LETTERS OF JAMES NANCE (abt.1798-1867), dated 1832-1836

About these papers --  Between 1832 and 1836, JAMES NANCE of Pickens County, Alabama wrote a number of letters to his family in Wake County, North Carolina.   The letters, or at least copies of them (I am not sure which) can be found in the Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, State of Alabama, Montgomery, Ala., Control No. ALAV86-A1033.  I have been provided a typed transcription of these letters by George Needham (a descendant of David Nance, through his son William Howe Nance, and his son Clement Woodson Nance).   The typed transcription George sent me had this information, which (I believe) explains how they came to be in the Alabama Archives and History collection:

"Some of the Nance descendants from North Carolina came to Pickens County, Alabama to find where James Nance had lived. Mr. Frank Huff showed them all about the house.   In appreciation the Nance descendants sent Mr. Huff photostat copies of these letters which he let Mrs. David Ross copy.  Gift of Mrs. David Ross of Carrollton, Ala., Dec. 8, 1966."

The "Nance Register" has this information on the line of Nances involved (I have highlighted the name of James, the author of the letters):

GEORGE NANCE (b. 22 Apr. 1771, VA; d. 1844, Wake Co, NC) m. Anna Clifton 
(b. 26 Nov. 1773) 
     1) Nancy (b. 9 June 1796, VA  - d. 4 Nov. 1884), m. 1813 Parker Rand 
    +2) JAMES m. Nancy Helen Lee  
     3) Elizabeth Ann (b. 19 Aug. 1801),  m. James E. Tomlinson
     4) Mary Benthal (b. 12 Feb. 1806) m. 3 Apr. 1827, Henry H. Thorpe 
     5) Simeon m. Martha A. Mitchner 
     6) Sarah (b. 14 Mar. 1811) m. 1830, James Tomlinson 
     7) Susanna Evaline m. John Samuel Mitchiner Feb 21, 1831
     8) Willia Richardson m. John Joseph Lane McCullers 
JAMES NANCE (b. 13 Aug. 1798, VA  - d. 23 Feb. 1867, Pickens Co, AL) 
m. Nancy Helen Lee (b. 1804 - d. 3 Sep. 1841, Pickens Co, AL) 
     1) Elizabeth (b. 3 June 1825 - d. 31 Dec. 1872)
     2) Mary Helen m.(1) ? Purifoy, (2) James A. Stone, (3) Clarence Cox
     3) Pleasant Ann m. ? cox, Loundes Co, AL
     4) Martha (b. Aug. 1829 - d. 17 Nov. 1861) m. 1847 George Nance  
        Tomlinson, (first cousin). Children: 
                  a) Georgetta
                  b) Marshall 
                  c) James B. 
                  d) Mattie B. 
                  e) Sarah Lee m. E.B. Purifoy. 
     5) Cephus (b. 1830 - d. 1899) m. Rebecca Josephine ?. Children: 
                  a) James 
                  b) Arimenta 
                  c) Spot 
                  d) Dot
     6) Nancy Lee (b. Sep. 21, 1832)
     7) Simeon (b. 1837 - d. 1855)
     8) George  m. ?. Children: 
                  a) Barney
                  b) James  
                  c) George
     9) Lunda (d. 4 Sep. 1849)
     10) Sarah Ann (b. 1835 - d. 1856)

The "Nance Register" said of the head of this line, "Parents of George Nance are uncertain. Tradition of this family is that George Nance arrived in Wake, NC about 1800 with his mother, Sussanna, and that George had several brothers and sisters: Lewis, William, Nat, Nancy who m. ? Singleton and moved to Alabama. Patty who m. ? Lamb."   

