love with Ella. In fact, Henry had written of his love in a poem addressed to Lorena (a.k.a. Ella). Joseph wrote the music to the poem and the resulting song was first published in 1857.
    Henry Webster died in Chicago, Illinois in 1896 at the age of seventy-two.

Joseph Webster
    Joseph settled in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. There he married and fathered four children. 
“Lorena” was not the only song he wrote. During a trip to the pharmacy, he mentioned his health would improve “in the sweet by and by.” The pharmacist, Sanford Fillmore Bennett, took those woods and hastily wrote lyrics. Webster upon seeing the lyrics was inspired to put them to music. The resulting song was “In the Sweet By and By.”

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