In the year 1841 when Lewis C. Nance was born in Clinton County, Missouri, this was a rugged part of the United States. In fact, it was settled only about eleven years earlier. The man credited with settling the area was John Livingston, and it is written “he killed close to fifty black bears, 22 where the present-day Clinton County Courthouse stands. Until the Platte Purchase (1834-1838) the area was the border county or sometimes known as the Gateway to the West.”
Information we have on Lewis’ parents, Edward and Margaret Nance, is very sketchy. We know that before Lewis’ birth they lived in Edgar County, Illinois, because it is on record that Edward bought land in 1846 and 1847. In 1840 he is found on the United States Federal Census and was living in Clinton County, Missouri. The census listed him, a wife, a daughter, and a son. Both children were less than 5 years of age. The 1840 Census does not give information about occupation. This was a year before Lewis was born.
Lewis was the third child of Edward and Margaret Nance. In 1841 when he was born, the Nances had a daughter, Catherine, who was about 4 years old and a son. No records have been found that give the son’s name. He is not listed with the family on the 1850 census, so may have died or moved away at a young age.
Lewis was between 2 and 6 years old when the Nance family moved back to Edgar County, Illinois, and his father, Edward, was a miner. In his book, The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, Jim W. Kuhlman has this to say about this time in the Nance family’s life.
Between 1843 and 1847 they moved back to Edgar County, IL where Edward H. worked in the coal mines in the Northeast part of the county in Brouilletts Creek Township. These had to be extremely difficult times working in the mines. Two other children were born in Paris, Edgar County. Clara was born in 1853 and Viola in 1855. (Kuhlman, 9)
I agree with Kuhlman. The Nance family must have lived a hard life in those years when Lewis was only a boy. By 1846, he had another sister and brother, Margaret “Maggie” and Edward Young. In 1853 another sister, Clara, was born. Inevitably he and his siblings grew up rapidly and were given chores to help their mother keep the household running. We do no know if Edward farmed his land but more than likely he did. Nevertheless, they lived a frontier life.
In 1850 the Nance family was still living in Edgar County, Illinois. However, as Kuhlman points out that sometime between Dovey Viola’s birth in 1855 and the 1860 United States Federal Census, they had moved to Lavaca County, Texas.
As the crow flies, the distance between Edgar County, Illinois and Lavaca County, Texas is approximately 900 miles. That’s quite a challenge to undertake with a large family and all of one’s belongings. Travel most likely was by covered wagon and oxen. If they made two miles an hour they were really doing well. A hundred miles in a week was a good goal. One can only wonder why a family would move that great distance and endure the hardships one would entail along the way. One possibility was that land was very cheap and easy to obtain in those days. (Kuhlman, 9)
Upon arrival in Lavaca County, Lewis’ father, Edward, became involved in cattle production. Lewis and his younger brother, Edward Young, followed suit. From the early livestock brand records recorded in the Lavaca County Courthouse, it is indicated that on June 11, 1861, E.H. Nance and his son L.C. Nance each recorded brands. (Kuhlman, 11)
Mary Jane Upton May was a neighbor of the Nance family. The 1860 United States Federal Census shows us that she was widowed and had four children living at home. Evidently, one of her daughters, Charity, caught Lewis’ eye and they “struck up a friendship.” By 1862, it had developed into a more serious relationship and they married April 30, 1862, in her mother’s home.
After their marriage, it was not long before Lewis and Charity decided to purchase some land. There is record of Lewis’ purchase of 4-9/10 acres located on the Lavaca River. This should have been a happy time for this young couple, but we know that this was a tumultuous time in the history of the United States. The country was engaged in the Civil War. Not long after Lewis made his land purchase, he enlisted in the Confederate Army. On September 1, 1862, he was enrolled for the duration of the War by Captain George L. Patrick, 2nd Regiment, Texas Cavalry, Company D of the Confederate States Army. Information is from the National Archives Trust Fund Board, Washington, D.C.
During the months of September and October he was paid $24.40 for use of his horse and $50 for a bounty due him for enlistment. He continued to receive $12.20 a month for his horse. Captain Milby paid him $48.80 on February 28, 1863, for November through February.
Lewis Nance made the rank of Corporal in Company D. His service records indicate he was absent on sick leave several times. He was admitted to General Hospital in Houston, Texas on May 11, 1863, for ophthalmia. On May 18, he was furloughed for thirty days. He was on sick leave several other times in 1863 and during the month of April, 1864, according to Confederate Archives, Chapter 6, File No. 275, Page 158. (Kuhlman, 41)
Their family life was terribly disrupted during the time of the Civil War, but nevertheless, Lewis and Charity started a family. A daughter, Mary Margaret “Maggie” was born March 4, 1863, and a son, George Edward, arrived February 28, 1865. Having her family nearby must have been a great consolation for Charity as she kept the farm running with two small children. Like her mother, she was a woman of strength and endurance.
