Born: Ju­ly 22, 1833, Rush­ville, Ohio.

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

Buried: 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 worked for mu­sic pub­lish­ers John Church (Cin­cin­na­ti, Ohio) and Root & Ca­dy (Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois).

Hanby’s fa­ther was ac­tive in the Un­der­ground Rail­road, and was try­ing to raise mo­ney to free Sel­by’s be­loved.


Hanby wrote ov­er five do­zen songs, ma­ny of which ap­peared in the quar­ter­ly Our Song Birds.

One of his 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).

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.

His oth­er works in­clude: