At the time this biographical sketch of Edward H. Nance is being written (2011) he has the distinction of being our “brick wall” Nance ancestor. There are several descendants searching for information, so we hope that one of these days someone will have a breakthrough. Nevertheless, let me tell you some of the things we do know about this man.
We are fairly certain Edward was born in Virginia in about 1810 as indicated in data from the 1860 United States Federal Census. The names of his parents or siblings are not known. In his book, The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, Jim Kuhlman writes that it is likely that when Edward left Virginia he traveled by wagon on the historic National Road. This was the nation’s first federally funded interstate highway opening the nation to the west. It began in Cumberland, Maryland, in 1811 and eventually reached as far as Vandalia, Illinois, in 1838.
Edward’s wife was Margaret Cammarrar (most commonly spelled Camerer). She was born in about 1815 in either Pennsylvania or Ohio. Records indicate that her family moved to Brouilletts Creek, Edgar County, Illinois, in 1830. Edward and Margaret met sometime after that time and were married October 31, 1834.
After their marriage, they continued living in Edgar County for about five or six more years. During that time Edward and Margaret started a family. A daughter, Catherine, was born in 1836. They also had a son but there is no information giving his name or birth date.
Bureau of Land Management records indicate that in 1836 and 1837, Edward purchased land in both Edgar County, Illinois, and Vermillion County, Indiana, which is just across the county line from Edgar County.
Edward Nance is found on the 1840 United States Federal Census in Clinton County, Missouri. At this time the census recorded only the head of household and his family consisted of a male and a female, ages 20 to 30; and a male and a female both under the age of 5. The census also records one person employed in agriculture. While living in Clinton County, the Nance family continued to grow. A son, Lewis C., was born in 1841, and a daughter, Margaret A., was born in 1843.
Sometime before 1846 the Nance family moved back to Edgar County, Illinois. We know from the 1850 census that Edward worked as a miner. I agree with Jim Kuhlman when he says that working as a miner had to be an extremely difficult job. According to an article entitled “The U.S. Coal Industry in the Nineteenth Century” by Sean Patrick Adams, the coal mines in this area during the 1840’s tended to be small and labor intensive operations often limited to a few skilled miners aided by lesser skilled laborers. The coal miners worked close to the surface, often in horizontal drift mines, which meant that work was not as dangerous in this era before deep shaft mining. Nevertheless, the work of these coal miners was extremely arduous.
By the time of the 1850 United States Federal Census, Edward and Margaret had another child, Edward Y. Nance (born November 4, 1846). Listed with their parents are Catherine, Lewis, Margaret A.., and Edward Y. Note that the son born between 1834 and 1840 is not included on this census. We do not know what happened to this son. Jim Kuhlman does mention some information that might be a possible clue.
Also listed living in District Nineteen of Edgar County, Illinois in 1850 was Hugh Nance. He was eighteen years old, born in Owen County, Indiana and was working as a farm laborer for Robert Faris, an eighty-five year old framer. Owen County, less than fifty miles east of Edgar County, also was a coal mining area. Could Hugh have been the son listed in the 1840 Census of Clinton County, Missouri? (Kuhlman, 9)
Margaret’s father, Lewis Camerer, died on November 26, 1855, and was buried at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery, also known as Carmel-Light Cemetery, in Edgar County, Illinois. Margaret inherited a 1/9 share of the estate and subsequently sold the property to her brother Daniel Camerer, as did five of her seven sisters. The deed was executed on February 11, 1858, and a justice of peace noted that both Edward and Margaret Nance personally appeared and were delivered the deed. (Wood, 4)
The Nance family lived in Edgar County, Illinois, until after 1855 because information in later census records shows that two more daughters were born there. A daughter, Clara, was born in 1853, and another daughter, Dovey Viola, was born in 1855.
EDWARD, MARGARET AND FAMILY MOVE TO TEXAS
At some point between the birth of Viola in 1855 and the July 5, 1860 Lavaca County Census, the Edward Nance family pulled up stakes in Illinois and moved to Lavaca County, Texas. Lavaca County lies some sixty miles southeast of Austin and (is) approximately eighty miles west of Houston, 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 ones 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 a 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)
Note: In light of the fact that Edward and Margaret personally appeared and were delivered the deed of sale of her inherited property on February 11, 1848, they must have moved after that time. Patte Wood commented in a private email communication that she wondered if perhaps the money from the sale of the property helped finance the Nance family move to Texas. That certainly seems likely to me.
