Ju­ly 22, 1833, Rush­ville, Ohio.

March 16, 1867, Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois, of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

Ot­ter­bein Ce­me­te­ry, Wes­ter­ville, Ohio.


Benjamin was the son of Unit­ed Breth­ren min­is­ter (and lat­er bi­shop) Will­iam Hanby and Ann Mil­ler, and hus­band of Kath­ryn Win­ter.

He 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 served pas­tor­ates 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 was ac­tive in the Un­der­ground Rail­road, and 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 house roofs.

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