New Jersey Obituaries - June 8, 1898 - Benjamin B. Hance

Benjamin B. Hance Dead

He Was A Noted Nurseryman And Landscape Architect

He and His Father Established the Rumson Nurseries, Which for Twenty Years Were the Most Famous in This Country

Benjamin B. Hance, son of the late Asher Hance, and at one time proprietor of the famous Rumson nurseries, died at Little Silver on Saturday night, after a sickness of two months. Mr. Hance was well known as a nurseryman and landscape architect, and was one of the first men in the country in this line of work.

Mr. Hance was born in 1833, at the Hance homestead on Rumson Neck. At that time Rumson Neck was the greatest peach growing locality in the United States, the very finest peaches raised in the country being grown there. Asher Hance, father of Benjamin B. Hance, owned a large tract of land on Rumson Neck, and was one of the largest growers of peaches there. After a time Mr. Hance began raising and grafting his own peach trees. This was the beginning of the nursery business which afterward became famous as the Rumson nurseries. From raising his own peach trees it was only a step to disposing of the surplus stock. When a fair trade in peach trees had grown up, other fruit trees and small fruits were added to the stock for sale. Asher Hance at this time raised all the trees and plants he sold. A little later the growing of ornamental trees and shrubbery became a part of the business, and still later hothouse and greenhouse plants were grown and sold.

In 1854 the business was first known as the Rumson Nurseries, and for twenty years these nurseries were the most famous in the country. They combined fruit and ornamental trees, small fruits, flowering plants and shrubs, palms and tropical plants, etc. The Hances became quite wealthy, and at one time they were worth nearly a quarter of a million of dollars. At the Centennial exposition at Philadelphia they made a remarkably fine exhibit, and received the highest awards.

When the Rumson nurseries were started the firm name was A. Hance & son. After the death of Asher Hance the business was conducted by his son Benjamin. The panic of 1873 put the nurseries in bad financial condition. There were embarrassments of various kinds, due principally to the failure of persons indebted to them, and to the loss of business caused by the hard times. These embarrassments and complications culminated in Mr. Hance's failure in 1878. Subsequently he engaged in the nursery business at Little Silver with Albert R. Borden, under the firm name of Hance & Borden. This venture proved unsuccessful. The stock of the Rumson nurseries was eventually bought by the J. T. Lovett nursery company.

After leaving Little Silver Mr. Hance went to New York, where he obtained a position as a landscape architect in the department of public parks. His principal work while he was there was the laying out of Morningside Park. For two years he was associated with Nathan F. Barrett, a prominent landscape architect. Several years ago he went to the city of Pullman, one of the suburbs of Chicago, where he was in charge of the streets and parks. He remained there until he was attacked with heart disease about two months ago.

When Mr. Hance was taken sick, and it was learned that his condition was serious, his daughter, Miss Elizabeth A. Hance of Little Silver, went to Chicago to bring him home. While she was making the return journey she was attacked with congestion of the brain, and about two weeks ago she died. The shock of his daughter's death greatly affected Mr. Hance, and he gradually sank until his death on Saturday.

Mr. Hance married Lavinia Woolley, daughter of Eden Woolley, of Poplar. Their domestic life was very happy, and their union was blessed with three children. The children were Howard Hance of Little Silver, Miss Elizabeth A. Hance, and Mrs. Susan B. Haviland, wife of a New York lawyer. The failure of the Rumson nurseries and the subsequent failure of the firm of Hance & Borden swept away all of Mr. Hance's property, but his children are left well provided for by the will of their grandfather, Eden Woolley, who left a large estate.

Mr. Hance's funeral was held at the house at Little Silver yesterday afternoon. The pall bearers were John T. Lovett, J. A. Throckmorton, I. H. Adlem, J. Trafford Allen, William T. Corlies and Arthur A. Patterson. With one exception these are the same persons who served as pall bearers at the funeral of Mr. Hance's daughter two weeks ago.

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, June 8, 1898

Benjamin B. Hance Burial Record