A continuation of Matthew Nace Mystery Part I
After a decade or so of living in Oregon, Matthew Harvey Nace—albeit under his assumed name, James H. Neyce—finally made it to California.
By 1880, he seems to have aged about four years. Page 41 of the 1880 California-Sonoma-Santa Rosa Census, shows 60-year-old James H. Neyes was a “searcher of records” and lived on Cherry Street in Sonoma. The census information indicates both his parents were from Virginia, as was he and his wife Ella B. (age 38—now her husband is over 20 years older than she!). James and Ella now have two daughters—13-year-old Berta Lee (born in Oregon) and 8-year-old May (born in California). Source: Year: 1880;Census Place: Santa Rosa, Sonoma, California;Roll: 84;Page: 110C;Enumeration District: 124
Despite his imprisonment, he didn’t lose his voting rights. The 1894 Sonoma voter list provided a description of 76-year-old (note age change from prison record—he should be 74, not 76 here) James Hemstead Neycefrom Virginia. He was 5 ft. 8 tall, had a light complexion and blue eyes, gray hair, and was blind in his left eye. (The Nace family in Botetourt County, Virginia, had blue eyes. Matthew’s younger brother John Christian Nace had blue eyes and a light complexion.) James is still listed as a searcher of records and lives in Santa Rosa no. 6 precinct.
Years later, Mae Ida Neyce’s social security info gives her parents’ names (her mother is Ella B. Christian), birthdate, and birthplace:
In 1882, part of his job as "searcher of records" must have involved researching patents. Here is a patent application that he witnessed:
The 1890 census is unavailable, but James appears to be living alone in the 1900 census. Ella B. must have died and his daughters—now grown—must have left home.
Perhaps it’s best that his family was gone before they were disgraced by James being imprisoned for embezzlement in January 1901 and serving two years in Folson Prison. Title/Description:Identification Cards, (Folsom) 24801-25277 and (San Quentin), 4499-14744 p. 1343-44
Why he was imprisoned is a mystery. Did Matthew Nace’s past finally catch up with him, or did he commit a new crime in California? I couldn’t find any trial records (yet), only that he served nearly two years. His former business partner Israel Coe, who was 60 years old in the 1855 New York census and who took out newspaper ads in 1856 in an attempt to apprehend Matthew H. Nace, would be long dead. Did James H. Neyce’s job as a “searcher of records” provide a temptation to embezzle?
But he only lived six years longer. James Hempstead Neyce, whose birthdate is “unknown,” died on March 10, 1910, and was buried in the old county cemetery in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California.
The plaque on the rock near the path reads:
Unlike his first wife Evaline, whose grave in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery was graced by the lavish monument he had erected to her memory, James/Matthew was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.
Note: Much of the above is speculation based on evidence I discovered at various sites on the Internet, but what I have deduced about Matthew Harvey Nace is certainly plausible. (His marriage record to Ella B. Christian and their daughter May Ida Neyce’s social security record provided the most helpful hints.) We’ll probably never know the full story of his life and exploits, but some public records have given us at least a glimpse of part of it. Pictures of the cemetery are from https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/2098457/old-county-cemetery.