William Hansell, Blacksmith Darby PA 1757-1800 (From Tom Smith)

The generations of the Hansell line I am following go like this: 1. Peter David Hansell 1724-1786 2. William
Hansell 1757-1800 3. Thomas Hansell 1786-1865 4. James Stiner Hansell 1811-1881 5. Ella Hansell
(Lippincott) 1844-1914 6. James Hansell Lippincott 1871-1957 William is the second child of Peter David and
Dorothy Hansell. If my compilation of circumstantial “evidence” is anywhere close to reflecting the early life of
the Hansells (see The Whereabouts of Peter David Hansell), I can make a few guesses about William’s early
years. There is minimal information about his middle years and then he died at 43. His estate papers provide
a small window into the community of Darby in 1800, but they reveal more about his neighbors than William.
Nevertheless, undaunted by the lack of material, I’ll try to round out his life a bit.

Early Years in Upper Darby
William was born on December 28, 1757, sixteen months after his brother David. Fifteen months later,
George arrived and so it would go until there was a total of eleven children (nine boys and two girls). Second
in line, William held older-brother status in the family. Circumstantial pieces of information place the family
living near the hamlet of Garrettford in Upper Darby with father Peter David Hansell working at a tannery.
Taking advantage of the upward mobility available to children of the new settlers, all the Hansell boys went
into occupations that were relatively less backbreaking than tannery work. William undoubtedly was
apprenticed to a blacksmith, which would have occurred when he was 14 or 15 (around 1772). Interestingly,
William Garrett of Upper Darby, who owned a tannery and on whose land the Hansells lived, had a blacksmith
shop and a blade mill.

In colonial times, the blacksmith played a necessary and important role in his community and his trade
provided entrance into the upper middle class. Apprenticeship usually lasted about five years. The boy
signed a contract agreeing to behave well and to work hard for the blacksmith. The blacksmith promised to
pass on his skills and to provide a home for the boy. Parents often paid to have their sons apprenticed, and
basic schooling was included in the contract. The blacksmith taught his apprentices to read, write, and do
arithmetic. He understood that this knowledge was as important as any of the metalworking skills the boys
would learn. The blacksmith used arithmetic every day in his work to calculate weight, size and angles. He
also needed to do “merchants accompts”--accounting--to accurately charge his customers and to pay his own
bills. Apprenticeship was rarely an easy time for a boy. He was considered a servant, expected to do anything
the master blacksmith asked. Apprentices sometimes ran away, and the master blacksmith believed it was his
right to punish them for bad behavior. But apprenticeship was the best way to learn a good trade in colonial
America, and most boys settled into the work. The Blacksmith by Christine Peterson Nancy Ettensperger -
Jan. 2013 William Hansell, Blacksmith - Page 2 Revolutionary War

