Sunday, February 14, 2021

Matthew Nace: Another Discovery

 I've posted several times about Matthew Harvey Nace, the brother of my great-great grandfather John Christian Nace: "Nace Settlement" when Matthew wasn't around in 1863 to help settle his father's estate, "Matthew Harvey Nace" when I learned about elaborate tomb he'd built for his wife Evaline who died in 1854, "Matthew Nace Mystery, Part I" when I learned he'd absconded with funds from his company and was supposedy sailing to California, and "Matthew Nace Mystery, Part II" when I learned of his further adventures and where he was buried.

Here's a recap: Matthew marries Evaline in Lynchburg, VA, in 1847. They live in Richmond with their three children until Evaline dies following the birth of a daughter in May 1854. Six weeks later the baby dies. Matthew has an elaborate tomb constructed for Evaline in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery. Matthew's mother, Hester Fringer Nace, dies in the summer of 1854. Matthew and his children are living in New York by 1855 and Matthew is apparently involved in several businesses, including Nace & Coe. But in 1856, Matthew has robbed the company, swindled others, and absconded. His former partner, Israel Coe, places notices in several newspapers. Here's one:

In April 1856, Matthew writes Coe a letter saying he is sailing to California and sending his children to his father (William Nace in Buchanan, Virginia). However, Matthew doesn't sail and doesn't leave his children with his father. Instead, he marries Ella B. Christian, his late wife's sister, on July 7, 1856, in Vigo, Indiana. By 1857, they are living in Missouri where Matthew is apparently scamming several people.  

The Randolph Citizen, 27 May 1859, page 2

I couldn't find the article in the Fulton Telegraph, so I do not know what his "rascalities" include. But it is likely that he has committed many illegal acts, and thus he leaves the area before he is arrested. No doubt he stops by Lecompton, Kansas, where he leaves his children with relatives. His son William M. appears on the 1860 Kansas census as a member of his uncle William's household. One of the girls ends up with her grandmother.

By the 1860s, Matthew (now James Neyce) and Ella are in Oregon, where they have a daughter Berta Lee (born 1867) and a son James McDowell (born and died in 1868). Apparently they were in Oregon from 1860 to 1868. Then they moved again. See "Matthew Nace Mystery, Part I" and "Matthew Nace Mystery, Part II" for further details of his adventures.

Eventually, Matthew/James does make it to California, where he lives for several years before he is again involved in rascalities and spends some time in Folson Prison. His prison description matches his description in the above newspaper article—right down to the damaged left eye.

Matthew Harvey Nace—"the Expert Scoundrel"—is, no doubt, the black sheep of the Nace family.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

A Nace Family Recipe: Light Bread

 This post originally appeared on my "Peevish Pen" blog back in June of 2007 as "Another Family Recipe: Light Bread." Since it's a recipe my grandmother probably got from her grandmother, it's worth posting here:

Grandma's Light Bread

One of the delights of my childhood was going to Grandma’s house on Sunday and smelling her light bread baking. Eating it hot from the oven was even more delightful. She had both a wood stove and a gas stove in her kitchen. She used the wood stove for baking the bread and for most of her cooking. I rarely saw her use the gas stove.

Mattie Blanche Nace Ruble—who lived to be nearly 97—grew up in Lithia, Virginia, but moved to Roanoke when she married a railroad man. Here is a picture of her as a young mother with her three children (Lawrence, the oldest; Raymond, the baby; and Alene, my mother).

Grandma probably got the recipe from her mother, Sulmena Frances Spence Nace, pictured here with her husband, William Robert Nace.

Grandma Ruble’s Light Bread

1 cake or package of yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon shortening (She used lard but Crisco works)
6 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 pint lukewarm water

Dissolve 1 cake yeast and 1 Tbs. sugar in one pint lukewarm water. Add 1 Tbs. shortening (Crisco) and 3 cups plain flour. Beat until smooth. Then add 1 tsp. salt and 3 more cups of flour—or enough to make a dough that is easily handled.

Knead the dough until smooth and elastic–about 10 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and set in a moderately warm place, free from drafts, until light (about 50 minutes).

