Biography of Mrs. Laura E. Newell

The gift of poetry, that beautiful art which is the product of the imaginative powers and fancy and bears an appeal to these powers, perhaps dumb, in others, sets a little apart its possessor from the everyday experiences of the majority. That its highest development, however, by no means interferes with life’s duties and responsibilities, finds proof in the career of Mrs. Laura E. Newell, a sweet singer of Kansas, who had written some of the most touching and the most inspiring poems of her day and generation.

Mrs. Newell was born at New Marlborough, Connecticut, February 5, 1854. In infancy she was left an orphan and after the death of her mother, her aunt, Mrs. Hiram Mabie, adopted and reared her, Mr. and Mrs. Mabie residing then in the State of New York. They came to Kansas in 1858, Mrs. Newell then being but four years old. Mr. Mabie settled at Wamega, in Waubansie County and died there in 1860. Mrs. Mabie was a highly educated lady, holding a life teacher’s certificate granted her by New York, and after Mr. Mabie’s death she resumed school teaching in Kansas, in 1860 becoming an instructor in the Village of Topeka, teaching the second school organized, and taught at Topeka for many succeeding years. Subsequently she was married to J. W. Emerson, a native of Massachusetts and a veteran of the Civil war.

Under the tutoring of her accomplished aunt, Mrs. Newell made rapid progress in her studies, but her poetieal gift did not need arousing, only loving and appreciative directing. She was but twelve years old when she wrote acceptable rhymes and as her knowledge of life deepened her talent developed. She had been a prolific writer of verse, having produced as many as 800 poems in a single year, covering all fields, and it is estimated that her poems and songs number into the thousands. Many of her writings, characterized by tender emotion, delicate imagination and religious fervor, lend themselves easily to song and a great number of them have been set to music. Her “What Will Your Record Bel” was set to music by C. E. Leslie more than a quarter of a century ago and had been extensively published and distributed in this country and also in other lands. No less popular had her “Beyond the Mystie Sea” been in many countries, and they have been incorporated in choice books of selections of verse. She writes with ease and grace and many of her tender lines find an echo in the hearts of others.

In 1871 Miss Mabie was married to Lauren Newell and she had become the mother of six children. In her home life she had manifested the sweet spirit that permeates so much of her verse and she is dearly beloved by all who come within her influence. She is a member of the Congregational Church. Her life had always been a busy one, care and bereavement come to every one, but her gift had helped to lighten her own burdens as they have those of so many others.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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