There are references to a William Hansell participating in militia groups during the Revolutionary War: 1777 -
City of Philadelphia Militia: As of 9-9-1777, a William Hansell is on the muster roll of the Fourth Regiment of
Foot, Captain John Byrne’s Company. William Hansell was promoted to sergeant on October 2. This militia
organization was composed of men drawn from the Walnut and Chestnut Wards in downtown Philadelphia.
This implies William Hansell was living in downtown Philadelphia when he joined this unit. 1780 through 1785 -
The name William Hansell appears in various lists of Chester County Militia, 1st Company, 4th Battalion.
These lists include many of the men living in Darby at this time. In 1779 a William Hansell, Philadelphia,
Blacksmith, is included in the Names of Persons Who took the Oath of Allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania
between the years 1777 and 1789. Peter David Hansil and David Hansell of Kingsessing are also on this list.
So 20 year old William may have made an early foray into Philadelphia during the tumult of the Revolutionary
War, but in 1781 he appears on a Lower Darby tax list and there he remains until his death. I bet Sarah
Morris lured him from Philadelphia back to Darby, near her mother, less than two miles from William’s family
now living in Kingsessing, and a little more than seven miles from Philadelphia. In 1782, William was on hand
to witness the deed for the second of three parcels his father purchased in Kingsessing. Peter David Hansell
Homestead Road to Philadelphia in Kingsessing Garrettford in Darby Road St. James Church Upper Darby
Lower Darby in Kingsessing 12 Miles Around Philadelphia, published by RL Barnes 1860 Nancy Ettensperger
- Jan. 2013 William Hansell, Blacksmith - Page 3 Marriage and Life in Darby The St. Michael’s and Zion
German Lutheran church records list Nov. 16, 1783 as the date of a marriage license for Sarah Morris and
William Hansell. Which church? I don’t think there are any clues to figure this out. St. Michael’s Church was
built in 1743 on the SE corner of Cherry and 5th Street in Philadelphia. St. Michael’s Church, William Birch,
1800 To accommodate the growing church congregation, Zion Church was erected in 1769 at the SE corner
of Cherry and 4th. In 1783, the pastors were, respectively, John Christopher Kunze and Dr. Justus Henry
Christian Helmuth. Records show that Ann and Elizabeth, daughters of Peter David and Dorothy Hansell,
were baptized at St. Michael’s/Zion. Two of William’s brothers were also married in St. Michael’s/Zion. Z i o n
Zion Church, William Birch, 1800 Five months after her marriage, the newly-wed Sarah Morris Hansell was
disowned by the Quakers for marrying William. The Early Church Records of Delaware County, PA Darby MM
report: “Sarah Hansell formerly Morris married out of unity to one not a member against advice of Friends
disowned, dated April 1, 1784.” In Darby, William was appointed a constable in 1788, and in 1791 William
Hansell and Richard Lloyd were appointed overseers of the poor. Nancy Ettensperger - Jan. 2013 William
Hansell, Blacksmith - Page 4

William must have belonged to the historic Darby Fire Company #1, though I have not found records. This
company was organized in 1775 and claims to be the oldest volunteer fire company in Delaware County, Pa.,
the second oldest in the state of Pennsylvania and the fifth oldest in the country. Their website reports: In the
beginning each member had to provide two leather buckets to be kept ready and not used except for fires. If
they were used for other purposes the members were fined. Widows were responsible for keeping their
buckets available for use by the firemen unless they remarried. Darby tax records show that by 1795 William
had expanded his taxable property to one house and lot, one shop and lot, a horse, and one cow. In tax lists
that note occupations, William is listed as a smith or blacksmith. A 1998 letter to Ed Bradford from John
Hansell of Berlin, NJ relates that William was a locksmith in Darby. This is a skill that went hand in hand with
blacksmithing. Here is a clipping from The Pennsylvania Gazette about a run-away apprentice. The one cent
reward gives the impression William may not have cared very much if he ever saw John Adams again! ONE
CENT REWARD RAN AWAY from the subscriber, on the 3d of July, an apprentice boy to the blacksmith
business, named JOHN ADAMS, about eighteen years old, about 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, sandy hair; had
on, when he went away, a drab coloured coattee striped muslin jacket, and nankeen trowsers. Whoever takes
up said run-away, and will bring him home, so that his master may get him again, shall have the above
reward, but no charges, paid by WILLIAM HANSELL. Darby, Aug. 6, 1796.

A 12-22-1784 Pennsylvania Journal advertisement submitted by Henry Paschall lists 11 lots for sale in Darby
ranging in size from two to nine acres. Interested persons are directed to contact William Hansell “living near
the premises” if they wish to view the lots. Some of the lots are located along the “great road leading from
Philadelphia.” This was the main road from Philadelphia which ran through “downtown” Darby and continued
south. The “Glass Tax” - 1798 Pennsylvania US Direct Tax List This month (12/2012) as we face the looming
“fiscal cliff” and the Federal budget is a bit in arrears, it is ironic that the very first property tax assessed on its
citizens by the new Congress of the United States of America would provide information about William Hansell.
The US government needed money to fund the “Undeclared War with France” and the Federal Property Tax
Act of 1798 was passed to raise $2,000,000. Few tax lists have survived, but some of the Pennsylvania
returns are available at Ancestry.com. The tax was popularly called the “glass tax” because one of its
provisions was to tax homes that were valued at over $100, most of which had expensive glass rather than
oiled paper or vellum windows. Panes of glass were difficult to make, expensive to purchase, and had a
known value. On the other hand, the wood and labor to build a house were not accurately quantifiable given
the boundless forests and the can-do spirit of the homeowners. Nancy Ettensperger - Jan. 2013 William
Hansell, Blacksmith - Page 5

This is how William was assessed for his dwelling and blacksmith shop. Images at Ancestry.com,
Pennsylvania US Direct Tax Lists, 1798, Chester & Delaware County. Image 425 - 1 Dwelling House, Valued
at $400 Image 438 - Description of Dwelling House: Name of Occupant: Wm Hansell Name of Owner of
Property: Francis Howell Size of Lot: 80 perches one-half of an acre Description of House: 2 stories, 5
windows, 60 lights Location of House: Darby Street by Nathan Pearson Pearson was a joiner and coffin maker
Image 433 - Building on 15 perches, valued at $120 Image 445 - Description of Building: The entry for William
Hansell is the last line on this page, the ink has faded, and his name has not been indexed. I believe it reads
as follows: Occupant: Wm Hansell Owner of Property: Ebenezer Worth grandson of Thomas Worth from
England, a Quaker who settled in Darby and purchased land directly from William Penn in 1682 Building
Description: 30 x 30, frame, smith shop Using the number of panes of glass in the house as an economic
indicator, William’s house had about half the average number of “lights” as his neighbors. A small sampling
shows a range from 6 to 260 lights with an average of 133. Using the average ($510) of the total assessment
of $48,535 for the 95 dwellings valued in Darby as an indicator of wealth moves William’s economic status up
a bit as his assessment was $400. So we know William and Sarah lived on Darby Street. William’s blacksmith
shop seems to be grouped with a few other commercial properties located on lands owned by Ebenezer
Worth. William Hansell’s Estate Papers

William’s life was cut short by something and he died at age 43 on July 16, 1800. William is buried in the
family plot (Lot 27, Section A) at St. James Church in Kingsessing. He was the fourth Hansell to be buried in
this lot purchased by his father. Peter David Hansell died in 1786 and William’s brothers John and David died
in 1796 and 1798, respectively. William died without a will. His estate papers (available at the Delaware
County Archives) shed some light on William’s life in Darby. Unfortunately, the accounting of the credit side of
his books is summed up--we only have a total balance for inventory (£126), advances on sales (£32) and
accounts receivable (£164). But his debits are itemized and include many of the people in Darby who
provided goods and services. William died July 16, 1800 and by the 29th Sarah Hansell, Dr. Jonathan Morris
(Sarah’s brother) and John Rively (shopkeeper in Darby), as co-administrators, filed paperwork with the
Delaware County register of wills to start the estate process. Nancy Ettensperger - Jan. 2013 William Hansell,
Blacksmith - Page 6 In February of 1802, the administrators petitioned the Orphan’s Court for the County of
Delaware to allow the sale of William Hansell’s lot in Kingsessing. This was granted. In August of 1803, the
administrators placed an advertisement in the Aurora General Advertiser announcing an auction at Gray’s
Ferry to sell the Kingsessing lot. The three-quarter acre lot was sold to John Conchy, a Southwick merchant,
in September of 1803 for $140. The estate was finally settled in July of 1805. By some creative act of
bookkeeping the debits and credits balanced out at about £409. Given the convoluted “bartering” system of
the time, it is not clear to me if any money actually changed hands between Hansell’s estate and the
merchants in Darby. It looks as though Sarah may have retained 88 of the 140 pounds (or dollars) sale price
for the Kingsessing lot. The first twelve items of cash paid for the administration of William Hansell’s estate
are: The remaining items include all expenses associated with selling the Kingsessing lot, etc. Most likely,
Fowler and Gardner worked in William’s blacksmith shop, either as apprentices or assistants. Abija Rice, the
crying vendue, was an auctioneer. Nancy Ettensperger - Jan. 2013 William Hansell, Blacksmith - Page 7 The
page of “Debts Due Sundry Persons from the Estate of William Hansell” lists 44 people. Some of them are:
Richard Lloyd, £19 (grist and sawmill, judge, relatively wealthy and probably de facto mayor of Darby)
Jonathan Morris £19 (medical doctor, coadministrator of William Hansell’s estate and brother of Sarah Morris
Hansell Mary Oliver, £10 (shopkeeper) John Rively, £11 (shopkeeper) Elizabeth Smith, £14 (tavern keeper)
Charles and Thomas Pearson, £1 (tanner) Jesse Sharpless, £12* Uriah Rose, £1 (shoemaker) Isaac
Sullender, £4 (taylor) Benjamin Pearson, £4 (retailer of spirits) Henry Siddon, £1 (shoemaker) Jonathan
Bonsal, £1 (taylor) Francis Howell, £10 (landlord of Hansell’s dwelling) Ebenezer Worth, £7 (landlord of
Hansell’s shop) Dr. Vanleer, £1 (medical doctor) Samuel Coates, £1 (cooper) Henry Wood, £2 (joiner) *Jesse
Sharpless rented a building next to William Hansell’s smith shop. Some Darby tax records indicate Jesse
Sharpless lived in Philadelphia. There is a Jesse Sharpless (one and the same?) in Philadelphia who earned
lasting notoriety for exhibiting and charging admission to see a “lewd” painting at his home in Philadelphia.
This resulted in the first obscenity trial in the United States in 1815.

Sarah Morris Hansell The century had turned and the widow Sarah Morris Hansell, with maybe 88 pounds in
her pocket and a number of young children clinging to her skirts, did what? This problem is addressed in the
book Life After Death: Widows in Pennsylvania, 1750- 1850 by Emily Wilson. As outlined in this book, Sarah
certainly met the common profile of most widows in Pennsylvania. Sarah Morris Hansell was 38 when her
husband died. She had been married for 17 years. Her children ranged from two to 15 when William died.
Sarah would live another 33 years. It doesn’t look as though she was left with much money when William died,
unless it was kept in a sock, hidden from the estate inventory process. But she came from hardy Quaker
stock, was apparently educated, presumably had a family support network, and all her boys grew up to
prosper in their chosen occupations. Sarah was born probably in Darby on September 9, 1762, daughter of
David Morris and Ann Pearson. She had siblings Hannah, Joseph, Thomas, Jonathan and Mary. Her father
died around 1773 and it looks as though Ann Pearson Morris and her six children moved to Philadelphia and
eventually back to Darby. William and Sarah spent their married years in Darby, and, after William’s death,
the widow Sarah and her children moved to Philadelphia. Nancy Ettensperger - Jan. 2013 William Hansell,
Blacksmith - Page 8

END NOTES I have not provided footnotes. This is not intended for publication. On the other hand, I haven’t
plucked this information from thin air; there is a source for all this material. My interpretations and attributions
may be incorrect. If anyone wants to know where specific information came from, just let me know! Nancy
Ettensperger P.O. Box 86, Underhill, Vermont 05489 1790 Census, Darby, Delaware County, PA William
Hansell 2 males under 16 1 male 16+ 3 females 6 total Year: 1790; Census Place: Darby, Delaware, Pa.;
Series: M637; Roll: 8; Pg 100; Image: 308; Family History Library Film: 0568148. 1800 Census, Lower Darby
Township William Hansel 2 males under 10 2 females under 10 1 female 10-15 1 female 26-44 6 total official
enumeration day 8/4/1800, about one month after William Hansell died. Year: 1800; Census Place: Lower
Chichester, Delaware, Pa.; Roll: 38; Pg: 430; Image: 174; Family History Library Film: 363341. The top part of
the image is Lower Chichester; the lower part of the image is Lower Darby 1800 Septennial (Tax) Census
Delaware County, PA, Darby Township Sarah Hansell The Blacksmith by Christine Peterson, Marshall
Cavendish, 2010 Revolutionary War 1777 - PA Archives, Series 6, Vol. 1, page 274. Philadelphia Ward
information from Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission on internet PA Archives, Series 5, Vol. 5,
1780 page 712; 1783, page 680 PA Archives, Series 6, Vol. 3, 1785 page 211 Hansell Family Book by Ed
Bradford (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~edbradford/ed/books/hansell.pdf) The Historic
Mansions and Buildings of Philadelphia by Thompson Westcott, 1894, found at archive.org or Google Books.
This book outlines the history of St. Michael’s and Zion German Lutheran churches in Philadelphia. Merry
Anne Pierson, genealogist of Pearson/Pierson family; some work found at the Ancestry World Tree Project:
“Early Church records of Delaware Co, PA Darby MMM. p. 266, Sarah Hansell formerly Morris married out of
unity to one not a member, against advice of Friends disowned, dated 1 April 1784” Proceedings of the
Delaware County Historical Society, 9-26-1895 to 12-5-1901, Vol. 1, “Some Ancient Records of Darby,” page
29 mentions William Hansell. This is a Google Book Nancy Ettensperger - Jan. 2013 William Hansell,
Blacksmith - Page 9 A source not yet investigated: At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, call number De
4A, is a book entitled Records of Darby Township Tax Records Delaware County PA History (http:
//delawarecountyhistory.com/) Created by historian Keith Lockhart. Tax records, maps and much more.
Ancestry.com: Pennsylvania, Tax and Exoneration, 1768-1801 Pennsylvania Septennial Census 1779-1863
(1793 lists all taxable inhabitants in Darby and their occupations) Pennsylvania US Direct Tax Lists 1798
History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania by Henry Graham Ashmead, 1884, page 512 1799 tax list with
occupations for Lower Darby Explanation of the 1798 Direct Tax: http://www.drbilllong.com/LegalHistoryII/TaxIII.
html Delaware County PA Government Archives (http://www.co.delaware.pa.us/depts/archives.html)
Administration Records, William Hansell #185, 7/29/1800 Orphan’s Court Estate Records, William Hansell
#151, 2/23/1802; William Hansell, #208, 11/26/1805 Sale of William Hansell’s Lot in Kingsessing, EF Book 19,
Page 279 Philadelphia County Deed Indexes and Deeds Plats (http://www.phillyhistory.org/PhotoArchive/)
Deed and Plat Indexes (http://philadox.phila.gov/phillyhistoricalindex/) Deeds (http://phila-records.com/historic-
records/web/) History of Chester County by John Smith Futhey, 1881 (or 1995), page 774 Worth family
information Newspapers: GenealogyBank.com and Accessible-Archives.com Maps Greater Philadelphia
GeoHistory Network (http://www.philageohistory.org/geohistory/) Harvard Map Collection, Digital Maps (http:
//hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/maps/digitalmaps/) Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library
(http://maps.bpl.org/) The Debit Economy of 1830s New England, by Tom Kelleher, Old Sturbridge, Inc.,
Sturbridge, Mass. Explains the debits/credits system in place when William Hansell died. Found at the Old
Sturbridge Village website www.osv.org Also read What a Dollar Would Buy in 1838: A Research Note Sarah
Morris Hansell’s ancestors: Griffith Hugh Pugh and Morris Families at http://www.gwyneddmeeting.
org/history/griffith.htm Welsh Founders of Pennsylvania by Thomas Allen Glenn, Genealogical Publishing
Company, 1970. Page 139 contains a family tree which includes the marriage and children of Sarah Morris
and William Hansell Miscellaneous Things of Interest Two bits of information have stuck in my head about
early Quakers in Philadelphia, one about a Morris family and another about a Thomas Pearson. I don’t know
if these are direct ancestors of Sarah Morris Hansell. Nancy Ettensperger - Jan. 2013 William Hansell,
Blacksmith - Page 10