Punch down dough and form into rolls. Place rolls in greased bread pans, cover, and let rise one hour. Bake 30 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven. [Note: I added the time and temperature that worked for me.]
I liked the rolls from the corner of the pan—crust on two sides so it held up well for buttering.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Uncle T.O. Mystery

Some of my Nace family has been making the news lately, at least in the "What's on Your Mind" column by Ray Cox that appears in every Monday's Roanoke Times

Because one of Cox's April columns, "WOYM: More Nace memories surface, from attempts to revive manganese mining to snakes not alive" referenced a "Tazewell Orren Hunt," I thought Tazewell might be connected to my great-aunt Cora Nace's husband, Thomas Orren Hunt. (I'd blogged about Cora and her husband in this December 10 post: "Cora Virginia Nace Hunt") Orren is not a common name.

I did some research and could find nothing about a "Tazewell Orren Hunt." I concluded that "Tazewell" had to have been "Thomas." I emailed Ray Co about what I'd learned. As a good reporter would do, Cox did some more researching himself. Hence the story in the July 27 newspaper: "WOYM: Family historians help piece together the backstory on 'Uncle T.O.' of Botetourt."

Mystery solved.

Because some readers of this blog are interested in Botetourt County hisotry, here are the URLs to related "WOYM" stories about the town of Nace and about Uncle T.O. in order they appeared in the Roanoke Times: 

**April 5 "WOYM: Botetourt County's Nace had ties to region's iron mining history"

**April 19, 2020: "WOYM: More Nace memories surface, from attempts to revive manganese mining to snakes not alive"

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Smith Connection

What does this sign have to do with my Nace heritage?

While I’m a Smith through my paternal line, I’m also a Smith through my maternal Nace line via my great-grandmother’s Spence line.

My Nace line, through Frances Spence Nace, goes back to Goffs to Harrisons to Battailes to a Smith line in colonial Virginia. John Battaile (my 8thgreat-grandfather who settled before 1690 in VA and who served in the House of Burgesses in 1696) was married to Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Major Lawrence Smith who “surveyed and helped lay out the Town of Yorktown.” Here’s the line and how it connects to the Naces (some of the dates might be off by a few years because some sources list slightly different dates; ditto for a few of the spellings of names):

Thomas Smith (1565-):Alice Judd (1565-1615)
Christopher Smith (1592-1638): Elizabeth Townley Halstead (1598-1679)
Major Lawrence Smith(1629-1700): Mary Debnam (1633-1728)
Elizabeth Smith(1668-1708): Captain John Bataille (1658-1708)
Elizabeth Battaile (1695-1770): Andrew Harrison Jr. (abt. 1687-13 July 1753)
Battaile Harrison (1712/ 1720-16 Nov 1776): Frances White (1725- April 7, 1789)
John Harrison (1747-1795): Sally Ellis
Battaile Harrison (1771-): Frances Tinsley
Mary (Polly) Harrison (1794-18??): Archibald Goff (1780-1850)
Andrew Frederick SpenceMary Lucy Goff (1830-1900)
Sulmana Frances Spence: William Robert Nace

The following info is condensed from various internet sources:

Major Lawrence Smith was born 29 March 1629 (or possibly later), in Lancashire, England, and died after 8 August 1700 in Gloucester County, Virginia. He was an engineer and a surveyor and was a prominent citizen in colonial Virginia. He came to Virginia in the mid-1600's, possibly imported from England to Virginia by his uncle, Augustine Warner, in the year 1652. (Warner was the great-great grandfather of George Washington.) While no pictures exist of Smith, this is a portrait of  Augustine Warner:

Smith patented Severn Hall in Gloucester County in 1662, where he lived and died.  

However, he also had connections to Yorktown. He acquired Temple Farm in Yorktown in 1686. (This farm was the site of Cornwallis’s surrender in 1781.) He surveyed land for the British Crown in both Gloucester and York Counties. In 1691, he received fifty acres of land as payment for surveying and laying out the town of Yorktown. He also received considerable other land for importing people from England to Virginia.

Like several of my colonial ancestors, he was involved in Bacon’s Rebellion. “In 1676, he commanded 111 men out of Gloucester County at a fort near the falls of the Rappahannock River, and the same year he led the trained bands of Gloucester against the rebels under Bacon.” Thus, he was fighting against some of my other ancestors who sided with Nathaniel Bacon.

Page 43 of Families of Virginia shows the connection between Lawrence Smith and John Battaile:

His children with Mary Debnam (name is sometimes different) are Mary (1652), John (abt. 1653), Capt. Charles (1655), Elizabeth (abt. 1665)—my 8th great-grndmother who married John Battaile, Col. Lawrence, Maj. Augustine (1666), Sarah (abt. 1661), and Capt. William (1687). These dates vary slightly in different sources.

