Archie Carlisle LeBus was born on December 1, 1904, in Bonham, Fannin County, Texas. She was the third child of George and Ethel Calk LeBus, and they named their baby girl after her two uncles, Archie LeBus and Levi Carlisle Calk. Bonham is a small community in Northeastern Texas, one of the oldest towns in the state (settled in 1837). At the time of her birth Archie’s “Papa” owned a machine shop.
Unfortunately, there are few stories to relate about Archie’s childhood except that her father was a man of entrepreneurial spirit and provided well for his family. Her mother was the consummate homemaker and a wonderful example to Archie. It is entirely possible that if her younger brothers or sisters could be asked, they might say that Archie was like a second “mother” to them. Evidently, her early life was a training ground. As her children can attest, as a wife and mother, nothing pleased Archie more than keeping a lovely home, cooking good meals for her husband, Bennett, and nurturing her children and supporting them in their endeavors.
In 1910 the LeBus family was living in Henrietta, Texas, and Archie now had three younger siblings. By 1920 they had moved to Electra, Texas, and George and Ethel had completed their family of nine children – Frank, Hazel, Archie, Jack, Irene, Roy, Laura V., George Franklin “G.F.”, and Ethel Marie.
Neither George nor Ethel LeBus had a great deal of formal education but they must have encouraged Archie’s interest in learning and education. After graduation from Electra High School in 1922, Archie attended Ward Belmont in Nashville, Tennessee (1922-1923) and then later Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas (1923-1924). At both schools she developed a number of wonderful friendships. As those who knew Archie might expect, she remained in contact with some of these friends for many years. Even at the time of her death, several of her friends from school days sent letters of condolence to Archie’s husband and children.
Archie met her future husband, Bennett Allen Nance, when they were both seniors in Electra High School in Electra, Texas (1921-1922). After graduation they each went their separate ways for several years but remained in contact.
Bennett Nance gave a wonderful gift to his family when he wrote a short autobiography. In it he shares thoughts about this time in his and Archie’s life together.
On a trip back to Electra, I was re-acquainted with Archie (we had been corresponding) and I decided I wanted to get married. It was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me, to acquire such a priceless pearl. She was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. We were married on January 1, 1925, in Wichita Falls, Texas, at the First Christian Church. Though nothing was ever said about their eloping, the ceremony must have been very small because Bennett says – her brother, Jack LeBus stood up for us, not mentioning any other people.
We went on our honeymoon in a Model T Ford. After this, we decided to move back to Canyon with my folks. There were three families of us – my father and mother, my brother George and his wife, Lucille, and Archie and myself living in one house.
Mom (Archie) and I were never happy on the ranch in Canyon with my folks, so we went to Electra and I went to work at the LeBus and Friend (L & F) Chevrolet Company selling cars and helping out front at the gas pumps. In the meantime, Papa (Bennett’s father) had sent me word that if I could find a ranch that I liked, he would look into the matter. I began to look around for another location and found an area that intrigued me around Rocksprings down in the Hill Country of Texas. (Bennett Nance)
In 1926, while Bennett and Archie were still living in Electra, a very sad life event occurred. Their first child was born on September 16 – a baby girl who they named Aileen. Regrettably, we know she died the same day. It must have been devastating for Archie and Bennett to lose their first child. As a mother myself I cannot think of anything more difficult than the loss of a child, no matter the age. There is a record of her death but no information about the cause. My mother, Archie, never shared anything with me about her first pregnancy or this terrible event. It must have been too painful. Fortunately, she did have a large family around to bring her comfort and consolation. Even though early childhood death may have been more common in those days, it does not negate the fact that it was a very sad time in Bennett and Archie’s early life tog
In his autobiography, Bennett Nance writes that his father told him if he found a good ranch he would buy for him. Bennett went looking and found a ranch in central Texas.
Papa Nance purchased the ranch from the Rudisil’s. It was located on the Divide of the Edwards Plateau where the Frio River started and it became known as the Divide Ranch, 35 miles east of Rocksprings and 65 miles west of Kerrville. Archie and I moved south to take over the operation of this ranch.
In late August, 1927, we had all of our belongings loaded and traveled to the ranch to start our new adventure. I drove a truck and Archie followed in the car. We drove on mostly dirt roads. I can remember driving up to the ranch and going through the gate that was just about 100 yards from the house. The gate was too narrow and I ripped our new bedsprings off the side of the truck. Archie was upset and crying. You must remember this was a real change for her, but she was determined to try and be a good wife and mate.
We started improving the ranch. I was very pleased now being in what I thought was the best place on earth and in a new business. I knew nothing about sheep and goats, although, I had the advantage of being a country boy. The Great Depression was starting, but we were always able to get groceries once a week on credit payable when the mohair or wool sold. (Bennett Nance)
It is a treasure to have Bennett’s recollections of his and Archie’s early life on the Divide Ranch. He does not make big issue of it, but this new lifestyle was a huge change for Archie. She was not a country girl and had grown up surrounded by a large supportive family. Undoubtedly, she had to call on some deep reserves of strength and faith as she adjusted to life on a sheep and goat ranch in a remote area of Texas. It seems to me she rose to the occasion!
