The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Nancy Penn Hannum — 2011

5th Rebecca Lukens Award Recipient

The Graystone Society has announced its fifth annual Rebecca Lukens Award to be posthumously presented to noted Chester County icon, Nancy Penn Smith Hannum or as she preferred to be called simply, “ Mrs. Hannum.”  

Mrs. Hannum, a Chester County conservation force whose fiery passion was always tempered by kindness, passed away last March at the age of 90.  She was the daughter of Richard Penn Smith and Carol Harriman, whose stepfather was noted railroad tycoon, E. H. Harriman (founder of the Union Pacific Railroad). Another family notable, her uncle, Averell Harriman, was a legendary governor of New York State.

Born on Long Island, in 1919, Mrs. Hannum grew up in a life filled with horses, hounds and foxes. Black riding hats and scarlet hunt jackets were a common sight to this industrious young woman. She was an accomplished equestrian, and also trained horses (many of whom went on to win prestigious steeplechase awards). 

But eventually, she had to give up riding after an injury in 1982 to her shoulder, which kept her off of the saddle and into a Jeep instead. Her step -father (her biological father passed away in 1929) was a Master of the Hounds (a person who maintains the kennels for a fox hunt and is master of the field, among other duties). In fact, her stepfather, W. Plunkett Stewart founded the pack of hounds (Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds), which he mastered until his death in 1948. At that time, young Nancy took over the reigns for her father.

When Stewart moved his family to Unionville, he immediately started to buy land parcels and eventually would accumulate over 5,000 acres in that pastoral community. He also encouraged all of his friends to do the same. With power comes responsibly and that was not lost on young Nancy, who eventually married John Hannum III in the winter of 1940. With their home at Brooklawn Farm, deeded in 1688, Mrs. Hannum realized the importance of preserving the beauty of the land for future generations. With that thought in mind, she became active in land conservation and open-space preservation. She did this through donating “conservation” easements on her multitude of real estate holdings and “encouraged” most of her friends and colleagues to do the same. Many will tell you, that if you enjoy the beautiful bucolic landscapes along Rt. 82 in Unionville, you largely have Mrs. Hannum to thank.

Mrs. Hannum, and her husband John, were the parents of three children; John B. “ Jock” Hannum, Jr., Richard “ Buzz” Hannum and a daughter, Carol H. Davidson. Mrs. Hannum’s husband pre-deceased her in 2007.

Mrs. Hannum was also active in many civic and community organizations. She was a founding board member of the Upland Country Day School (now located in Kennett Square). A motivating board member of Chester County Parks and Recreations, as well as the West Chester University Foundation. In addition, Nancy L. Mohr  memorialized her in the book, “ The Lady Blows a Horn”.