From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)
Darling Nellie Gray (song)
The song Darling Nellie Gray has been credited to several authors, most often to Benjamin Russell Hanby (1833-1867). The song was written around 1856. Some sources say that the song came to Hanby after he read an article in a newspaper about a Kentucky slave named Nellie Gray, who was sold away from her husband to a Georgia slave owner. Another version of the story is that Hanby wrote the song after hearing of the misfortune of escaped slave Joe Selby, who died not too long after crossing the Ohio River, having left his sweetheart Nellie Gray still enslaved in Kentucky. The story goes on to say that Hanby sent the song to a publisher and received six free copies of the song while the publisher received thousands of dollars from the sale of the famous song. The title and spelling of the song has varied over time. For more see "Darling Nellie Gray" in The New Century Perfect Speaker: a complete encyclopedia of elocution, oratory, and etiquette, edited by J. Coulter; Rushville in The Ohio Guide, by Federal Writers' Project; and "House restored to honor writer of song, Nellie Gray," The Portsmouth Times, 01/20/1937, p. 3.