Thursday, March 13, 2008

James Hanna, Revolutionary War Hero

James Hanna is a bit of a hero of mine. Here's what we know of his life:

He and his family set sail from Ireland the the American Colonies during the 1700s. James and his twin brother were the oldest of the children. Within a couple of years of settling here, both of their parents passed away. I believe James was about 14 when his parents died. It's unclear whether he was adopted or indentured, but he seems to have been looked after by a family from the area where they settled. Some information I uncovered hints that many members of their church body from Ireland came over at about the same time, so the family may have been people they knew from the old country.

James' young adulthood seems to have been interrupted by the Revolutionary War. I don't know the details at this time, but an ancestor of mine listed James' involvement in the war on her successful application for membership into the Daughters of the American Revolution.

After the War, James was apparently living in Buck's Country, Pennsylvania. He married Hannah Bayless (this poor, unfortunate woman whose married name apparently became Hannah Hanna) and the two of them almost immediately moved to the Kentucky frontier, traveling together on the back of a single horse, if the stories I've uncovered are true.

Upon settling in Kentucky, they became members of (or helped to start) a local church, and became parents of several children. The most famous of these children seems to have been Samuel Hanna, one of the founders of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Hanna family lived in Kentucky for many years.

They moved to Dayton, Ohio, when that area was just beginning to be opened to settlers. It seems that a group from their church moved to Dayton to start a church there. Soon after they moved, Hannah passed away. The information I found states that she was the first person buried in the Dayton cemetery. James apparently remarried and had as many as 4 more children with his second wife.

Samuel Hanna, mentioned above, was one of the older children. By the early 1820's, Samuel was living in the Fort Wayne area, which was right on the edge of the frontier at the time, very primitive. I read a story about a family who were traveling through Fort Wayne in a covered wagon with all of their possessions, headed west. They found themselves in need of funds and sold the cast iron stove they'd brought with them to a Fort Wayne resident. Such a thing was not easily obtainable on the frontier and apparently people came from far and wide just to look at it.

In 1827, James made the trip from Dayton to Fort Wayne and started a Sunday school in the town where his son Samuel was living. That Sunday school grew and eventually became the First Presbyterian church of Fort Wayne.

When James Hanna died, his obituary stated that all of his children had followed him in his faith and that most of his male children were deacons or elders in their respective churches. It makes me wonder if he went to the towns the other children lived in and started Sunday schools there, too. I have not researched the other lines, being a descendant of Samuel, but if you know anything, feel free to comment here.

There are so many details left unknown, considering the long life and many accomplishments of this man. What details we do know tell us of a hard-working man who valued his family and his faith.


Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

I love researching our family history. I don't have as much time anymore now that I'm writing novels, but I keep my genealogy website up at Our Carolina Roots.

Christopher Holston said...

I liked your article. I am also a decendent of James, but through one of his other sons, James Jr. who went on to Crawfordsville, IN and was a founder of Wabash College. I have been looking into James and his twin brother as of late and have been trying to find out how they were involved in the Revolutionary War. Just wondering if you have found any more information.

Melissa said...

Hi Christopher. I do know that James fought in the Revolutionary War, because one of his descendants in my line cited him in her application to the DAR. Somewhere I have more information but it's buried in a box and I can't seem to find it. All I can tell is that James didn't marry till after the war, and I've always assumed the war interrupted plans that would have lead to an earlier marriage if not for the war, but I have no evidence for that.

Recently I've discovered some snippets of info on James from the Dayton library. He was one of the first elders of one of the early Presbyterian churches in Dayton, and was one of the incorporators of the Dayton Academy (1807). He ran a weaving business at the south end of Main Street and had a farm west of the river. His second wife's name was Elizabeth and she pre-deceased him (1816). In 1853 his body and those of both his wives were moved to the Woodland Cemetery -- you can see info in the cemetery's online database.

Cole Charboneau said...

Hi Melissa,

Here's some more information on your ancestor James Hanna.

I went and found my great-great-great-great-great grandfather's obituary yesterday. His name was Abraham Reed, Sr. I knew nothing about his parents or his siblings.

The obituary stated that he was born August 29, 1819 at Dayton, Ohio. He was the youngest of five children and that his father died when he was 13 months old and that he relied on his own resources at a very young age.

This was the first I had heard about siblings and a father.

I did some digging today and found a probate file of an Abraham Reed of Dayton, Ohio that died in 1820. A James Hanna was the administrator.

What sealed the deal for me was a guardianship record, however.

James Hanna was the guardian of five children of the deceased Abraham Reed in 1821.

The youngest of the five children listed was Abraham Reed, two years old. My ancestor!

I now know that my ancestor is not indeed Abraham, Sr., but Abraham Jr. and his son is now Abraham Reed III.

I have no idea what the connection is between your ancestor, James Hanna, and my ancestor Abraham Reed. Maybe they were related in some way? I wonder what happened to the mother of my ancestor. She was alive when Abraham I died.

In any event, James Hanna watched over my ancestor when he was a boy and had some part in his rearing.

Very cool!