It could be speculated, that  he might have been the same George Nance mentioned as the son of that name mentioned in the 1795 Will of Frederick Nance.  I was inclined that way, until I discovered, in the "Edward Pleasants Valentine Papers", V. 1, The Valentine Museum (Richmond, 1930), a reference to a record in Lun. Co. Records, Deed Book 25 p. 471, indicating that in about 1820, Drury Bacon and Fredk. N. Robertson of Lunenburg Co gave a power of attorney to Ben H. Simmons of Washington Co KY to act in their behalf in re the estate of GEORGE NANCE (date is inferred from dates of other documents adjacent pages of the Deed Book).  Drury Bacon was the (2d) husband of Frederick Nance's daughter, Nancy. Nancy's sister Sarah appears to have married a Robertson, and although Sarah had died by 1796, she left heirs, and it could be that Fredk. N. Robertson was Frederick Nance Robertson. This record would be consistent with Frederick Nance's son George having moved to KY and having died by 1820 without children, so that his siblings had interests in his estate -- yet we know that the George Nance who was the father of the author of these letters was living in Wake Co NC and was still alive into the 1830's. So I am not sure what to think.  I am continuing to work on this, looking at possible connections to the various names one encounters in this line, and I would appreciate any thoughts anyone has on the matter.

How the records are reproduced here --  I have simply transcribed the types version I received from Georeg Needham.  There were evidently  many cases in which words could not be read, and in those cases an ellipsis (. . . ) has been substituted.  There are a number of oddities in terms of spelling, capitalization and punctuation, and assuming that these are fairly literal reproductions of the originals, I have retained them.  Finally, I have highlighted names which may prove of use in tracking the connections of this group, and I have added some notes reflecting my inferences or observations about the material.

LETTERS OF JAMES NANCE (abt.1798-1867), dated 1832-1836

Alabama, Pickens County, Sept. 10, 1832

Dear Father,

I received Simeon [This is James' younger brother] letter July the 5 in the morning which gave me great satisfaction to hear from you all as it was the first time since I left. I have waited until now for better evidence of this country, which is this. Also. . . state. . . Choctaw Nation. . . commencing from the other letter, I have passed the summer through with looking and examining for myself and children. . . the month of July I took a trip to the Choctaw Nation by myself to look for a place. I was from home about eight days and sometimes for two days did not see any white person at all, only Indians for which I could not understand but very little of their language. . . this country has a great many prairies. . . from one acre to twenty thousand, your eyes cannot behold it looks like some ocean, not a tree nor shrub, only once and a while small scrubby blackjack, and it is covered in grape and weeds from knee to six feet high and take the country generally through very rich lands enough to make any man leave home. But the disadvantage is this, no water at this season of the year, only in places I rode from morning until night before I got a drop and then not good and camped with the Indians. In the winter the muddiest country you ever saw and most disagreeable. . . If the government was to give me one thousand acres, I could not be satisfied to move there in my opinion for I think it will be a sickly place. Let others make a trial before me, people now moving in and is settling there. I returned home on Tuesday and on Thursday went to Tuscaloosa and entered one hundred and sixty acres of land on this side of the river at one dollar twenty-five cents per acres and lies this direction the river running east to making a sudden bend south, a creek cold Coalfire [This is the name of a creek near James' land] making in the elbow large as Swift Creek [This is a creek near the family's land in NC]. In this Bend there are about 1400 acres, some of lands valuable, all vacant. No person owns any lands adjoining me. A part of this land is rich first quality. The North part is thin and lies well. Nearly level. I commenced clearing it in the first of August. If Simeon had some of the cane that you. . . he would have fishing poles twenty feet long. The disadvantages in this, it is subject to over flow in large freshet. . . only the upper part. . . we cannot live nearer than one mile and half with safety for health though I have seen people live in worse places than that. I have been looking at some land to-day and very likely may buy again. Shortly take this country in general not as well watered as Wake County large creek. . . dry. . . You may sell my land for negroes such as under twenty-five years old. . . try to sell it to Wooten Moore [Evidently a person in Wake Co NC, known to the family]. When you sell it, write me and I will come in and comply with any terms you make it must not go under three dolars per acre. You give it in for me and pay the money out of that not on Roberts [Evidently a person in Wake Co NC, known to the family] . . no more on the subject. I went to a cow selling and saw from ten to seventy-five cattle sold. . . .I have killed four wild cats and four deer. In June I was on the river side where the cane was thick and was alarmed by the whine of a bear which soon made his appearance within twenty feet. My gun was cocked when he came in sight. I discharged it with quick dispatch and retreated speedily. I say I ran my best and have not heard from him since. Crops here is said to be sorry we have been dry very little rain since May though cotton is from waist to shoulder high and well boaled. The house we live in is a small house built of logs with a shed on each side and piazzia on the end, no shutters for doors, a part of the floor is split pieces of poplar. I live at home and owe nothing only to Lenuel [This is probably Lemuel;   I speculate that this Lemuel is James' cousin, a son of his Aunt Nancy, as to whom see the note below]. The people here have been alarmed on account of the comet that has been spoken of by some philosopher, that was to destroy some part of the earth and to fulfill the period a revival has taken place a few miles above us and has been baptised from five to eight-four in a day. . . the like has never been known in this country, here there is another denomination called the Cumberland Presbyterian. . . that any way will do. . . four missionary preachers has been taken out of the Cherokee Indians (Georgia) and put in the penintentiary for their misconduct to remain four years. An Indian asked a missionary who sent you here he answered the Good Work, the Indian told him the Good Work could carry him back again that he had no use for him. I cannot write you half of my trials and pray for us.

