George Edward Nance was born February 28, 1865, in Hallettsville, Lavaca County, Texas and was the second child of Lewis and Charity May Nance. This small town is located on the Lavaca River, eighty miles southeast of Austin. At that time, as now, much of the economy of the area was based on agriculture and area farmers raised cattle, and grew rice, corn, hay, fruit, and pecans. George’s father, Lewis, farmed and raised cattle.
Around the time of George’s birth, the American Civil War was coming to a close and Texas was a Confederate state. Needless to say, the Nance family, like all Texans, must have been greatly impacted by this war. George’s father, Lewis, was enrolled for the duration of the war and was a corporal in Company D, 2nd Texas Cavalry.
In the years following the Civil War, Lewis Nance was doing what he could to provide for his growing family. In his book The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, Jim W. Kuhlman provides a record of Lewis’ land transactions and livestock purchases in Lavaca County, Texas (Kuhlman, 41-47). Some of the land transactions were in partnership with his brother, Edward Y. Nance. He also registered for a livestock brand.
It is evident that he valued land ownership and raising cattle was his business. I imagine young George was required to help his father on the farm and was receiving some early lessons in farming, ranching, and the importance of owning land.
Unfortunately, there is little information about George’s childhood. However, when his father died, in 1874, the Nance family had five children (Mary Margaret, George, Katherine, Sarah, and Louis “Lou”) and his mother was expecting a sixth child. Since George was only 9 years old when his father died and was the only son, it is likely he had to grow up very quickly. Undoubtedly his mother expected him to be “the man of the house” and depended on him to help with the chores on their farm. Jim Kuhlman gives two differing family perspectives on Edward’s young life.
Bennett Nance wrote in ‘The Nance Family History’ in 1992 that George Edward was the boss at an early age and was spoiled by his sisters who had to do the work. Others in the family said he was adored by his five sisters for he had done so much for their mother Charity and the girls as they were growing up without a father. (Kuhlman, 47-48)
It is likely there is some truth in both statements. Nevertheless, the views, one by a son and another by George’s sisters, give us a little insight on family dynamics.
George met the daughter of a neighbor John Woodward when he was in his early twenties. Her name was Lucinda “Lucy” Ann Woodward. Following a courtship they married on January 23, 1888, in the Mossy Grove Methodist Church in Lavaca County.
George Edward and Lucy Ann Nance began their early married life on the Nance land south of Hallettsville along the east side of the Lavaca River in January 1888, raising cattle and farming. It has been said that he started with $17 dollars and a team of mules. George inherited the urge to acquire land from his father Lewis and the conservative way of life from his Cherokee grandmother Mary Upton May. Lucy Ann learned from her family, the Woodward’s, the value and importance of land and livestock. Losing her mother at twelve years of age, and having to help raise other brothers and sisters, prepared her to raise her own family. (Kuhlman, 73)
Note: Mary Jane Upton’s Cherokee ancestry is family lore and has not been documented.
In his book, Kuhlman wrote that George Nance began early in life to develop a desire to own land, and between the years of 1888 and 1896, he made a number of land transactions in Lavaca County, Texas. One purchase of particular interest was from his sisters, Sally Nance and Margaret “Maggie” Nance Varnell. He paid them $100 for 150 acres 3 miles southeast of Hallettsville near the small community of Sweet Home. This eventually became known as the “Nance Homestead.” Records for all Lavaca County land transactions are in the Lavaca County Courthouse, Hallettsville, Texas. (Kuhlman, 73-74)
GEORGE AND LUCY START THEIR FAMILY
Three years after they married, George and Lucy Ann started their family with the birth of a daughter, Willie Mae, on January 28, 1891. By 1897, they had four more children – Gladys Gertrude (August 10, 1892); Norma Dell (March 11, 1894); George Edison (January 3, 1896); and Sadie Ann (September 4, 1897). All were born in Lavaca County, Texas.
In 1900 we find the George Nance family living in Goliad County, Texas, their family of seven listed on the 1900 United States Federal Census. They lived near the small community of Charco located in the northeastern part of the county. This little burg was settled by at least four members of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred. The Spanish charco means “pool” or “watering hole,” a name suggested by the numerous bodies of water that once dotted the area. In his autobiography, Bennett Nance says their farm was on the banks of the San Antonio River about 4 or 5 miles from Charco which at the time had one school, one grocery store, a cotton gin, and a blacksmith shop.