In 1699, he was recommended for a King's Councilor post, but did not live long enough to be seated.  (His son John was then given the post.)

The Internet provides plenty of information about Colonel Lawrence Smith.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Matthew Nace Mystery Part II

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.

James H. Neyce doesn’t appear in an 1870 census, but he was clearly in California by then. James H. Neyce, a watchmaker, appears in the October 1868 voter registration for Salinas, California. 

James Hempstead Neyce, a watchmaker who was born in Virginia, appears again in the 1871 voter registration for Lakeport, 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

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? 

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.

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

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Matthew Nace Mystery Part I

In my earlier post about my great-great uncle, Matthew Harvey Nace, it seemed as if he’d vanished after writing a letter (on April 26, 1856) to his business partner, Israel Coe. 

But did he really vanish? Or did he remarry in Indiana, move to Oregon, change his name, climb Mt. St. Helens, move to California, spend some time in Folson Prison, and die in 1910? I can only track him by his given name to Indiana, but numerous clues suggest his other adventures. 

His letter to Israel Coe (posted in full on “Matthew Harvey Nace”) ended:
Three months after he wrote the letter (and two years after his wife Evaline’s death), 32-year-old Matthew remarried—in Vigo, Indiana—to 20-year-old Ella B. Christian. Was she kin to his late wife Evaline, whose maiden name had been Christian? Or to the 20-year-old “L. P. Christian Nace” (his “sister” according to the census) who was living in his house in Brooklyn, New York, in 1855 (and might have been his 20-year-old brother Robert’s wife)? Odd how “Ella B. Christian Nace” sounds like “L.P. Christian Nace.” And both were born in 1835. (Could the 1855 Brooklyn census taker have made a mistake in spelling and really meant Ella B? But that would mean—?)

An Internet search provided records of the marriage. 
This, while unofficial, is from a book of marriages in Vigo County, Indiana:

There can’t be many men named Matthew Harvey Nace. (Our Matthew was named after Matthew Harvey, the owner of Mount Joy Plantation, who employed Matthew’s father, William Nace, as overseer.) After the marriage, Mattthew Nace dropped out of sight. Since this was the last record I could find about him with his legal name, it’s likely he changed his name.

Apparently, at some point, Matthew and Ella appear to have moved from Indiana to Oregon, and Matthew apparently assumed a different, but similar, name: James H. Neyce. In 1868, they had a son who died in infancy. 
Oregon Historical Society; Portland, OR; Index Collection: Biography Index
The child’s middle name is McDowell, almost the same as Matthew’s brother, William MacDowell Nace. (He wasn’t their only child. A daughter, Berta Lee, had been born the previous year.)

How did Matthew and Ella B. get to Oregon. At any rate, James H. and Ella B Neyce were there by 1860. Perhaps they joined a wagon train and traveled the Oregon trail to where it ended in The Dalles area. Why did they choose Oregon as a destination? Was it because they’d be hard to trace? Did Matthew decide to seek his fortune as a gold prospector? An article in which James H. Neyce is mentioned as a climber of Mt. St. Helens gives a hint:
P. 40, Cascade Alpine Guide, Colorado River to Steven's Pass by Fred Beckey
From the above sources, we know that Matthew—er, James—and Ella were in Oregon from 1860 until 1868. Some other info on the Internet suggests James H Neyce was a postmaster in Wasco County, Oregon for a while, but I cannot yet find definite proof. In March 1867, he appears on two Oregon tax lists, on one as a “pedlar 3rd class” and on another as “watch” (which might be the article he was selling).
Sometime between 1868 and 1871, James, Ella, and Berta moved to California.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Matthew Harvey Nace

Nace Monument
photo taken by Mike Ruble on July 28, 2018
I first blogged about Matthew Nace back in 2010 in the “Nace Settlement” post about his father’s estate. What became of Matthew was a mystery. From what I’d learned on the Internet, Matthew had apparently died mysteriously in Kansas, date unknown, and his widow married another man. Or maybe not. From what I’ve learned recently, it’s not. But there’s still a mystery.