Along with other Texans, Lewis had to get his life back together following the Civil War. Farming and raising cattle was his means of doing it. We can only imagine the terrific struggle it must have been. However, as you will see from the records of all his land transactions, Lewis had an intense inner drive and it was to acquire land.
Following are notes from Kuhlman’s book concerning Lewis Nance’s livestock and land purchases following the Civil War. (Kuhlman, 42-47) Records are from Abstracts and Deeds of Land Records and Livestock Brand Records, Lavaca County, Texas Courthouse.
- May 18, 1857, purchase of 17 head of livestock and 1 roan mare for $425. He also registered a brand “HR”.
- August 1, 1867, Lewis and his brother, Edward Y. Nance, purchased 104 acres of land from Z.N. Hanna for $104. Lewis also purchased 104 acres of land adjoining this from James Ballard.
- January 21, 1868, purchase of 21 more acres of land for $100 from J.M Briggs.
- August 6, 1867, Lewis and Edward Y. received the deed to 29-½ acres four miles south of Hallettsville fronting on the Lavaca River for doing contracted labor to build a house for John S. Woodward.
- January 1868, purchase of a small piece of land adjoining the 104 acres previously purchased from James Ballard.
- Purchase of 21 acres for $100 located next to land Lewis had purchased from J.M. Briggs.
- July 25, 1870, purchase of 165 acres for $100 from Morgan, Judd, and Williams, Merchants, located in Petersburg on the east side of the Lavaca River.
- July 25, 1870, purchase of 51-2/3 acres for $60 from John S. Woodward.
- In January 1868, Lewis purchased a small piece of land adjoining the 104 acres previous purchased from James Ballard.
- On January 21, 1868, Lewis purchased 21 acres for $100 from J.M. Briggs.
- On July 25, 1870, Lewis purchased 165 acres of land located on the east side of the Lavaca River for $100 from Morgan, Judd & Williams. On that same day, he purchased 51-2/3 acres along the river for $60 from John S. Woodward.
- October 4, 1870, Lewis and Edward Y. purchase of 3 tracts of land, 51 acres, 10 acres, and 6 acres for $500 from A.W. and Amanda A. Crawford, located near the NE corner of Hallettsville.
- January 25, 1871, land sold by Lewis, Charity, and Edward Y. Nance. 3 tracts previously described for $500 to John Zumwalt.
- January 27, 1872, Lewis Nance and William Harvey Turk purchased part of 10 acre tract of the John Hallett League in Hallettsville for $100.
- December 20, 1872, purchase of 15 acres for $3 in coins per acre from Nancy Zumwalt.
- September 1873, First Tuesday “Sheriff’s Sale,” Lewis purchased 38-½ acres for $192.50, located about 3 miles southeast of Hallettsville on the east side of the Lavaca River.
The number of land transactions is amazing to me, but perhaps for Lewis it was both a necessity and a passion. Like others around him, he was a part of the rebuilding Texas after the devastating affects of the Civil War.
The Nance brothers were always looking out for ways to add land when possible, or making land trades during these frustrating times in the rebuilding of Texas after the Civil War. Most likely some of their cattle were trailed to Abilene, Kansas. (Kuhlman, 47)
During this time of building his business, Lewis and Charity were adding to their family. In 1873 they had another daughter, Louis “Lou.” Some online family trees give her name as Louis after her father. However, this is confusing since his name is spelled differently in most records. We do know she was called “Lou” by the family.
There are no documented details about Lewis’ death. His tombstone in the Hallettsville Cemetery (sometime called the Old Hallettsville Graveyard) does not give any birth or death dates. The inscription reads: Lewis C. Nance, Corporal Company D, 2nd Texas Cavalry, CSA.
There is family lore that Lewis died of sunstroke while plowing his fields. His wife was left a widow in her late twenties with five small children and pregnant with a sixth child. Their daughter Adelia “Addie” was born about 3 months after Lewis’ death. According to Jim Kuhlman, this information was given by a family member, Allen Belle Turrentine Johnson. (Kuhlman, 47)
Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
Clinton County Historical Society, “Brief County History,” www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~moclinto/histsoc/
Kuhlman, Jim W., The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, 1996.
Lavaca County, marriage record, vol B, p. 131, Lavaca County Clerk’s Office, Hallettsville, Texas.
Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2010
Lewis C. Nance Family Group Sheet (click link) lewis-c-nance-fgs-document