The children of DAVID Nance (b.abt.1740's?, d.abt.1780)

"The Nance Memorial", by G. W. Nance (1903), was the first published Nance Genealogy, a landmark effort which still serves as the basis on which many Nance researchers have built their conclusions about their own descent. However, I have noticed that some of the book's theories about early Virginia Nances do not seem to fit well with what is in records of the period. Now I have run into a record that seems to refute one of the "Nance Memorial" theories outright.

The theory concerns DAVID Nance, b. ? , d. abt 1780, the head of the line described in Ch. 2 of "The Nance Memorial" -- and, I should mention, my great - great - great - grandfather. "The Nance Memorial" states:

"David Nance, the head of this line, was a soldier in the army of the Revolution, under Washington. He remained two years , when after the severe winter at Valley Forger, his health was so impaired as to be unfit for service, when his nephew, Zachariah Nance II, voluntarily took his uncle's place and served until the close of the war. When David went home to repair his health, he was murdered, and left his children orphans. They were bound out at the close of the war. (There are some strange things about the murder of this man. I have three accounts from as many sources, all giving different names of the murderer, so not knowing which account is correct, I mention no names.) His brothers and sisters, so far as known, were Zachariah I., William Howe, Frederick, and Patsey (Sneed). . . His sons as far as known are named as trunks, or heads of the families in the tables below. These are traced as distinct families, although known to have a common origin.
    Trunk one, Frederick.    Trunk two, Clement 
    Trunk three, Robert.     Trunk four, Erasmus 
    Trunk five, Giles.       Trunk six, William Howe"

" The Nance Memorial ", p. 286.

"The Nance Memorial" then describes the extensive line descending from Frederick, who is said to have gone to Newberry, SC. Clement is said to have also gone to Newberry, SC and to have had one son; no issue is described for Giles, who is said to have stayed in Amelia County, VA and to have moved to Wake County by the early 1800's, or Robert and Erasmus, who are said to have moved to Newberry, SC. The extensive line descending from William Howe (my great - great - grandfather) is also described.

What I have found satisfies me that this David Nance married a woman named Mary Crenshaw, that their children were David, William H., Elizabeth, Susanna, and Mary, and that David Nance was married to his wife Mary at the time of his death in about 1780. Thus, unless David had children by an earlier wife -- something for which I have found no evidence - - then the Frederick, Robert, Giles, Clement and Erasmus described by "The Nance Memorial" must belong somewhere else in the Nance family tree.


The evidence that David Nance was married to a woman named Mary Crenshaw is found primarily in documents arising after David's death.

On March 21, 1780, an Administrator was qualified in the matter of the estate of DAVID Nance in Pittsylvania County. See, "Alphabetical Index to the Court Order Books of Pittsylvania Co, VA 1767-1800", compiled by Genealogical Services (Danville, VA, 1982). According to the abstract of this record, it included a reference to MARY Nance, presumably DAVID's widow.

Then on May 16 of the same year, an Order to Record Inventory was entered in the same matter. Ibid. An "Order To Settle Account" was then issued on December 19, 1785, and the Final Accounting was then filed on Oct 30 1787. "Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Inventories & Accounts Current 1770-1797", compiled by Lucille C. Payne (Axton, VA). Then, on Feb 15, 1788 a document was filed in Pittsylvania County reflecting that Philemon Perkins, Isham Lansford, and Henry Lansford had "laid off to MARY SCALES late widow of DAVID NANCE decd. her dower of land that was possess'd by sd. DAVID NANCE, which amounts to 70 acres more or less". Ibid.

Also, in "Marriages of Amelia Co. VA 1735-1815", Kathleen B. Williams (1961), we find that on 25 Feb. 1789 Thomas Young m. Elizabeth NANCE - - and the abstract of this record reports, "MARY SCALES' consent states, 'my daughter, Elizabeth NANCE'."

Thus, it appears fairly certain that David Nance's widow Mary remarried to someone named Scales. [NOTE-David Scales]

But who was this Mary before she married David Nance? It was my interest in this question which unexpectedly led me to the information about their children.

We had had some reports that at least one Nance family researcher believed that David Nance's wife had been a Mary CRENSHAW. We had no confirmation of this, although the fact that David's son William Howe Nance named one of his sons Josiah CRENSHAW Nance was suggestive. Now I think I have found the confirmation.

In "Amelia County, VA Will Book 4", compiled by Bel Hubbard Wise (1990), (Call No. F232 A3 W57 1990), there is an abstract of the will of WILLIAM CRENSHAW, of Nottoway Parish, Amelia Co., VA, dated 7 Mar 1786, proved 27 April 1787. According to the compilation, his wife is not named, but children named are Robert, William James, David, Elizabeth Bullington, Ann Moore, Savanna Moore, June Irby, Sarah Wallis. However, the compilation continues by reporting that the will states that " the 10th part " is to be divided " among the children of David Nance, decd. and my daughter Mary: David Nance, William Nance, Elizabeth Nance, Susanna Nance, and Mary Nance. Daughter Mary Seals' legacy to be held for her by Exec. sons William and David."

