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Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, was the first college established by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. The Scioto Annual Conference purchased the property of Blendon Young Men’s Seminary, a Methodist school which had closed several years before. Otterbein College opened on April 26, 1847, with Lewis Davis and Bishop William Hanby as co-founders. Today the school is a United Methodist-related four year college.

William Hanby (1808-1880) was born in Pennsylvania. As a young man he moved to Ohio, where he worked as a saddler and lived in the home of a devout United Brethren layman, Samuel Miller. Hanby was converted to the faith, married Miller’s daughter Ann (1807-1879), and became a United Brethren preacher.

In 1837, Hanby became Publishing Agent for the denomination, then the editor of the church’s newspaper, Religious Telescope. He used his position to advocate social reform causes, particularly abolitionism. His homes in Rushville and Westerville, Ohio were stations on the Underground Railroad.

Hanby was elected bishop in 1845, and two years later became trustee and financial agent for Otterbein College. After his term as bishop was completed in 1849, he returned to his editorial duties. However, when the denomination decided to move the office from Circleville to Dayton, Hanby decided to return to the pastorate and moved to Westerville near the college.

The Hanby family purchased their home in 1854. It was unfinished at that time; a previous owner had started construction in 1846, but abandoned the project. The family lived in the house until 1870, by which time all but one of the eight children was grown and gone.

Two of the children are especially well-known. Amanda Hanby Billheimer (1834-1926) was the first woman foreign missionary of the United Brethren Church. She sailed to Sierra Leone in 1862 with her husband, J. K. Billheimer. Amanda’s commissioning service was held in the parlor of the Hanby House.

Amanda’s brother, Benjamin Hanby (1833-1867), was a United Brethren pastor, but is better known as a composer. Among his familiar hymns and songs are “Darling Nelly Gray,” “Who is He in Yonder Stall,” and “Up on the Housetop.”

Points of interest at this Heritage Landmark: The house contains period furnishings and many personal items of the Hanby family, including a large collection of sheet music and songs. Among them are the original plates for the first edition of “Darling Nelly Gray.”

Graves of the Hanby family are in Otterbein Cemetery.

Parking and restrooms are available at the site. Parking is also available at Otterbein College and at the Senior Citizens’ Center at 310 West Main Street.

Special events: Each December, either the first week or the second week, Hanby House guides host Christmas Open Houses. The open houses are held on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday, and feature a variety of musical offerings, refreshments, and tours of the house which is decorated for the Christmas season. The regular admission fee is charged.

Area attractions: Otterbein College is within a block of the Hanby House. Westerville is just north of Columbus, the state capital. Other Heritage Landmarks in Ohio are the Bishop Seybert/Flat Rock Cluster and the Wyandott Indian Mission.

To visit:   Hanby House is open 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, May 1 to September 30. At other times, visitors can arrange for a tour by calling 614-891-6289 or 1-800-600-6843.

Admission charges are $3.00 for adults (age 18-59), $2.50 for seniors (age 60+), and $1.00 for children (age 5-17).  There is a minimum charge of $10.00 for group tours.

The property is owned by the Ohio Historical Society and managed by the Westerville Historical Society. There is a Hanby House Club; for an annual $10 tax-deductible contribution, members are entitled to free admission for one year.

Location: Within the boundaries of the West Ohio Annual Conference, in Franklin County. The house is at 160 West Main Street in Westerville.

Food and lodging: Restaurants and motels are available in Westerville and Columbus.

Directions: Exit Interstate 270 at Cleveland Avenue. Proceed north to the Main Street intersection; turn right and proceed to the Hanby House at 160 West Main Street.

For further information, contact: 1-800-600-6843 or 614-891-6289.  You may also email:

To learn more about United Methodist church history in this area:

West Ohio Annual Conference Archives, The Archives Center, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH 43015; 614-368-3285.

Millard J. Miller, House of Brotherhood; Story of the Hanby House (Westerville, OH: Westerville Historical Society, 1987).

Dacia C. Shoemaker, Choose You This Day: The Legacy of the Hanbys (Westerville, OH: Westerville Historical Society, 1983).