Monday, August 23, 2010

John C. Nace

John C. Nace 1828-1928

Several years ago, I received from Pat Nace, who lives in Canada and whom I’ve never met except via the Internet, a Xeroxed page from an unknown book. What I’ve transcribed below (keeping the punctuation and syntax intact) comes from pages 540–541 of what I now know is Buchanan, Virginia: Gateway to the Southwest, by Harry Fulwiler, Jr. The book is for sale at the Botetourt County Museum in Fincastle.

The article is mostly about my great-great grandfather, John Christian Nace.


Mr. John C. Nace, a resident of Lithia, of this county, came to Buchanan on horseback this week. He will be 88 years old in November, but he rides his horse with the appearance of a man many years younger and he says it does not tire him at all to ride here and back home. Lithia is about six miles south of Buchanan by the county road and he rides to town frequently.

I asked him if he could recall the first president for whom he voted. He replies that he could not do so, but that he had shaken hands with President Andrew Jackson and in reply to my further inquiry recited this bit of history.

It was during the first administration of Mr. Jackson (1829–33) as Mr. Nace recalled, that as a child he attended to the fording of the old Mount Joy Mill on Looney’s Creek and met president Jackson who was proceeding in his carriage to Washington.

The father of Mr. Nace, who had been the overseer of the Mount Joy estate for its owner, Col. Mathew Harvey and his widow, and lived near the mill where Mr. Jackson was to pass. Mrs. Magdalene Harvey, the widow of Col. Harvey, attended by her daughter, Virginia Harvey, came down from the Mount Joy residence on the eminence not far distant and at the house of Mrs. Nace, the mother, and her little boy joined them and the four proceeded to the fording at the mill when they met the president who was in a carriage drawn by two gray horses.

The mind of Mr. Nace is as clear as that of many at forty and he recites these things in a way that gives them interest, but he does not positively say that the time was in Mr. Jackson’s first term or second.

Mrs. Magdalene Harvey, who took Mrs. Nace and her little boy to meet the President, was the half sister and also the aunt of Colonel Lewis Harvey, of Roanoke, recently mentioned in the World-News. Robert Harvey, of Catawba, Martha Furnace, married for his first wife Martha Hawkins, who was the daughter of Ben Burden, Lewis Harvey was his first child.

Mathew Harvey, younger brother of Robert Harvey, married Magdalene Hawkins, the daughter of Martha Hawkins.

The daughter, Virginia Harvey, who went with her mother to greet Mr. Jackson became Mrs. Mitchell, the mother of Mrs. Charlotte Harvey, of Salem, and aunt of Charles Denby, minister to China; Henry Clay McDowell of Kentucky, father of Judge McDowell, and a number of other noted people.

The inquiry as to how Mrs. Harvey knew Mr. Jackson was to pass that particular time leads one to the truth of the relations existing between Mathew Harvey and his family, and Mr. Jackson here, in Washington and at the Hermitage where William, “Big Billy,” Harvey was the president’s neighbor, and at death closed his eyes. Then there was the letter to Colonel Harvey introducing William Denby, who is passing the same way to the capital had been attracted by the charms of an auburn haired girl riding one of the farm horses to water at the ford of the creek. He ascertained she was Jane, the daughter of Colonel Harvey, and on reaching Washington, obtained a letter of introduction from Mr. Jackson.

Charles Denby, appointed by Cleveland, to China, was her son. He was born in Paris while his father was minister to France and grew up so accomplished in manners and deportment that the Chinese wished him to remain as minister to China after the Republican administration succeeded that of Mr. Cleveland.

I did not mean to extend to such length when I began to write of this remarkable man who is today going in the full enjoyment of his physical and mental powers, although he was born at the time when there was still living many of the men who had fought for the formation of this great government.

Mr. John C. Nace died February 17, 1928, aged 99 years, 2 months, 21 days.

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