I assumed from the reference to "the 10th part" going to the children of David and Mary, that the will divided the estate into 10 parts, with 9 parts going to children and the 10th part going to a group of grandchildren -- the children of David Nance. But why 10 parts? -- the list of children recited originally includes only 8 names. Notice, however, that the will also mentions a child not included in the first list, a "daughter Mary", also referred to as a "daughter Mary Seals". When this Mary is included in with the other 8 children of William Crenshaw, you get the 9 children suggested by the indication in the will that "the 10th part" was being given to the children of David and Mary Nance. As noted above, there is good evidence that that David's wife Mary married a Scales (probably David Scales) after David Nance's death. This probably explains the "Mary Seals" referred to in William Crenshaw's will: the "Seals" appears to have been the compiler's misreading of "Scales".

Other evidence relating to this has been brought to my attention by Rebecca Bangsund: in the Nottoway County Order Bk, 1, at p.38, there is a record from 1793 of an action by James Crenshaw, guardian of the orphans of David Nance, deceased, versus David Scales, defendant; and at p. 40 of that book, there is a record from 1792 (?) of an action by Thomas Young and Elizabeth his wife vs. James Crenshaw, guardian of Susanna, William, David and Mary Nance.

Thus, this will seems to clearly establish that DAVID Nance married MARY CRENSHAW and that their children were David Nance, William Nance, Elizabeth Nance, Susanna Nance, and Mary Nance. Confirmatory evidence of this can be found both in the record of the marriage of Elizabeth Nance, described by Mary (Crenshaw) (Nance) Scales as her daughter, and the record of the 1796 grant by Giles Nance of land to "David and Wm. Nance, orphans of David Nance", described in "Exhibit I" in "The Nance Memorial". Other confirmatory evidence can be found in the entries in "Alphabetical Index to the Court Order Books of Pittsylvania Co, VA 1767-1800", compiled by Genealogical Services (Danville, VA, 1982) of a 1787 Order for Appointment and Qualification of Guardian mentioning the names Clement and ELIZABETH Nance, and a 1789 Order for Qualification of Guardian mentioning the names William and SUSANNA Nance, which I speculate were both appointments of guardians for David Nance's daughters.


An element of this which is particularly interesting is the way that the legacy to Mary is treated differently from that to all of her brothers and sisters. She does not take outright, but is to have her legacy held for her by her brothers William and David Crenshaw. Clearly, this is not because she has married; her 5 sisters were also all married but were not treated in this fashion. I speculate that this had to do with conflict within the family about the Scales marriage and household.

We have family tradition reports that David Scales was cruel to his stepchildren; it is also part of the family tradition that William Howe was bound out at a young age. Also, as is discussed elsewhere in this report, I think that the lawsuit between David Scales and John Nance in 1783 could well have arisen from a dispute over Scales' right to the dower interest of his wife Mary, widow of David Nance. [Note-The significance of Dower]. It seems not unlikely that David Nance's family may, if they were unhappy about something such as the way David's children were being treated in their new family, have attempted to deny or delay the passing of Mary's dower to her new husband.

I suspect that William Crenshaw's instructions that his legacy to Mary was to held for her by her brothers rather than given outright to her (in effect, to her husband), was also an attempt to keep the money out of David Scales' hands, and of acquiring some leverage over him. Similarly, his making a legacy directly to his grandchildren, the children of David Nance, would allow William Crenshaw to benefit his grandchildren in a way with which David Scales could not interfere. As a stepfather he did not have the control over the children's property which the legal doctrine of curtilage gave him over his wife's property.


As noted, the family tradition, and the report of "The Nance Memorial", is to the effect that David Nance was murdered. Indeed, there is (at least as described in "The Nance Register") an entry in the Pittsylvania Co. court records to the effect that on Jan 25, 1780, one Robert Bullington was convicted of the murder (by stabbing) of David Nance.

Was thereany connection between the circumstances of David Nance's death, and the apparent conflict within the extended family found in the 1780's?

There are interesting elements about the murder of David Nance (apparently by Robert Bullington) which need exploration. For example, one of Mary Crenshaw's sisters married a Bullington -- making him a brother-in-law of David Nance. Also, the 1782 Pittsylvania Co. census shows a Robert Bullington apparently living only 1 house away from the households of Martha, Clement and William Nance, with whom I believe David was connected. There was also a Benjamin Bullington living in Amelia Co in the 1760s whose name appears on at least one document (an inventory of an estate of a third party) along with that of John Nance, father of Giles Nance --and, I believe, David. In addition, in 1796 there were a couple of land transfers from Giles Nance to a Robert Bullington, which were witnessed by David and William M. (Malone?) Nance.

Another interesting issue concerning the murder of David Nance in 1780 has to do with the more general events of the era. This was a time of great ferment in "Southside" Virginia. The "Tory Plot" broke in neighboring Bedford County later that year -- and there is some evidence that David Nance may have been suspected of Tory sympathies (William Howe, which is supposed to have been the name of David's sone William, was the commander in chief of British forces in North America during part of the Revolutionary War; and there are also records that a "David Nance" was hailed before the Pittsylvania County Committee of Safety on suspicion of Tory sympathies and made to post a 1,000 loyalty bond). In addition, Captain William Lynch is supposed to have issued his "proclamation" in Pittsylvania County on September 22, 1780, in which he recited that the citizens of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, had sustained "great and intolerable losses" at the hands of "lawless men and abandoned wretches", following which he and some fellow Pittsylvanians took it upon themselves to undertake a course of "extra-legal" punishment of wrong-doers -- from which, some hypothesize, the term "lynching" arose.

I do not have either adequate time or information to address these issues at this point, but I hope to do so at some point. If anyone else is interested in these matters I'd appreciate hearing from them.

[Nance Genealogy Clearinghouse ]






NOTE - Mary (Crenshaw) Nance and David Scales

Although it is not essential to the conclusions I have reached about the children of David and Mary Nance, I have also concluded that after the death of David Nance, Mary Nance probably married DAVID Scales.

According to a published genealogy, "Minor, Scales, Cottrell and Gray Families of VA, NC and MS" by Martha Neville Lumpkin, there was a Joseph Scales in Pittsylvania County who died about 1774. With his wife Mary, he had 13 children, one of whom was David. Of their sons reported by the genealogy, Joseph, James, Nathaniel, Robert, John, Thomas, and David, all but Robert and David are shown as having wives, none of whom was Mary Nance. Thus, only Robert and David are good "prospects" -- and there is good evidence in favor of David.

According to the 1782 Census, DAVID Scales was the head of a Pittsylvania Co. household of 8 whites (and 5 blacks). Interestingly, his household appears only 7 names away on the non-alphabetical census list list from the entries for the three (adjacent) households of William, Clement, and Martha Nance. I thus suspect that the Scales and these Nances (who I have reason to believe were connected with David Nance) were "neighbors", in the sense of being 7 houses away on the same road.

Perhaps more significantly, according to the "Alphabetical Index to the Court Order Books of Pittsylvania Co, VA 1767-1800", compiled by Genealogical Services (Danville, VA, 1982), a document was filed in Pittsylvania County court on June 17, 1783 in connection with a lawsuit, David Scales v. John Nance. Context is important here to an understanding of what this document might have reflected. At this time, the probate of David Nance's estate was continuing. The right of his widow, Mary, to her dower [Note-The significance of Dower] was still unresolved. The probate in fact extended for some time: an "Order To Settle Account" was issued in the matter in 1785, the Final Accounting was not filed until 1787, and the dower was not actually laid off to the widow until 1788. "Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Inventories & Accounts Current 1770-1797", above.

For reasons which I will not attempt to set out here, I have come to suspect that David Nance's father was JOHN Nance, whose wife we know was named Martha and who was also the father of GILES Nance. One reason for my suspicion, is a kind of reverse inference from the record of this lawsuit by David Scales. Mary Nance would have had a dower interest in 1/3 of David Nance's real estate. When she remarried, evidently to a man named Scales, that property interest would, under the legal principle of curtilage (i.e., the husband effectively owned his wife's property), have been her husband's. If he wanted to bring an action to attempt to enforce his wife's dower right, who would it be brought against? It would have to be brought against the persons with the legal right to the property subject to the dower right, and that would have been the heirs of David Nance. The heirs at law of David Nance, who most likely died intestate, would be his children -- wives were not in the line of intestate succession. However, if any children were minors, I believe that the father of the deceased would have been the person to name in a lawsuit touching upon the estate. So -- if David Scales were to have sued someone to enforce his right to the dower of his wife Mary, widow of David Nance, we might expect the lawsuit to have been against someone who could be presumed to be David Nance's father.

Interestingly, the inference that there may have been conflict in the 1780's in connection with relations between Mary Nance's new husband and her former family, is also strongly suggested by the records I found, discussed above, about how Mary's father, William Crenshaw, disposed of his estate in his 1786 will.

Back to: [ David & Mary (Crenshaw) Nance & Their Children ]