Thursday, May 14, 2009

Happy Trails!

William Hanna was my 3rd Great Grandfather. When I think of his accomplishments it amazes me that an Irish immigrant in the very early 1800s could make a good living and accumulate 93 acres of land. I don't know when William Hanna arrived in the US but it was most likely in the late 1820s. The first record I have found of him is on the tax lists for Lower Merion in 1830. He has no property listed, but 1 horse and 1 cow. By 1870 he has 94 acres.

Deed on file at the Montgomery County, Pa. archives: Deed book 51 p. 598-599
"This indenture made the first day of February in the year of our Lord One
thousand eight hundred and thirty two between Christopher Tennant of the city of
Philadelphia in Pennsylvania marble manufacturer and Suaanna his wife of the one
and William Hanna of the Township of Lower Merion in the county of Montgomery in the state foresaid yeoman of the other part." (William Hanna paid $800.00
for 19 acres and 102 perches of land.) "It being the same parcel of land which
John Masterson and Eliza his wife by their indenture bearing date the Twenty
sixth day of January anno domini one thousand eight hundred and thirty two per
the consideration there in mentioned did grant and confirm unto the said
Christopher Tennant in fee as _________by said indenture relational being there
unto had may at large appear.""Together with all and singular the houses out
houses buildings barns ways woods water courses right liberties.........")

He must have been farming before he bought his Lower Merion, Pa. farm property from Christopher Tennant. I suspect that he was indentured to Christopher Tennant, but I have no proof at this time. More research is needed.

William was married to Mary Davis (her maiden name comes from the death certificate of their daughter Letitia Hanna Lovett) date unknown, but most likely about 1840-1842. Mary Davis is listed as being born in Pennsylvania on all of the census. But because Davis is such a common name I have not had too much luck with my initial research trying to figure out which Davis family she belongs too. There is an early Davis family from Plymouth Meeting/Whitemarsh, Pa. area. I suspect she may descend from this family.

Part of William Hanna's original property is now the Riverbend Environmental Education Center ( The center runs camps for kids and has public walking trails. Their is a house on the property that was either inherited by or built by William Hanna. I have contacted the center, but they do not know the date the house was built. They were given an estimate for the house being 150 years old. I'm wondering if it is older given the wording in the Deed quoted above. The staff at Riverbend now uses it as housing for the camp staff.

Also on the property are rock walls that are shown on the copy of a deed I own. The deed dates to about 1884 after William Hanna's death. Unfortunately, he was walking along the RR tracks in order to avoid an icy road and was struck by a train. His death came shortly after on Feb. 2 1883. His age at this time was approximated 83-85years old. William Hanna is buried at the Barren Hill Cemetery in Whitemarsh, Pa. there is no stone marker. There is no record of his wife Mary beng buried there, but his daughter Letitia Hanna Lovett has a grave stone in the cemetery.

Also of Interest about William Hanna's property..... part of it was leased by the US Army at the end of the Civil War and used as a discharge camp for soldiers before they were sent home. The property also got the nickname Camp Hanna or Camp Discharge. The only item left from this time period is a sentry box that sits near the entrance of Riverbend. All of the other buildings were torn down and recycled.

Deed on file at the Montgomery County, Pa. archives: Deed Book 144, page 527 William Hanna had a 30 year agreement (beginning 19 Jun 1866) with the Philadelphia and Reading RR that he could own the property that ran between his main property to the Schuylkill River which would pass over the RR tracks.

As a nature lover, it makes my happy to know that the property is accessible to anyone who wishes to explore its trails and that children are being educated on it about our environment.

I will have more information in the future, but for now Happy Trails......................

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