Sept. 13. I purchased yesterday one hundred and sixty acres of land for two hundred and twenty-five dollars to be paid next Sept. and Sept. thirty-four. This tract lies broken almost as yours no rock better land than any you have only a part upon a ridge heavy timbered with a creek running through it. About the size of Walnut Creek [Evidently, a creek near the family's land in NC] but no spring and as much as a mile and half from my place on the river and half mile from a meeting house held by presistenarian [This probably should be predestinarian] Baptists when they preach on first Sunday in every month which makes me shed tears when I think of your employment on that day and hour.

To-day, we are all enjoying good health. I feel (or find). . . the effects of my old complaint as I usually did. About two weeks ago, I had a light touch of fever but recovered without any medicine. All of Aunts family [According to the "Nance Register", George Nance, this James? father, had a sister Nancy who m. a man named Singleton and moved to Alabama. This is probably a reference to her] is in good health and wishes to be remembered to you all. Nancy [This is probably a reference to James' wife, Nancy] wishes to be remembered to all.  We hope that when this letter reaches you that you and brothers and all my sisters families may be enjoying good health and be engaged for their souls welfare. Mother appeared to be dissatisfied about my coming off in the manner I did. I knew one time had to be the last and I could not start from there to let her no the time. Mother think no hard of me for you feel nearer to me than all the rest of the people. I have stated as near truth as I no how and close this letter by saying pray for me.


Simeon you wish to know what to do with the notes. Drake [Evidently, someone known to Simeon in NC] has never paid rent don?t put yourself to no cost but try and get it. . . tell him I will put him in jail when I come. . . you may throw in the. . . or get it for yourself. Simeon pay your debts and love your wife and children. We have never heard from Mr. Lee yet. Write to me all the news. . . remember me to all my old friends and acquaintances. Simeon I wish you all the good I can for you feel near me.



Letter from James Nance, 7 January 1833

(Envelope shows: Pickens County, Alabama Jany 11 1833 to
Willia[m?] Nance, Wake County, Raleigh, North Carolina)
[This is actually probably to a sister, "Willia". The "Nance Register" shows her having married m.  to John Joseph Lane McCullers in 1835]

Alabama, Jany the 7th, 1833

Dear Sister,

I acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated the 18 and 30 of Nov. which came to hand the 15 day of Dec?br. last when I was in the post office it arrived in Pickensville, which gave me great satisfaction to hear from you all, and you all yet living and well. I and my family today are enjoying good health also our conexions and neighbours, thanks be to him that rules the universe. Hoping that this letter may find you and family and the rest all enjoying the same portion of God?s blessings. . . I now turn back to the date of the last letter I wrote dated 10 and 15th of Sept. 1832. I received a letter about the 20 of Septr. Which came from the post office at Raleigh that had no name nor date to it. . . it stated that Patsey had another son and it was named James.[This is probably a reference to James Cornelious Nance, who was born in 1832 to this James' brother Simeon Nance and his wife Martha "Patsey" (Mitchner)].  Inquire over on (?eels?) branch if they have lost or forgot the date. I must think it came from that quarter. At about the same time I received a letter from Mr. Lee which lives about 130 miles below us. . . on the 21st of Sept. Nancy [James' wife] had another daughter and we call it Nancy Lee. On the 1 of Decbr. Ginny [?] had a boy and we call him Jacob [?]. We have eighteen in family, now we require your greasy meat sticks. At this very time our children keeps such a noise in the house I can hardly hear, you may not infer that it is from want of meat. I have laid in a plenty. My heaviest hog weighed 248 lbs. And I bought the hogs from the Indians in August at four dollars a piece and they were killed this day two weeks. I have twenty hogs for another year I also have nine head of cattle four head of horses. I made a plenty of corn to serve my need tho I bought fifty-two bushels. We count corn here by the bushel. I took it for a debt that was owing to me at fifty cents per bushel which I suspect to sell again. I also made 2800 pounds of cotton and only had twenty acres in. . . in all