Some background: Matthew Harvey Nace was one of four sons of William Nace (6 Feb 1797—May 1863): William M. Nace (19 Sept. 1826-2 Oct 1908), Matthew H. Nace (1824-?), Robert M. Nace (1835-?), and John C. Nace (22 Nov 1828-17 Feb 1928). William Nace worked for Col. Matthew Harvey, so it's logical where Matthew Harvey Nace got his name.

John C. Nace, stayed home (except for his service in the 22nd Virginia infantry during the Civil War). But the other sons all left home.

 William Nace Jr. had worked in Richmond at a wholesale grocery and commission house in Richmond from 1848 until early 1856, when “at the solicitation of Honorable Daniel Woodson, secretary of the Interior, he removed to Kansas.” In Lecompton Kansas, he was successful in a number of ventures.

William Jr. was soon joined by his younger brother Robert, who—as of May 1859—became manager of the saloon at the Rowena Hotel, “the most lavish hotel west of the Missouri River.” But Robert appears on the 1855 New York census, where he was living with his older brother Matthew.

So, for some of the Nace boys, there were connections to Richmond, Kansas, and New York. They'd come a long way from Buchanan, Virginia.

Now for Matthew: According to various Internet sites, as well as, Matthew was married to two women named Evaline—one was Evaline Ann Frances Christian (born act. 1830), daughter of Saluda Baker Fuqua Christian Watson (b. 1805 in Charlotte County, Virginia; d.  November 1886 in Lecompton, Kansas, where Matthew's older brother William lived.) This Evaline, who'd had a daughter (Jenny Frances—called “Fanny”) with Matthew in 1849, supposedly also married Robert William Pate in 1849. But that didn't add up.

Here’s the problem: Matthew, Evaline, and Fanny all appear on the 1850 census for Richmond, Virginia. So, it is likely that the Evaline who married Matthew was actually Evaline Augusta Fuqua Christian (whose mother was Saluda Baker Fuqua Christian Watson—same mother as the other Evaline). Somehow, many Internet sites have confused the wives' names while keeping the name of the mother—and the name of the first-born child—correct. 

1850 Richmond Census: Living next door to Matthew and Evaline is a William Christian
and his wife Fanny, and children William (2) and Fanny (6 months), plus a 9-year-old Martha.
Might William be Evaline Christian Nace's brother?
A record exists that this Evaline and Matthew were married in Lynchburg on November 10, 1847. Apparently they were a happy couple. Within a few years, they had three children: Jenny Frances (“Fanny”) in 1849, William (Willie) in December 1850, and Virginia Harvey (“Jenny”) in 1852. During the early 50s, they lived in Richmond where it appears that Matthew was a successful businessman. Since Matthew's older brother had started his career there before going to Kansas, perhaps William had gotten Matthew a job there. At any rate, neither William nor Matthew ever returned home to Buchanan.

In late 2016, a pdf of an article, “The Nace Monument in Hollywood Cemetery” appeared online. It was about the restoration of a lavish monument erected by Matthew Nace for his widow, Evaline Augusta Fuqua who died May 5, 1854. 

The article provides not only the name of his wife, but also connects them to Richmond and hints at Matthew's wealth.

 Here are some screen-grabs from part of the pdf:
The year after his wife died, Matthew and his three children were living in Brooklyn, New York. The New York census for 1955 also shows an L(?) P Christian Nace (listed as "sister" but probably his sister-in-law) and R. W. Nace (his brother Robert?) living with him in a stone house worth $10,000. His vocation was listed as "tobacco." Also in the household were three servants from Ireland. 

Matthew was apparently co-owner of Nace & Coe Company, which seems to have run into problems in 1856. Matthew is accused of robbing and swindling:

Article in The Daily Dispatch of Richmond, VA, 02 May 1856

Did Matthew make it to California? Or did he choose "self-destruction"? It remains a mystery.

It seems unlikely that he ever claimed his children again, and—if he sent them to his father—they didn't stay with his father long. 

According to the 1860 Kansas census, nine-year-old Willie was in Lecompton, Kansas, with his Uncle William. Willie was still there in 1865. The 1870 Federal census for Lecompton Kansas lists eighteen-year-old Virginia Nace living with her grandmother Saluda Christian Watson, who is now the postmistress. Living with them is eleven-year-old Laura Pate, who is likely another granddaughter of Saluda (Was Laura's mother married to Robert William Pate who had allegedly married Evaline in 1849?). What happened to Matthew's oldest daughter Fanny? What became of her is a mystery.
UPDATE:  The mystery of what happened to Matthew is solved: