Lucinda “Lucy” Ann Woodward’s story begins in Hallettsville, a small town in Lavaca County, Texas. She was born December 13, 1869, and her parents were John Southern and Mary Adellia “Della” Woodward. Hallettsville was named for John Hallet, one of the first settlers in this area and is located on the Lavaca River, eighty miles southeast of Austin. Like others in this part of Texas, Lucy’s father was a cattleman just as his father had been before him.
I have not found much information about Lucy Ann’s childhood and youth, but I imagine that her family lived a hard life. She was born only a few years after the country had been engaged in a Civil War and many Texans were still experiencing financial hardship as the state recovered from that conflict. Her father had served in the Confederate States Army, and like other veterans, had to engage himself in reestablishing a livelihood after the war.
When Lucy Ann was born, John and Della had two children (William and Kittie), and in the years following her birth, they had five more children (Betty, Beulah, John, Mary and Albert Tally). By any standard, it was a large family. Della was only 36 years old when she died. With four younger siblings, it is evident that Lucy Ann and her sister, Kittie, had to take on the household responsibilities as well as tending their younger siblings. There is family lore that her father was a trail driver which meant he was gone for long periods of time. It had to have been a difficult time.
The Woodward and Nance families were neighbors and it seems probable that they would socialize from time to time. Perhaps it was on one of those occasions that Lucy Ann met her neighbor, George Edward Nance. As it turns out, in the late 1880’s they courted and then married January 24, 1888, in the Mossy Grove Methodist Church in Lavaca County. In his book, The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, Jim W. Kuhlman has this to say about George and Lucy Ann’s early married life.
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.
Lucy Ann’s husband, George, was a farmer when they married, but was developing what would become a life long interest in land transactions. Jim Kuhlman gives a good record of his transactions while in Lavaca County. He notes that one particular piece of land 3 miles southeast of Hallettsville became known as the “Nance Homestead.” (Kuhlman, 73-74)
While living in Lavaca County, George and Lucy had their first five children. They were: Willie Mae, born January 28, 1891; Gladys Gertrude, born August 10, 1892; Norma Dell, born March 11, 1894; George Edison, born January 3, 1896; and Sadie Ann, born September 4, 1897. Along with hard work, these people loved large families!
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 here, the Nance family continued to grow. In 1901 Bennett Allen was born, and in 1903, John Allison “Al” was born. Here is what Bennett writes:
I was born in a shack, I remember, and Al was born in a new house Papa had built. I visited the old homestead a couple of years ago and the old house had burned down. It was very sad to see. All that remained were the foundation and chimneys.
As I read Bennett Nance’s (my father) account of their life, my thoughts turn to my grandmother, Lucy Ann, and her daughters and I wonder how they dealt with their surroundings and life. They must have been made from strong clothe to endure these unpleasant conditions. There is an old saying, “You do what you have to do,” and that must have been their attitude. From my privileged vantage point, it boggles my mind when I try to determine how they managed just the cooking and the laundry!
In 1907, the Nance family moved to Wichita County, Texas. In his autobiography, Bennett writes:
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. Electra was named after his daughter.
The Nance family stayed on the farm near Electra until 1915 and then readied for their next move to Floyd County, Texas. Bennett Nance also writes about this time. Here is what he says:
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.
In 1920, the Nance family is found on the United States Federal Census in Abilene, Taylor County, Texas. Since all of the Nance daughters were married, only the sons were named as a part of the household. Again we have Bennett’s account of the Nance family’s move to Abilene in about 1918.
My older brother, George, had by this time volunteered for the Navy in World War I and was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. The war was getting terrible. We moved to Abilene, Texas (1918). I was seventeen years old and in the 6th grade. I went to Simmons College where they also taught grammar school. It was 3 miles from home and I walked it twice daily until the Armistice was signed and then I rode a streetcar.
Here again, we had a nation and a family impacted by war, and this time it was a world war. 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.
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)
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.
After his initial land purchase in the Panhandle of Texas, the George and Lucy Ann began thinking about another change. In 1922, they moved from Abilene to Randall County, Texas, into a small primitive ranch house on one of the seven sections of land near the Palo Duro Canyon. 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.
George and Lucy Ann Nance remained on their ranch near Canyon, Texas until 1929. At that time their son, George, bought a part of the Randall County ranch and they decided to retire from ranch life. They bought a lovely home in Brownsville, located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Their granddaughter, Lucy Ann Nance Croft, wrote her memories of this home in her autobiography.
My paternal grandmother was affectionately called Mama Nance (Mrs. George E. Nance). Papa Nance died before I was born. Her home was in Brownsville, Texas. It was two-story stucco with a long porch across the front that was very inviting, with its large fan-backed rattan chairs and tables. There was an orange or grapefruit orchard behind the house. This very comfortable home was conservatively decorated, as you would expect from Mama Nance. I do remember the dining room, with its large mahogany table and china cabinet. At a reunion the family gathered around it for a photo. After my Aunt Norma Beeker became widowed, she lived with Mama Nance to help her take care of the house. (Croft, 28)
Evidently, one of the reasons that Papa and Mama Nance decided to retire from their ranch life was the fact that he was not in good health. It makes sense that the warmer climate of the Rio Grande Valley certainly would make their life more comfortable. As it turned out, Papa Nance died on February 4, 1937, about seven years after their move to Brownsville.
For many years following her husband’s death, Mama Nance remained in her home in Brownsville. When her daughter, Norma, was widowed she came to live with her mother. After Norma died in 1976, Mama Nance spent periods of time staying with her children. Finally, her last two years of life were in a small assisted-living home in Fredericksburg, Texas, near Bennett and Archie Nance who lived in Kerrville. Fortunately, they were able to visit her on a regular basis.
Her granddaughter Lucy Ann Nance Croft remembers Mama Nance in her autobiography this way.
Mama Nance was a reserved, simple woman who had experienced much hardness in life, particularly in her early years of marriage. I do not know anything about her childhood. She was always very easygoing and pleasant when I was around her, but I do not remember anything personal about our relationship. Since I am her namesake, I wish this could have been different. Most of what I know about her I heard from Mama or Daddy. Her one vice was dipping snuff—she called it her “chocolate.” She enjoyed good home-cooked food and was able to eat most anything. During the last years of her life, she lived with my parents for a year and then moved to a small assisted-living home in Fredericksburg. Several times a week Mama and Daddy would drive over to pay her a visit. She was ninety-seven when she died on March 3, 1967. (Croft, 41)
Lucy Ann Woodward Nance was buried in Dreamland Cemetery, Randall County, Texas.
Ancestry.com. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United
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Croft, Lucy Ann Nance, Looking Back: Reflections On My Life, 2007.
Handbook of Texas Online, www.txgenweb2org/txlavaca:hallettsville.htm and www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/HH/hgh1_print.html
Kerrville Mountain Sun, Obituary for Mrs. George E. (Lucy Ann) Nance, March 8, 1967.
Kuhlman, Jim W., The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, 1996.
Lavaca County, marriage license, vol. E, p. 409, Lavaca County Clerk’s Office, Hallettsville, Texas.
Lucy Ann Nance, death certificate no. 16363, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.
Nance, Bennett Allen, Autobiography of Bennett Allen Nance: Rancher in Real County, 1985. n.p.
Wikipedia The Free Encylopedia, “World War I,” www.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_WarI
Wortham, Louis J., “Texas During the Civil War,” A History of Texas: From Wilderness to Commonwealth, Vollume 4, Chapter LX, Wortham-Molyneaux Company, Fort Worth, Texas. http://www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/wortham/4345.htm
Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2010