This post originally appeared on my Peevish Pen blog on September 1, 2008.
While doing a Google search, I happened upon some information about my great-great uncle, William Nace, Jr., the older brother of John Christian Nace. I'd wondered what became of him, and why he—as the eldest child—wasn't the one to take care of his father's affairs during the summer of 1863.
Here’s what I found:
From Vol. 7, NO.3 LECOMPTON, KANSAS FALL 1981:
The Kansas Territorial government, unable to find suitable quarters in which to meet, contracted with Col. William Nace in 1855 to erect a Building that would meet their needs in the new town of Lecompton, Kansas Territory.
The contract stipulated that upon the completion of the building, Col. Nace was to be paid $1,000 if it was occupied 40 days. The legislature voted to make Lecompton the official capital of the territory, and also the seat of Douglas County. The building was occupied by the legislature and the territorial officers by 1856. After the freestate people became dominant in the territory, the legislature would convene annually at Lecompton, but immediately voted to re-convene in Lawrence. The county seat was also moved to Lawrence.
Constitution Hall was the site of the Lecompton Constitutional Convention. The convention was called for September, but as the delegates approached the meeting place, they were confronted by several hundred freestate people, led by James Lane.
The delegates felt it was unsafe to enter the building, and as the U. S. Cavalry was no longer stationed near by, adjourned to meet in October when the U. S. Army would be available to protect them.
Our subject [William Nace] who is mentioned as the builder of the Constitutional Hall in another article in this issue of the "Bald Eagle" was born September 19, 1826, in Buchanan, Botetourt County, Virginia, the son of William and Hester C. (Fringer) Nace and the grandson of John C. Nace. His grandfather John C. Nace was a captain in the War of Independence, and his father, William, was a soldier in the War of 1812. Both of them were prominent Virginia farmers. His mother was a well-educated, intelligent Christian woman and a member of the Presbyterian church, in which her husband was a ruling elder for many years.
William Nace, our subject, was educated in the schools of Buchanan. In 1848 he entered wholesale grocery and commission house at Richmond, Virginia, where he remained seven years. In 1856, at the solicitation of Honorable Daniel Woodson, secretary of the territory, he removed to Kansas.
On his arrival here, he was at once appointed private secretary to Daniel Woodson, acting governor. As member of the Governor's staff, he was given the rank of colonel, and continued to hold the same rank under the Hugh S. Walsh administration. In the fall of 1856, he purchased from Colonel H. T. Titus the well known claim on which was located at what was known as Fort Titus, celebrated in the history of Kansas as the point at which Titus and other pro-slavery men were captured, and where Captain Shore was killed.
While he served as secretary to Woodson and Walsh until l860, he improved his claim, making a first-class farm, to which he had added until he had six hundred and forty acres—with a large orchard of apples, peaches, cherries, and all other kinds of fruits found in this climate, and a first-class dwelling, houses for tenants, barns and other improvements, making it among the best houses and farms in Douglas County.
During Price's raid in 1864, he participated in the battles of Westport, Big Blue, and other engagements. He was originally a Whig, but since his advent into Kansas he was never a partisan, voting generally for those whom he considered the best man.
Mr. Nace always took an active part in the affairs of his times, and at different times held various positions of trust, among them being on the school board for almost a score of years and serving five terms as county commissioner and held the office of township trustee of Lecompton township for four years.
He was reared in the Presbyterian faith. Although never a member of any religious organization, he has always contributed liberally to churches, Sunday schools and religious enterprises generally.
He was married at Lecompton, September 29, 1859 to Miss Mary Amelia Hickox, daughter of Daniel and Polly A. (Yates) Hickox; Mr. Hickox, formerly a prominent member of the New York legislature. Mrs. Mary A. Nace was born December 3, 1844 in Olean, Cattaraugus County, New York, and came to Kansas when but a child.
She died September 14, 1907. Both are buried in the cemetery west of Lecompton, known as the Maple Grove Cemetery. Their children were William M. Jr., John Palmer, Susie, Mary H., Frederick Henry and Ruth.
Colonel Nace passed away, October 2, 1908 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Leamer. He was remembered for his fifty years of neighborly kindness, his gentlemanly manners, his hospitality, his good cheer, his usefulness as a citizen those many years. He was an old time settler who had served our community and helped make Lecompton a surviving city today.
The above information taken from the United States Biography Dictionary and news articles from the Lecompton Sun. There are still Nace descendants living in Kansas at this writing. Submitted by-Iona Spencer
However, upon doing a bit more checking, I found that, according to info on the Historic Lecompton website, Constitution Hall was built by Sheriff Samuel Jones and his crew. Uh-oh, was all the info I quoted above inaccurate? Was William in Kansas? Turns out he was. On this page about the Battle of Fort Titus (August 16, 1856), William Nace is mentioned:
Ft. Titus was a proslavery stronghold in Douglas County about two miles south of Lecompton on the east bank of Coon Creek. Colonel Henry Titus built a fortified log house as a rendezvous point and place of defense for proslavery men fighting their Free State neighbors. After the battle, the site was purchased in 1856 from Titus by William Nace as a farm. In 1860, the Battlefield Distillery was opened on the old site of Ft. Titus by Nace and a Mr. McKinney.
