subject of this sketch, Daniel B. Towner, was born March 5, 1850, at
Rome, Pa., where he was reared, and received an academic education. His
father. Prof. J. G. Towner, was a singer and a music teacher of quite a
reputation, and it was from him that the son received his early musical
At the age of seventeen he was exploited through
Pennsylvania, southern New York and eastern Ohio as " the wonderful boy
bass," appearing in many concerts where he sang the populair bass solos
of the day, such as " Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep," " The Old
Sexton," " Down by the Sea," " The King and the Miller," etc., etc. A
few years later he began to teach vocal music and conduct musical
institutes and conventions. He also gained quite a reputation as an
oratorio baritone soloist. During the years that he was thus engaged he
was studying music with such men as John Howard, of New York, Dr. Geo.
F. Root, of Chicago, Geo. Jas. Webb, of Boston, and others.
his early youth he had dreams of some day being a composer and began to
write songs and anthems even before he had studied harmony. Like many
of our modern gospel song writers he began by writing secular songs,
some humorous, and some sentimental. But as he became more actively
engaged in the conducting of church music, these gave way for the gospel
songs which have made him so widely known.
In December, 1870,
Mr. Towner Avas married to Miss Mary E. McGonigle, who was a beautiful
singer, and they soon settled in Binghamton, N. Y., where he had charge
of the music in the Centenary M. E. Church. During these years he was an
ardent student and conducted many musical institutes and conventions in
connection with his church work.
In the fall of 1882 he located
in Cincinnati, Ohio, where for two years he had charge of the music in
the York Street M. E. Church. He was then called to the Union M. E.
Church of Covington, Ky., where he remained until the fall of 1885, when
he joined Dwight L. Moody in evangelistic work, conducting the music
and singing solos in that connection in most of the large cities of the
United States and Canada. He also had charge of the music for several
years at the College Students' Conference at Mount Hermon and
Northfield, Mass. In the fall of 1893 he assumed the superintendency of
the music in the Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, where by his ability as
an organizer and teacher he has succeeded in establishing one of the
most unique and prosperous training schools for gospel singers in the
world. It can be confidently said that most of the noted gospel singers
of the present day have either been trained by, or have had personal
contact with, Dr. Towner.
In September, 1900, the degree of
Music Doctor was conferred upon him by the University of Tennessee. Dr.
Towner is one among the world's most prolific gospel song writers. He
has published more than two thousand compositions, and this only
represents a part of his work as a musical composer. He has edited in
part, or wholly, fourteen books, three of which have been for male
voices and one for female voices.
His songs have literally
belted the world, and are to be found in most of the hymn and tune books
both in America and the British Empire. In more recent years he has
spent considerable time in Great Britain in connection with large
evangelistic meetings and prominent churches in London, Manchester,
Dublin, Belfast, Dundee, and Edinburgh.
Dr. Towner is also by
common consent one of the greatest evangelistic singers and leaders
living. His ability to lead a great chorus and congregation is
unsurpassed, while as a teacher of gospel songs and composer he stands
in the front rank.
The following are a few of his most popular compositions :
With Jesus," "Trust and Obey," "Paul and Silas," "Redeemed," "Nor
Silver Nor Gold," "Saving Grace," "The Hand that Was Wounded for Me,"
"Full Surrender," "Would You Believe," "Only a Sinner," "Victory in My
Soul," "Look and Live," "God's Skies are Blue," "Grace that is Greater
Than Our Sin," "Love Took Him to the Cross," etc.
Dr. Towner has accomplished a great work for God and humanity, and we hope he may be spared for many more years of usefulness.
Source: Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers; Author J. H. HALL; Copyright 1914