More changes occurred in 1929 when Bennett and Archie were expecting a baby. Because Archie needed to be near a doctor and medical attention, they decided to move back to Electra. Having lost their first child, it makes sense that they had some anxiety about this second baby and felt relief knowing she would also have family support there in Electra. Dan Allen was born April 10, 1929. Happily they welcomed their healthy baby boy! After Archie and Dan were strong enough to travel, they moved back to the ranch.
On October 25, 1931 Archie gave birth to a beautiful baby daughter, Nancy. Again, they had moved near a doctor but this time to Kerrville which was only 65 miles from the ranch. By this time, they had built a new home on the ranch which was more comfortable and suitable for their growing family. I recall hearing about the larger kitchen with both a wood-burning iron stove and a gas stove. Archie probably enjoyed her better equipped kitchen since cooking for her family was something she absolutely loved.
In his autobiography, Bennett says that by 1935 living in such a remote area presented a “school problem” for Dan and Nancy. To help remedy this they built a small school house and employed a tutor, Miss Dorothy Sikes, from Center Point, Texas to live in and teach the children. However, as the Depression continued to worsen, home schooling worked for only a short time. They decided to rent a house in Kerrville during the fall and winter so that Dan and Nancy could attend school. Bennett commuted back and forth from town to ranch.
Bennett and Archie’s family continued to grow and on February 22, 1937, their baby girl, Lucy Ann, was born at home in Kerrville. (She was named after Bennett’s mother.) Perhaps it was more common at that time to give birth at home, but it must have required some special preparations and, of course, a doctor who made house calls! In her autobiography, Lucy Nance Croft shares some memories her brother Dan had about her birth.
The first thing I can remember about you is Mom’s preparations for your being born at home. At the time it was 925 Myrta Street. Of course, that’s in Kerrville. I remember Mom and her friends obtained a hospital bed somewhere. They made up a lot of absorbent pads. They also had a crib and other things around. I can recall the big event but really not in great detail. (Croft, 7)
In the fall of 1938 there was another move for the Nance family. The school situation again presented a problem and the decision was made to rent a home in San Antonio so that Dan and Nancy could attend better schools. This was a longer commute to the ranch for Bennett but it was necessary.
Continuing to search for a solution to the “school problem,” Bennett and Archie decided to purchase a home and move to Wichita Falls, Texas so that Dan and Nancy could attend school there and Archie would be near her family. Bennett continued to commute to the ranch but says that because he had good help he could stay in Wichita Falls for longer periods of time. However, this changed in 1941 with the advent of World War II. He had to do his part in the war effort by raising food, mohair, and wool. This meant spending more time at the ranch and away from his family. With her husband away for periods of time, Archie must have been happy to be near her family during this time of national and world upheaval.
A very happy event occurred on July 25, 1943, when Bennett and Archie added a beautiful little red haired baby boy, Steven Anthony, to the family! Not long after his birth, the family sold their home in Wichita Falls and moved back to Kerrville. They lived at the ranch for about six months while the house at 901 Myrta Street was being remodeled. During that time, Nancy and Lucy attended a one-room school on the Divide while Dan was enrolled at Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri.
When the Nance family moved into their Kerrville home in early 1944, Archie’s days in the country were over. Though their life was in Kerrville, they would go out to the ranch on occasion until it was sold in 1948. It makes me wonder how Archie felt about all of this change – perhaps a mixture of joy, relief, and nostalgia. In her book, Lucy Nance Croft shares some of her memories of life on the Divide Ranch.
- The ranch house with a large screened in porch.
- The rocking chairs on the porch and Daddy holding and rocking me.
- Daddy teaching me to ride my horse, Tom Thumb, a Shetland pony.
- Having a pet fawn.
- Sheep shearing time.
- Mama cooking on the large, wood-burning iron stove.
- Swimming in a large water tank.
- Barbecue suppers when the ranchers and their families from the Divide gathered to visit and break bread.
- Clothes drying on the clothesline.
- Playing records on a wind-up “Victrola.”
- Making blanket houses on the porch and being stung by a scorpion!
- Mama making clabber and butter in a hand-operated churn.
- The rocky countryside and barbed wire fences.
With their family complete, Bennett and Archie began their life in Kerrville and being a part of this Texas Hill Country community became very important to them. As it turned out, 901 Myrta Street was the Nance home for 47 years. During those many years they lived a full, rich life filled with the joys and sorrows of raising their children and then welcoming grandchildren into their lives. To Denise, Ben, Hank, George, Bennett, Leslie, Lyle, Lloyd, Stephanie, and Laura, they were affectionately called “Mom and Pop.” Nothing pleased Mom more than being with her dear grandchildren and spoiling them a bit with her delicious homemade biscuits! I am sure if asked, each of them would have a story about hanging out in her kitchen.
Later in their life together, Pop and Mom bought a small country house on 60 acres of land near Leakey, Texas. It was a very pretty property adjacent to Rosetta Nance’s home and very near the Frio River. They called it “El Charco.” Perhaps Pop enjoyed this rustic spot more than Mom, but nevertheless, it provided a little “get-away” for them. It is possible that it reminded them a little of their early days living on the Divide ranch.