Aha! This page says that William Nace built the Council Building:
Council Building. Built the same year as Constitution Hall. Constructed by William Nace, private secretary to Acting Governor Daniel Woodson. Territorial council or senate convened here in 1857. Became United States land office in 1860. Used later as a general store, drug store, and Lecompton city and council offices. It was destroyed by fire in 1932.In 1890, the 1856 building was a store:
This page from the LHS Newsletter Archive, Vol. 16, No. 4, gives more information about Constitution Hall:
The legislature voted Lecompton as the first permanent capital of the territory and also the county seat of Douglas County. William Nace had come to the area with Secretary of the Territory Woodson and as he had had considerable experience as a builder, he was selected to go to Lecompton to erect a building for the territorial offices. It is possible that he also built the Council Hall, just to the east across Elmore street from Constitution Hall, but records show others were involved, such as Sheriff Sam Jones who owned the lots on which Constitution Hall was built. The Legislature agreed to pay $1,000 for the use of the building for forty days.Council building, Constitution Hall, same year—yeah, it’d be easy to get them confused. Anyhow, my ancestor did build something of importance in Lecompton, Kansas.
The building was built of lumber, most of which was walnut, and is thought to have been sawed by a local mill which had the ability to saw five to seven thousand board feet a day. The windows, locks, hinges, etc. were purchased elsewhere—perhaps Missouri. It was a two story building with steps on the east, and entrances on both the east and south. Later in the year, additional rooms were built on the west end and an outside stairway on the south up to the second story, made it possible to enter the building without going through the Land Office on the first floor, as it was continually crowded. The upper floor consisted of a large meeting room, an entry and an office room on the northwest. The first floor had a large room for the Land Office on the east and four smaller offices on the west, two of which were rented to two lawyers and two were used by the register and receiver. The building had been completed in 1856 but by 1860 the Land Office had been removed and that area rented to N.W. Perry a dry goods merchant. The building was heated by wood stoves and had an outside well and plumbing (pit privy).
When researching stuff on the ‘Net, don’t rely on just one source.
From Douglas County, Part 31:
The first settlements made in the vicinity of Lecompton were in 1854, by A. W. & A. G. Glenn, father and son; G. W. Zinn, David Martin, M. S. Winter and William Shirley. In 1855, Moses McCall, Maj. Lyman Evans and others came to this part of the county, and, in 1856, William Leamer, William M. Nace, William Smith, William Christian and Hugh S. Walsh.. . . and
While this building [a capitol building] was in course of erection, the Territorial Government, desiring to remove from the Shawnee Mission to Lecompton, which had become the capital of the Territory, engaged William M. Nace to erect a suitable building in which to hold their sessions, agreeing to pay therefore, as rent, $1,000 in case the building could be occupied by them for forty days.
William Nace was mentioned on page 146 of John Speer’s 1896 book, Life of General James H. Lane, the “Liberator of Kansas” (which can be read online): "Our illustration represents the cavalcade passing the pioneer home of Col. William Nace, on the heights approaching Lecompton, all the multitude, from the east, the south and west having concentrated just south of the point. (See page 165)" Here's the picture from page 165:
Information about Constitution Hall and its importance to history is on this page of the Kansas historical society’s website and also on the Eight Wonders of Kansas site.
From a story in the LHS Newsletter Archive, Vol. 12, issue 1 (1986), there’s this recollection from William Christian Hoad:
A good many of the first settlers were still in Lecompton when I was a boy, and it was my greatest delight to get them to tell me stories of the stirring early times. There was Colonel William Nace, the much loved “Uncle Billie” of a whole tribe of boys and girls, who ate his apples and rode his ponies to their hearts' content. “Uncle Billie” was a fire-eater from Mississippi who always rode a powerful bay horse, even about his own farm, and who for many a year never left his home and barnyard without a pistol in his pocket or a carbine slung from his saddle.But he wasn’t from Mississippi. “Uncle Billie” was from Buchanan, Virginia.
I wonder if William Nace’s move to Kansas saved the life of his younger brother, John Christian Nace. When their father died in the summer of 1863, John made the arrangements and settled the estate, a job that would normally have been delegated to the older brother.
In order to fulfill his duties to his father, John took leave from the 22nd Virginia infantry—so he missed the Battle of Gettysburg.
~I am indebted to the Lecompton Historical Society for making its records available online. Had they not done so, I would never have known what happened to my great-great uncle. I now know his middle name—McDowell—and that his father (William) fought in the War of 1812 and that his grandfather (John C. Nace) was a captain in the Revolutionary War.