Visit the family home of Benjamin Hanby — abolitionist, teacher, minister and composer of songs including Darling Nelly Gray. The home was also a busy station on the Underground Railroad.
Up on the Housetop
This year marks the 150th anniversary of his beloved Christmas song, Up on the Housetop, written in New Paris, Ohio. Christmas 1864 found Hanby and his wife and children living in New Paris, near the Indiana border. It had been a difficult year—after much soul-searching, he’d decided to leave the ministry. His new goal was to support his family while trying to make a name for himself in the music industry. He’d continued doing work for John Church and Co., a Cincinnati music publisher, and had opened a singing school in New Paris. A way of ministering to young people, it was sometimes referred to as Hanby’s “singing church.”
Song Becomes a Christmas Classic
Through his charitable work, he’d developed a relationship with a group of Quakers in nearby Richmond, IN, who reached out to poor children in the area. The Quakers were planning a Christmas party for them, and Hanby was invited to bring his “singing church” as entertainment. In preparing his students, he introduced a new song he’d written, called Santa Claus. It included the names Nell—found in several of his songs after his success with the song Darling Nelly Gray—and Will, that of his little brother. The new song was performed to great cheers, and one report says that Will came from Westerville to hear it.
In 1865, Hanby was offered a job at the largest music-publishing house in the United States, Root and Cady in Chicago. While there, he published Santa Claus.
Hanby died in Chicago in 1867. Four years later, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed Root and Cady. Notwithstanding, his song lived on. We know it as Up on the Housetop.
Remembered in New Paris and Westerville
Hanby is remembered in New Paris, where Ohio-shaped corporate limit markers read “Rev. Benjamin Hanby wrote the Christmas song Up on the Housetop here in 1864” and the New Paris Chamber of Commerce sells a special Up on the Housetop music box, and in Westerville, where you can visit the home where he lived from 1853–1858.
Enjoy the following special events at Westerville’s Hanby House this holiday season:
Christmas Open House
Dec. 2, 2014 • 7–9 p.m.
Dec. 6 & 7 • 1:30–4:30 p.m.
Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Up on the Housetop with a visit to the restored Hanby House decorated for the holidays. Hear continuous live music performances in the parlor, enjoy cookies and hot cider and see an award-winning video about the Hanby family. $3, $2.50/senior or Ohio History Connection member, $1/child. 800.600.6843 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
May – September
Saturday - Sunday: 1 - 4:00 p.m.
Group & private tours available by appointment
|OHS Members || FREE |
|Adults ||$3 |
|Children (5 & under) ||$1 |
|Children(4 & under) ||$1 |
|Seniors & AAA members ||$2.50 |
*Adult tour groups: $10.00 minimum
Near Hanby House Historic Site
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