In her autobiography, Lucy Nance Croft fondly remembers her mother.
Mama loved to cook! We in the family, children and grandchildren alike, will always picture her spending many hours each day in her kitchen. She knew everyone’s favorite foods and delighted in preparing these special dishes for them. Her specialties included homemade biscuits, lemon cake, sweet potato pie, cornbread, chicken and dumplings, and peach preserves—made from Fredericksburg peaches. She loved the study of nutrition and madesure her meals were not only tasty but healthy as well. She said many times “I plan to die healthy”—and she did!
Another activity my mother enjoyed was sewing. She always kept her sewing machine set up and ready for action. She took pride in her appearance—and ours as well. She had a special knack for repairing, altering, and redoing, so that we all had clothes that were stylish and in great shape. Needlepoint was another of her pleasures, particularly if she was making a pillow or decorative item as a gift for a loved one.
Style, not vanity, was certainly one of Mama’s attributes. She had a real sense of style and quality, and it was important to her that it was reflected in her personal appearance. Her wardrobe included lovely clothes, jewelry, shoes, and purses. Many remember her beautiful steel gray hair and lovely skin.
Like my dad, Mama spent many afternoon and evening hours reading. She was a devotee of the Science of Mind Magazine that emphasized the importance of a healthy mind and spiritual growth. Of course, she loved home magazines and books about nutrition and health. She appreciated good music and could play a few tunes on the piano. A favorite leisure activity was listening to recordings of religious or popular songs. Unlike Daddy, she really enjoyed television movies and sporting events such as golf and football.
Church activities were of great interest to Mama, particularly when we were growing up. She attended worship and women’s groups and helped on numerous occasions with church-related dinners and parties. In her later years, she and Daddy enjoyed watching Robert Schuler’s television worship service, The Hour of Power, from the Crystal Cathedral in California. She also liked his books on tape. Unfortunately, one of her unrealized dreams was to attend a service in the cathedral.
Mama was basically a serious-minded woman, but she could enjoy a joke or funny story, unless it was on her! Like most of us, criticism, direct or otherwise, was difficult for her. She was a person of great integrity and honesty and was quite moderate in her tastes, religion, and politics. She valued her family, her religious freedom, and her country. She appreciated and respected the natural world and its beauty and fragility. I believe this was demonstrated in the way she adapted to life on the ranch as a young woman and by her loving care of growing things. She spent hours in her beautiful yard, working to make it more attractive and healthy.
Traveling with Daddy and the family was one of her pleasures, and together they enjoyed the beauty of the United States and Canada. I remember her saying she would love to go to Hawaii, but unfortunately they never got there. Flying was not their favorite means of travel, so that may have been one reason the trip never materialized.
Mama influenced me in so many ways, and as is so often the case, I did not see it until I was an adult. Each of my children has told me that in certain ways I remind them of “Mom,” as she was known to her grandchildren. I consider that a great compliment, especially when I consider her love of the home and family life; her deep spirituality and Christian faith; the importance she placed on education, reading, and study; the significance she placed on good health as demonstrated in her delicious and nutritious food; her desire to please and, to not only do things right, but to do the right thing; the love of people she exhibited in reaching out to others; and her sense of style and beauty shown in how she cared for herself, her home, and her family. And last but not least, her graciousness and gentleness.(Croft, 32-35)
August 5, 1987 was a very sad day for Bennett Nance and his family – his beloved wife Archie died. Every year Bennett and Archie made a trip to the Rio Grande Valley to check out the cotton crop on their farm. While visiting there in early August, she died without warning. Her funeral was held in Kerrville and her burial at the Sunset Cemetery in Mountain Home.
Archie LeBus Nance
Our fondest memories of our mother…Being a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother…A love of cooking and entertaining…Her Loving patience…An enjoyment of sewing and needlework…Her love of reading and study of nutrition…Enjoyment of travel with family around the United States…Collector of photographs, antique glassware, and furniture…Her love of inspirational literature and music.
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2006.
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo, UT,USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2002.
Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census,[database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Ancestry.com. Texas Death Index, 1903-2000, [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2006.
Archie Carlisle LeBus, birth certificate no. 59000, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.
Archie C. Nance, death certificate no. 06859, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistic, Austin, Texas.
“City of Bonham History,” www.cobon.net/history.htm.
Croft, Lucy Ann Nance, Looking Back: Reflections on My Life, 2007.
Kellner, Marjorie, Project Director, Wagons, Ho! A History of Real County, Texas, Curtis Media, Inc., 1995.
Kerrville Daily Times, Obituary for Archie Nance, August 10, 1987.
Nance, Bennett Allen, Autobiography of Bennett Allen Nance: Rancher in Real County, 1927-1948, 1985. n.p.
Wichita County, marriage license no. 12846, Wichita County Clerk’s Office, Wichita Falls, Texas.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “Bonham, Texas,” http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonham,_Texas
Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2010