July 22, 1833, Rushville, Ohio.

March 16, 1867, Chicago, Illinois.

Otterbein Cemetery, Westerville, Ohio.


Son of a United Brethren minister, Hanby attended Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. Upon graduation, he worked for the college, then served as principal of an academy in Seven Mile, Ohio. He later pastored in Lewisburg and New Paris, then went on to work for music publishers John Church (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Root & Cady (Chicago, Illinois). He wrote over five dozen songs, many of which appeared in the quarterly Our Song Birds.

One of Hanby’s best known secular songs is Darling Nelly Gray (🔊 pdf nwc). He wrote the song while attending Otterbein College, in response to the plight of a runaway slave named Joseph Selby (or Shelby). Hanby’s father, Bishop William Hanby, a United Brethren minister active in the Underground Railroad, was trying to raise money to free Selby’s beloved.

In 1864, in New Paris, Ohio, Hanby wrote Up on the Housetop, said to be the second oldest secular Christmas song (preceded only by Jingle Bells), and the first to suggest that Santa Claus’ sleigh landed on the roofs of homes.

Hanby’s other works include:

  1. All Together
  2. Courts of the Lord, The
  3. Down from the Skies
  4. Hark, How Your Leader’s Bugle Is Sounding
  5. Helping Savior Near, A
  6. Holy Hour, The
  7. Little Children in the Temple
  8. Little Eyes, Little Eyes
  9. Little Floweret, Press Thy Way
  10. Morning Is Beaming, The
  11. Now to the Lord on High
  12. We Come in Childhood’s Joyfulness
  13. Who Is He in Yonder Stall?
  1. Burmah
  2. Shepherds of Bethlehem, The