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