Hanby House Historic Site
Backstory and Context
Born in Pennsylvania, William Hanby (1808-1880) was the oldest of five children. Handy's family moved to a Quaker farmer for six years after his father died and in 1823, the fifteen-year-old apprentice ran away from a harness and saddle maker to Ohio after three years of mistreatment by his master. In 1828, Will worked as a saddler’s apprentice in Ohio. He opened a business and in 1830 he married Ann Miller, the daughter of his partner.
Hanby became a preacher for the United Brethren Church in 1831 and published the Religious Telescope. His fame grew as a result of the paper and he was elected to be 15th Bishop of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. A temperance crusader, Hanby also assisted runaway slaves via the Underground Railroad. In 1847, the abolitionist became a co-founder of Otterbein University in Westerville.
This home was built in 1846 and the Hanby family lived here from 1854 to 1870. In 1926, the Hanby House was sold to a Pittsburgh banker for $1,500 as a birthday present for his wife, Dacia Custer Shoemaker. After that, Mrs. Shoemaker had conducted the house’s restoration under the support of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Association and helped create the Benjamin Hanby Memorial Association. The Hanby house was moved to this location in Westerville as part of that organization's efforts to preserve the Hanby family history. The Legacy of the Hanbys” by Darcia Shoemaker was published by the Westerville Historical Society.
The house was dedicated in 1937 by the grandson of William Hanby, Brainerd Hanby, a grandson of William Hanby. Brainerd was the son o William Hanby's son, Benjamin, who is best-known for his composition of the Christmas song "Up On the Housetop."
The Hanby house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also designated as a United Methodist Heritage Landmark. In 2011, the Hanby House has become a significant Underground Railroad site and recognized by the National Park Service Network to Freedom.
Locally maintained by the Westerville Historical Society, the home has some of the original furniture and personal items that belonged to the Handy family, including a walnut desk that Bishop William Handy built himself, an original composition of "Darling Nelly Gray," collections of sheet music, and books.