This is a plentiful country to them that use industry, to have you understand that I was dissatisfied, Mr. Busbee [Possibly someone in NC, known to James' sister Willia, with whom James had corresponded?] is mistaken. I only alluded to the Choctaw Nation that it would not suit common people. Great many disadvantages will and does attend the country tho the richest land I ever saw it is more than as good as any land on Swift Creek you cannot manure any land in Wake County equal to it. I have no doubt but that it will bring 1500 weight of cotton to the acre and not a single tree upon it. I advised in his letter to any of my acquaintances that wish to move to stop in the Creek Nation though the land not so good my last letter to Father was much like his. Land here is rising and people live very thick. I sold my wagon for $120 two cows and calves. . . I give you a little Indian language and explain, chickermar finer mahobertush, in english is very good, emsho, is all gone, lower is a heap of anything, worker is a cow. . . is a horse, charpener is two, chestamer is three, conally is four, puseus is a child, yow is yes, Indian names chopp Zubby,. . . here is a great many strange things here but soon become common. We have a kind of fowl here called parakeets, as large as a sparrow hawk sly in gangs, of a green color with a red head and sufficient bill to pop a peachstone. No mocking birds here nor kildiers. Some few robbins tho they do not build here.

Prices here cotton from nine to eleven cents, port 4-5 dollars, corn 75 cents per bushel, twenty-five miles from here to the Nation one dollar fifty cents per bushel. Fodder one dollar per hundred. A great many people moving ion the Choctaw Nation and they; will pay for the corn and hardly get it at that; I was in Tuscaloosa the sixth day of October fifty miles from home while walking the street I met Tyrie Parrish. I went home with him. . . tell Nancy [probably James' sister Nancy], Patsey Parrish [Evidently, the Parrish family was known to James' family in NC] is living in Tuscaloosa and carries on the millinery business and is making money.

I understand from your letter that Jack Muhener [From a reference to this same topic later, it appears that this name should probably be Michener or Mitchner] is living at my old place and has bought it for twenty hundred dollars. . . four hndred down and twelve hundred is what I hold it and and no less. You wish me to come in, tell Father to write me upon what terms and when the money is to be all paid, and then I will come. Young negroe will be taken in pay as I before stated, it is a long road both tiresom and expensive, I should like for the arrangement to be so fixed for me to come in. . . all ways when I undertake to write so many things appear before me that I hardly know how to express myself being very desirous for you all to know my contracts, my situations and feelings that I cannot make it appear actually as they are.

You read this letter to all my friends and acquaintances and remember me to them. You may not think that Alabama is all rich land. We have as poor land here as any on Black [Probably a creek in NC?] Creek land from rich to poor changes very sudden. If I had come to this country sooner it would have been better for me. After all let us attend to that important subject while passing through life. Religion is on a decline from what it has been thos still joining the church, there were five baptised last Sunday. Lemuel and his wife have both been baptised. After this you may look for letters about your county courts (?) and when any of you should write to me start your letter time enough to get mine by that time so that they may not pass each other. Farewell, I remain your Loving Brother, Farewell,



