Benjamin Hanby

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Benjamin Hanby
Hanby House, c. 1905

Benjamin Russell Hanby (July 22, 1833 – March 16, 1867), also given as Benjamin Russel Hanby,[1] was an American composer, educator, and pastor who wrote approximately 80 songs. The most famous of his compositions are "Darling Nelly Gray", the Christmas song "Up on the House Top", "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas", and the hymn "Who Is He In Yonder Stall?".

Hanby was born near Rushville, Ohio. He moved to Westerville, Ohio in 1849, at the age of sixteen, to enroll at Otterbein University.[2] He was the son of Bishop William Hanby, who with his son was involved in the Underground Railroad.

Hanby composed "Darling Nelly Gray" in 1856 in what is now a state historical site, the Hanby House, located at 160 West Main Street in Westerville, adjacent to the campus of Otterbein University. After graduation Hanby briefly taught school and then became a minister in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.

During his tenure as minister of a church near Dayton he composed "Up On The Housetop" in 1864 for use as a Christmas sing-along. He composed this in the town of New Paris. In 1865 Chicago publisher George Frederick Root published "Up On The Housetop" and brought Hanby to Chicago to pursue other publishing ventures.

Hanby died from tuberculosis in Chicago on March 16, 1867. He is buried in Otterbein Cemetery in Westerville.


  1. ^ Benjamin Russel Hanby, Ohio Composer-Educator, 1833–1867 (1987); C. B. Galbreath, Song Writers of Ohio, in 14 Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications 180 (1905).
  2. ^ William Osborne, Music in Ohio 421 (2004); Galbreath, supra, at 183.

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