George Kirby/Hannah Handy Period of Ownership. 1861 – 1892

The Kirby family in the Westport/Dartmouth area at this time was fairly well established with many branches of relations. The George Kirby who receives the house from James Handy is believed to be the son of Nathaniel and Sylvia (Macomber) Kirby, born May 6, 1788, and who died in Westport, August 15, 1869.98

Exactly who lived in the Handy house immediately following its transfer to George Kirby is not known. In 1860, a year before James Handy lost the property to Kirby, the Federal census lists two families living at the house:99

  • James H. Handy (age 68), Hope Handy (age 66), and Eliphal A. Gibbs (age 7)
  • Mary Handy (age 87)[ Author’s note: This is inconsistent with Mary being born in 1768. It may reflect an error by the census taker or person providing the information.], Mary Handy (age 68), Hannah Handy (age 62)


Ten years later, a period that includes the transfer of the house and land to George Kirby and the death of both James and Hope, the 1870 census again lists two families living at the house, but they now include:100

  • Abigail Brownell (age 72), John T. Brownell (age 44)
  • Polly Handy (age 79), and Hannah Handy (age 72)


Based on archival information currently available, it does not appear that George Kirby or his immediate family ever lived in the house.

In the late 1860s and opening years of the 1870s, the property changed ownership a number of times. This exchange began in September 1868, when George Kirby sold the house and land to John Milk for $500.00.101 Seven months later, John Milk sells the property to Stephen Kirby for $130.00.102 Then, in April 1872 Stephen Kirby sold the property to Albert C. Kirby, this time for $1,000.00.103

On December 16, 1876, Stephen Kirby transferred the house and land to Hannah Handy, James H. Handy’s sister, for one dollar.104 How exactly the land came back into Stephen Kirby’s ownership is not known. The reason for the token amount the property was sold for is explained by Henry Worth in his notes listed under the Dr. James H. Handy Farm, in an entry for the land transfer between Stephen Kirby and Hannah Handy, he explains:

“A sister of Dr. James H. Handy. She [Hannah] was a seamstress and worked in the family of Stephen P. Kirby and by her work she paid for the place.”105

The source of Worth’s information is not known; however, as he was only a few decades removed from these events, it is entirely likely he learned of them from either family members or individuals with a genuine understanding of the circumstances.

Unlike James, Hannah was probably born in the Handy house and, by all indications, lived there her entire life. Hannah never married or had children, instead she was surrounded by various generations of close family and acquaintances throughout her lifetime. These included her parents, nieces and nephews, and various other individuals who lived and worked on the farm over the years. It is believed that from at least 1880 on, she shared the house with her grandnephew, Eli Handy (William Handy’s son), his wife Mary, and their five children.106

From documents currently available, there is no in­dication that Hannah altered or improved the house in any way during the years she owned the property, in fact, based on late nineteenth and early twentieth century photographs of the house, it was most likely a period of decline. In these photographs, the exterior of the house shows its age, with weathered, deteriorated, and missing shingles and woodwork.

Hannah Handy died on December 31, 1892. She was 95 years old. The cause of death was simply identified as “Old Age.” 107 In her will, she named her nephew, William W. Handy (James’ son), executor and, under the first item named, left him and his wife, Caroline the family farm; however, William had died in 1886. George Handy, William’s son, petitioned the courts and was assigned as executor of the will.108 As per terms of Hannah’s will, “Upon the decease of my nephew William W. Handy and his wife Caroline, I give, devise, and bequeath all my Real Estate as follows. viz.- One half part to Frances H. Handy, daughter of my nephew William W. Handy – and the other half part equally to George E. Handy and Eli Handy, sons of my said nephew William W. Handy – to them and their heirs forever…”109

Following Hannah’s passing, Eli Handy, his wife Mary, and their family remained in the house.


98 Holbrook, Jay Mack. Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, Westport 1620-1988. [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. digital page 868. This George Kirby is thought to have owned the house and land based on him being similar in age to James Handy, and living in Westport at this time. Other George Kirbys showing in Bristol county are living elsewhere and are also many decades younger.

99 Handy, James (1860 U.S. Census) Massachusetts, Bristol County, Westport. Series: M653, Roll: 491 Page: 394.

100 Handy, Hannah (1870 U.S. Census) Massachusetts, Bristol County, Westport. Series: M593, Roll: 606 Page: 662.

101 George Kirby to John Milk, 19 September 1868, Bristol County, Massachusetts, Deed Book 65, Page 61, Westport, Massachusetts.

102 John Milk to Stephen Kirby, 15 April 1869, Bristol County, Massachusetts, Deed Book 65, Page 62, Westport, Massachusetts.

103 Stephen P. Kirby to Albert C. Kirby, 26 April 1872, Bristol County, Massachusetts, Deed Book 74, Pages 94-95, Westport, Massachusetts.

104 Stephen Kirby to Hannah Handy, 16 December 1876, Bristol County, Massachusetts, Deed Book 84, Pages 351-2, Westport, Massachusetts.

105 Henry B. Worth notebook.doc, page 82, Westport  Historical Society, Westport, Massachusetts. Worth’s original notebooks and manuscripts are located in the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library, Henry Barnard Worth Papers, 1714 – 1942, Mss 59.

106 Handy, Eli (1880 U.S. Census) Massachusetts, Bristol, County, Massachusetts, Series: T9, Roll: 523, Page: 244.

107 Hannah Handy. Death registry, Town of Westport, De­cember 31, 1892, Westport Deaths, 1857-1892, Vol. B, Page 91, Westport, Bristol County, Massachusetts. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, Utah. Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook).

108 Hannah Handy Petition for Administration with the Will Annexed, Citation, and Decree, No. 9112, dated January 18, 1893.

109 Will of Hannah Handy, Undated, probated February 3, 1893, Bristol County


Eric Gradoia, Architectural History and Conservation. Copyright 2014