Envelope:  Pickens A. 1833 Jan. 19  Letter from James Nance

Elder George Nance 25
North Carolina
Wake County, Raleigh

January the 19th 1833

Dear Father,

Once more opportunity has permitted me to write to you informing that we are all well at present thanks be to him that rules the universe. Hoping these few lines may find you all enjoying the same portion of God?s Blessings. I received a letter from William Nance and Nancy [Probably should be Willia and Nancy.  James had no brother William, and there is no William close to the family that I am aware of. Also, the previous letter from James was to his sister Willia, who had written him] sometime back, for which I send in return dated about the 8th of this inst. His [Probably should be 'her'; see previous note] letter informed me that Jack Michener [James? sister Susanna Evaline m. John Samuel Mitchner Feb 21, 1831] was living at my old place and had bought it for 1200 dollars, 400 down. In my letter to him [Probabaly should be 'her'; see previous note] was to ortherise you to hold the money and to arrange the matter so that I could come in next fall as I am desirous to do so as I wish to purchase negroes with the money. You understand from my letter in Septemeber the situation of my land on the river. I now give the statement and plat again with a piece annexed to it and the race I took to the land office for it. You understand my first entry did not go to the river. I thought I would enter the land on the river when I could make it convenient but was informed by a man woke had spoke litlely of the land to my face and would tell others he was going to enter it between me and the river last Saturday about twelve o-clock he made mention. . .  [The letter has a map here, showing the location of pieces of land. It shows the land as being on the road from Pickens to Columbus] In taking land in this way I have hemmed up other land equally as good as any I have so that no person can get to it without crossing my land or some deep lake. . . land office in Tuscaloosa which is fifty miles. I was informed of it about sunset and I had no money. Mr. Boyd, my neighbour recommended me to an acquaintance of his in Tuscaloosa for assistance. About midnight I put off in the rain and the rain continued all the day very heavy. Creeks very deep and muddy and I arrived at Tuscaloosa before sunset. Stayed all night with Tyre Parrish who lives there. Monday morning I presented my need to a Mr. Hogan and it was out of his power to help me, owing to some money he had to pay this week he cited me to afriend of his who looks grum and had but little to say. I then was on my own dependence and did not stand long in a place. I went to a Mr. Owens, whos emother was Sion Smith first wife sister [From this reference, it appears that this name may be known to James' family in NC]. After some conversation he granted my need he entered the land for me for which I gave him my note for 125 dollars, to be paid in April by this I save the land. I have owing to me in two notes 195 dollars one of 80 will be due the first of March, the other in Sept. next for fear of a disappointment as I am deturmed to be prompt in all my contracts you will do me a favor of sending 125 dollars in your next letter to me. . . you will change for United States money large bill as it may not. . . direct your letter State of Alabama, Pickens County. . . 

I now own 405 acres of land in all and I . . .
A plenty and think some as good as any. . .
Cost me 500 dollars. I suspect to build our. . .     [NOTE: This side of the page is a blank
Of the road opposite the five acre lot from. . .     space on original letter, probably from fading]
The river is one mile and half up to my first. . .
Mile to the town of Pickensville.

I saw Samuel Ivey and his wife in Tuskaloosa and was at their house. Mrs. Ivey wishes to be remebered to mother and to you all [Presumably, the Iveys are known to James' family in NC;  perhaps Mrs. Ivey is closer to the family?]. After all when I undertake to close my letter it fills me to that degree I cannot express myself. I close with fullness at heart by saying remember me to the Almighty God, in your prayers and perhaps he may hear you. When I think on this my land and all I have affords me nothing but like empty air. Remember Simeon and all my sisters and anger not while passing through life be ye reconciled to the Will of the Lord God.



1836 Sept. 11
Pickensville, Ala. From James Nance

Sept. 22nd.

George Nance
N. Carolina
Wake County

Sept. 11, 1836

Dear Farther and Mother,

It has been a long time since I wote you not withstanding there is not hardly a day but that I think of you, nor neither have I received any letter from any of you since February. I would have rote long ago but the stages have been stop, driver and passengers all held; and there was no Post way for sometime owing to the hostility of the Creek Indians, the war with them appears to be at an end, confined and sent beyond the Mississippi the most of them.

We are all in good health to-day. Hoping these lines may find you all enjoying the same and also my brothers and sister?s families. May the whole of my old neighborhood be blest with health. The present situation of our country appears to be very sickly this season, great many deaths; some of our neighbors. . . one or two. . . expected. Some several confined to their beds. This has the appearance of a healthy country and always has been until this and last year, various causes has been suggested such as deadening of the timber and being not seasoned to the climate, but after all men must dye.