There is an interesting occurrence that lends to more questions than answers about the Edward Nance family. Their oldest daughter, Catherine M. Nance, died on December 28, 1858, in Collin County, Texas. Catherine was owed $68.25 by Joseph Setter in Edgar County, Illinois. Margaret Camerer Nance’s brother, Daniel Camerer, was named administrator of Catherine’s estate on May 3, 1859. The heirs, all who were believed to be residing in Texas according to Daniel Camerer, were named as: Father: E.H. Nance. Brothers and sisters: Margaret A. Scaggs, Edward Y. Nance, Clara E. Nance, Dovey V. Nance, and Lewis C. Nance. (Wood, 4-5)
This raises the question – why was Catherine located in a different place than her parents? Were there relatives in Collin County?
The Nance family settled in Lavaca County, Texas. Information on the 1860 United States Federal Census lists Edward and Margaret Nance along with their five children, Margaret, Lewis, Edward, Clara, and Viola. Edward’s occupation is farmer and his 16 year old son Lewis is working with his father as a farm laborer. It is on this census that Edward gives his birthplace as Virginia.
It is interesting to note that Lavaca County was named after the Lavaca River located in the area. “La vaca” is Spanish for “the cow” which seems a very suitable name for this part of Texas where cattle ranching was a primary industry for many years.
Like others in this area of Texas, Edward began to raise cattle. His sons Lewis and Edward Young followed in his footsteps. 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. On November 3, 1862, Edward recorded a slightly different brand. On April 20, 1863, Edward’s son, Edward Y., recorded his brand. These records were found by Jim Kuhlman in the Lavaca County Courthouse. (Kuhlman, 11)
As we know, the United States was engaged in the Civil War between 1861 and 1865. Even though Edward would have been too old to enlist, there are records indicating that his sons, Lewis C. and Edward Y., were enlisted. This was a tumultuous time for our country and life for all people in Texas must have been affected on many levels.
EDWARD H. NANCE DISAPPEARS FROM KNOWN RECORDS
It is regrettable that following the 1860 United States Federal Census and the registration of his cattle brands, Edward Nance almost falls off the “radar screen!” Nevertheless, Patte Wood is another descendant and Nance family researcher and has found a few pieces of information.
Edward H. Nance apparently did not linger long in Lavaca County according to the information he provided when he registered to vote in Dallas County. On 23 September 1867, E.H. Nance was the 1,028 person to register. He stated he was a native of Virginia; had been in Texas for nine years; in Dallas County for six years; and in the Dallas County precinct for six years. This would mean Edward H. left Lavaca County sometime during 1861. Nevertheless, records indicate Edward H. registered a brand in Lavaca County in 1862.
The tax rolls of Dallas County were searched from 1861 to 1869. E.H. Nance was not located until 1868. He purchased 230 acres of land valued at $400. The original grantee was Robert Clayburg. In addition, he had five horses worth $200. The total amount of his assessed property was $770 and his taxes for the year were $2.04.
By census time 1870, no record is found of Edward H. Nance. It is my belief that Edward H. Nance died sometime between 1868 and 1869 when taxes were assessed in Dallas County. (Wood, 7)
In light of the fact that Edward’s daughter, Catherine, died in Collin County, Texas on December 28, 1858, it is a possibility he had relatives in that area. (Collin County is located next to Dallas County.) If so, perhaps that was a reason for his move to that area.
There are many unanswered questions we have about the life of our ancestor Edward H. Nance. It would be wonderful to break down that “brick wall” to discover more about his parents and siblings. If he was born in Virginia – where? Why did he leave his family to live in Dallas County? Were there relatives in Dallas or Collin County? Where did he die and where is he buried? I invite other descendants of Edward H. Nance to join us in the search for answers to these questions.
In spite of all these questions, we know enough to realize Edward was a hard working man who farmed the land, worked as a coal miner, and eventually involved himself in the cattle industry. When Edward traveled with his family by wagon across the country from Illinois to Texas through dangerous territory, he showed he was a man of great stamina and courage who was seeking a better life for his family.
Adams, Sean Patrick, “The U.S. Coal Industry in the Nineteenth Century.”
Ancestry.com. 1840 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
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.
Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp. Illinois Marriages, 1790-1860 [database
Online] Provo, UT, USA; Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004.
Edgar County, Illinois, Office of Circuit Clerk, Estate Packet for Catherine Nance.
EH Net Encyclopedia, “The U.S. Coal Industry in the Nineteenth Century,” http://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-us-coal-industry-in-the-ninteenth-century-2/
Illinois Regional Archives Depository System (IRAD), Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois, marriage record.
Kuhlman, Jim W., The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, 1996.
Wikipedia, The Free Encylopedia, “National Road,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Road
Wood, Patte Patterson, “Descendants of Edward H. Nance,” 2007. firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011