While living in Goliad County, the Nance family continued to grow with the birth of Bennett Allen, December 23, 1901 and John Allison “Al” September 18, 1903.
In 1907, the Nance family moved to Wichita County, Texas as described by Bennett Nance.
We moved our furniture, plows, wagon, buggy, horses, and mules in one freight car to Electra, Texas. We moved into an old house that had formally been the home of W.T. Wagoner. It was a block from the old depot. He was the owner of the 600,000 acre Whiteface Ranch…We lived here only a for short time, and then we moved to a farm on Beaver Creek, 11 miles south of the town. This was a 984 acre stock farm which is still held by Nance descendants. (This is no longer the case in 2009 as I copy this information.)
The Nance family stayed on the Beaver Creek farm near Electra until about 1915 and then readied for their next move to Floyd County. In his book, Jim W. Kuhlman provides an excellent record of George Nance’s land transactions in Floyd County. (Kuhlman, 80-82) It seems he had quite a good eye for land and was an able dealer.
Oil had been discovered in 1911 near Electra, and in 1914, Papa Nance leased our farm to Texas Oil Company (later Texaco). Having a craving for land, Papa found this place west – a 320 acre farm 5 miles south of Lockney, Texas, in Floyd County. In 1915, we moved there, but we kept the Beaver Creek farm. In about 1916 oil was discovered on the Lockney farm and eventually there were more than 100 wells on the place. In 1915, we moved by train to a farm 5 miles south of Lockney, a town of maybe 100 homes. Every house in the town had a windmill. In those days no small town had waterworks. What a sight! Back on Beaver Creek we did not have windmills, and I don’t remember one in Electra. An elderly couple was more than glad to sell Papa their farm. Their name was Keys. Again the school was on our property – Pleasant Valley. My sisters had all married by this time. Al and I went to school here. Our teacher was Miss Maggie Satawhite. My older brother, George, did most of the farming with me and Al helping out. We still used horses and mules. The first crop on the 320 acres was planted with mules and a planter called a “sod buster planter.” Since the World War I was being fought, we made enough grain at about $3.00 per hundred weight, which was enough to pay for the land with the first crop. (Bennett Nance autobiography)
After meeting with Bennett Nance, Jim Kuhlman shares some of their conversation about the Beaver Creek farm.
When Papa purchased the farm in Lockney and moved the family once again, he wanted to sell the 984 acres in Wichita County but Mama Nance would not hear of it, so they kept the property. She must have had a hunch something good was going to happen!
Not long after their move to Lockney, oil was discovered on the Beaver Creek property, around 1916. This certainly was a major turning point in the lives of the Nance family. On March 28, 1993, Bennett told me that some of the wells drilled back in the teen years were still producing today. ‘We had over 100 oil wells on that place at one time on 984 acres. My friend Herman Mitchell who I grew up with at Rocky Point School, said that the Nance place was the cream of the crop.’ (Kuhlman, 82)
During the years of 1914-1918 the world was embroiled in war. Like others in our nation, the Nance family was affected by this terrible event when George and Lucy Ann’s son, George Edison, joined the U.S. Navy on December 27, 1917. World War I was a conflict which involved most of the world’s great powers and was centered in Europe. It has gone down in history as one of the largest and most deadly wars with more than 15 million people killed. It was also known as the Great War and the War to End All Wars. Having their son in the military must have been a terrible worry to George and Lucy Ann. I imagine they and their entire family were deeply concerned about his well-being and safety. Seeing an end to the conflict could not come soon enough.
World War I ended in 1918 and the Nance family is found on the 1920 United States Federal Census living at 418 Sycamore Street in Abilene, Taylor County, Texas. George Nance was listed as a farmer and his son, George Edison, is a tool pusher meaning he worked in the oil fields. By this time, all of the Nance daughters were married and only the sons George, Bennett, and Al were named as a part of the household.