I no not what to promise myself when I left North Carolina. I thought all I wanted was good health. When I came to this country and every time the two last years I certainly have been blest therefore I feel indebted and promise myself nothing. We never have had any sickness of consequence.

Since we have been her, I was at Aunts last week. She was well and hearty also George, etc. (or and) Gillespies? [?] families. Lemuel has moved to the Chicasaw Nation about 100 miles from me and is doing well. I never have been to see him tho I have taken some wild goose routes this year. In April I took a trip to Mobile. In the steam boat with my cotton. It was slow travelling only when we would strike. . . pretty rough time for a while a considerable for which shivered our windows to pieces, when I got there I did not expect tro see any person I knew but was much gratified. . . soon found a great many of acquaintances among them were Dr. Rufus Haywood [Known to James' family in NC?]. Another man introduced himself to me by our name and by tracing a little back found him to be our cousin [Regrettably, James does not indicate who this cousin was, or how close a cousin; I speculate that he was more distant than a first cousin, as it seems to me that James would probably have known those persons at least by name]. (Mobile) ..Is a considerable place of trace. . . the warfs are mined with steamboats. . . everything in market and at the highest prices. Beef 25 per pound from that down to crabs and flounders, bullfrogs, tarripins, etc. . . hot coffee at the break of day and nasty at that, I purchased all my necessarys such as sugar, coffee, flour, fish, molasses, irons, blacksmith tools, sawmill irons, and when I quit I owed them three hundred and forty seven dollars and worse thought I owe it yet.

About the middle of July I took a three week?s tour in Mississippi state with $700 dollars in my pocket to get the best land I could find for $1.25 per acre at Government price. It is a tiresome job to peruse a county like that but little or nothing for me nor horse and sometimes $1.50 for night lodging at last I made a selection in Clark County Mississippi about one hundred miles from where I now live fifty from the Bigsby River 110 Mobile on the Chickasawhay River, I then had to go to Augusta where the land office is kept which is two hundred miles from my present home. I found the office not doing any business receiver was required to give a larger bond than the former one. I then deposited my money and took his receipt for land and money to be applied for said land at the opening of the office. Unlucky for me,before I got home I understood instructions were to be given to receivers of land officers to receive nothing but gold or silver therefore I think it doubtful whether I got the land or not, I have received no answer as yet. If I should succeed, I have some of good land as any in the western country. If not I only get my money if he don?t run away.

I go in for land it matters not where it lies. You need not think I am going to move for I intend to saw all of the pine I have before I leave this mill. If  I should leave, the building of my mill is a severe job and will be in action by the first, I think, of November, my work men sets in tommorrow week and charges the small sum of seven dollars per day. I think they will rise early if they knew it.

Sunday Sept. 19th

I do not feel so well today. I had a light fever nearly all day yesterday and our children have very sore eyes, but all running about, two or three dyed this week in the neighborhood. No cases dangerous at present that I know of but on the mend? Frederick Lilly [Known to James' family in NC?] lives about 1 1/4 miles from me. All was well this day two weeks. He is much dissatisfied. Our crops is not so good this year. We have been too wet. Corn will be scarce and high. One dollar per bushel, cotton something better, perhaps I may make enough to do me. My cotton is good for thirty thousand, I have some of the best cotton you ever have seen. Land is very high here say from fifteen to twenty dollars per acre. Negroes out of the question. 1500 for negro fellows. . . 150 to 1000 for women common hirelings twenty dollars per month. I don?t hire nor buy at those prices, but will borrow all the money I can to take up land at government prices. . . always when I go to write you a letter I feel full, so many things appear before me I hardly no how to express myself, particularly in the class of religion. Is very dull here Saturday. . . present some contention missionaries. I stayed all night with William Richardson [Evidently, known to James' family in NC] about a fortnight ago and he desired to be remembered to you in my next, while there I saw a Mr. Barns, an old predestinarian of our acquaintance, Mr. Richardson stands firm as ever and as me if you had changed. I told him I thought not, nothing more but remain your son. Nancy wishes to be remembered to you and Mother, my Brother and sisters families.


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