GEORGE AND LUCY ANN MOVE TO THE TEXAS PANHANDLE
In 1921 George Nance turned his eyes to the Texas Panhandle. When he learned of some land available in southern Randall County, some of which was owned by the Harris family
from Floyd County, George Nance worked a trade of some of his Floyd County farm for the Randall County land. Jim Kuhlman gives the details of the trade. (Kuhlman, 127-128)
As it turned out, this was only the first land transaction for George Nance. More than ever, it is evident that George Nance had a hunger for land in his beloved Texas.
By February 1924 George Nance owned nine and one half sections which stretched five miles from the west border of section 117, which is next to the Schuette place, to the east border of section 121, on the Palo Duro Canyon. (Kuhlman, 134)
Note: A part of this land was purchased in 1929 by George and Lucy Ann’s son, George Edison, and his wife, Lucille, and they developed the renowned Nance Hereford Ranch.
From his conversation with family members, Jim Kuhlman points out that it was well known that George Nance was a good stockman, trader and businessman. His grandson shared that he was told that his grandfather would sit in the lobby of the local banks to learn what was going on and visit with the bank officers about different opportunities. He soon became a stockholder in the bank in Canyon, Texas. (Kuhlman, 132)
After his initial land purchase, George and Lucy Ann began thinking about another change, and in 1922 they moved from Abilene to a small primitive ranch house on one of the seven sections of land near the Palo Duro Canyon. While living here, George Nance purchased cattle for his new operation and most likely they were Hereford. They also raised their own forage feed, farming with horses and mules;
The Nance family lived in the old ranch house until the spring of 1924 and then made the decision to build a new house on one of the sections of land.
The Nance family decided that the east one-half of section 118 would be a good location for a new home and a headquarters for their ranching operations. It was reasonably level land with good productive and nutritious native grasses including blue grama and buffalo grass. The pastures were free of trees and shrubs…
So early in the spring of 1924, a new home was built on a knoll on the north side of the half section that eventually became the home of the Nance Hereford Ranch. Bennett shared with me on March 29, 1993, ‘We had to pull all the nails out of the lumber from the house down in the header of the canyons to build the Nance home on the ranch. Papa Nance wouldn’t throw away the nails; they and the lumber could be used again.’…As Bennett had mentioned earlier, his father was a very frugal person. He believed in paying cash, and definitely did not believe in charging purchases. Credit cards were unknown in those days. (Kuhlman, 134-135)
George and Lucy Ann Nance lived on their ranch near Canyon, Texas, until 1929 when they decided to retire. At that time their son, George Edison, and his wife, Lucille, purchased the ranch home place and two additional sections. George and Lucy bought a lovely home in Brownsville, located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
George Edward Nance died February 4, 1937, in Brownsville, Cameron County, Texas, and was buried in the Dreamland Cemetery near Canyon, Texas. Jim W. Kuhlman shows his admiration of George Nance with this wonderful tribute.
At seventy-one years of age, almost seventy-two, the very adventurous life of a major pioneer born in Hallettsville, Texas, came to an end. He certainly left a wonderful mark on this world and a shining example for all his family for generations to come. A great lover of land, he impressed upon his children ‘Never sell land.’ So even today some of the land that he put together in his lifetime is still owned by his descendants. (Kuhlman, 193)
An obituary from the Canyon News, Canyon, Texas, Thursday, February 11, 1937.
Mr. Nance was one of the large pioneer ranchers in this section of the country, and he and Mrs. Nance made their home at their ranch east of Canyon until six years ago when they moved to Brownsville because of his failing health. Mr. Nance was a kind, generous, and successful businessman, who was loved by all who knew him. He was formerly associated with the First National Bank of Canyon as Vice President and as a member of the Board of Directors. (Kuhlman, 193)
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Commonwealth, Volume 4, Chapter LX, Wortham-Molyneaux Company, Fort Worth, Texas, 1924. www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/wortham/4345.htm
Croft, Lucy Ann Nance, Looking Back: Reflections On My Life, 2007.
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Nance, Bennett Allen, Autobiography of Bennett Allen Nance: Rancher in Real County, 1927-1948, 1985. n.p.
Wikipedia The Free Encylopedia, “World War I”, www.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_WarI
Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2010
George Edward Nance Family Group Sheet (click link) george-edward-nance-family-group-sheet-document