Monday, December 20, 2010

Robert Nace

Like his brother Matthew, Robert Nace was also missing from the settlement of his father's estate. Where could he have been?

On a hunch, because William Nace Jr. and Matthew were in Lecompton, Kansas, I did a bit of Googling. I didn't find much—no evidence of a marriage, no death date, etc.—but I did confirm that he was indeed in Lecompton. I found this picture of the Rowena Hotel posted on the Historic Lecompton website:

The accompanying description mentioned Robert Nace:
So, Robert was the respected proprietor of a saloon. I Googled for more information and found that the Lecompton Historical Society's Bald Eagle, Vol. 12, No. 3, Fall issue had an article titled "Hotels of Lecompton 1855-1861." In the article was indeed a mention of Robert Nace:

"Mr. Nace is a native of Old Dominion" identifies his home state—Virginia. Had to be the right Robert!

Another issue of the Bald Eagle (Vol. 20, No. 4, Winter) had another story about the Rowena on pages 2 and 3—and another mention of Robert Nace.

The LHS Newsletter Archive
Volume Twenty, Issue Number 4
Originally Published in Lecompton, Kansas : Winter 1994
Digitally Archived August 2006

Kansas had been opened as a territory in Au-
gust, 1854. The center of the government organized
at Fort Leavenworth at the United States Army Base.
After a year of seeking an appropriate place for a
capital, Lecompton, K.T. was chosen. There were
few dwellings there, so investors hurried to the town
to build hotels and houses. The territorial government
would soon meet there in addition to the U.S. govern-
ment offices, so good accommodations were a neces-
The need for a lavish hotel in which the govern-
ment officials could be quartered was of great impor-
tance because many of them would be from the east
and accustomed to a more elaborate standard of
living than was available on the newly organized
frontier. As aresult, Aristides Roderigue organized a
group to invest in such an undertaking. The group
selected a plan for alarge stone hotel. As there were 
no stone masons in the area, Roderigue went to St.
Louis, Mo. to find some. There he engaged Mark
Migliario to go to Lecompton to build the hotel, and
his brother Constantine soon joined him, as he too
was a skilled stone mason. They were both Italian
immigrants and soon decided to make Lecompton
their home on a farm west and south of town, and later
built a large stone house where they lived the rest of
their lives, and it is still inhabited.
The hotel building was started in 1857 and com-
pleted in 1858, was to be 45' by 90', have 9 rooms on
the second floor, lIon the third, 5 on the first,
besides an office and a large dining room. There was
also aseries of work rooms down in the lower level.
It was to be heated with stoves, lighted with lamps or
candles, and have outdoor plumbing. There were to
be seven cisterns in the basement which would be
pumped into a large tank on a scaffold on the west
side as the water source. 
The exterior of the hotel had 4 entrances on the
east, south, and west. The south entrance had a large
flat rock inlaid in the ground that served as a porch
that led to the beautiful double entrance glass doors
and across to the west side. Also carefully cut small
stones were inlaid in the area that framed the doors.
The east side of the building had along" strip" stair-
case that led from the street directly up to the door
which also had alarge glass section in it.
Three huge chimneys rose above the roof and
accommodated all the stoves in the building, even the
kitchen stove. There was a steep staircase on the
west side of the building, that provided access to the
second floor and care for the water tank. There was
also an entrance on the west that opened to the
kitchen area and was a place to receive groceries and
other merchandise.
S.D. Hemingway was the first proprietor, Charles
Montandon was in charge of the saloon then in one of
the lower rooms in the basement, as was a barber and
repairman. The Kansas Stage Company's Office was
in the hotel, and stages left daily for all parts of the
Territory, and it also made connection with Missouri
River Steamers and the Hannibul and St. Joseph
When the Rowena Hotel opened for business, it
was considered the most lavish hotel west of the
Missouri River. It was very comfortable and had a
competent staff. The Territorial officers preferred to
stay there. On Jan. 2, 1859 there were fifty-four
guests registered at the hotel and the next day only
25. This was at the time the legislature was to meet,
and they were adjourning the meetings to Lawrence,
wanting to avoid Lecompton and her reputation for
favoring slavery.
The Rowena had been financed by a group of
people who promised to pay $500.00 each. Mr.
Leamer and Robert Stevens had participated in that
investment. In 1858when the Free State Legislature
voted to move to Lawrence, the federal officers
voted to remain at the Rowena, going to Lawrence
only when they had business to transact. The Rowena
had been doing well until then, but after that it started
losing money and needed the investors to come forth
with their money. Mr. Leamer signed the $8,000 note
but none of the others did. After the hotel failed
Leamer stepped forward again and paid the whole
$8,000 plus $2,000 to pay other expenses. None of
the other participants helped. 
In addition to that the chef had ordered groceries costing over $500.00
which he also paid.
Entertainment became an important part of the
activities at the hotel. A large saloon was under the
supervision of Robert Nace a former native of the
"old dominion," so he was amply able to conduct the
saloon in a quality way. Hemingway had recently
erected in the Rowena Hall two of Brunswick & Co.'s
celebrated marble "bed Billiard" tables and that also
attracted customers.
The dining room was aplace for entertainment
and conversation. In 1858 when James Denver was
appointed Territorial Governor, and the territorial
legislature was in session, the place was full to over-
flowing. A guest entered, very excited over news he
had just been told, that gold had been discovered in
neighboring Colorado. During the discussion, a group,
primarily legislators and U.S. government officials,
decided to organize a small wagon train and send
them to Colorado to a place in the Rocky Mountains,
where they would stake out claims for their backers
and also to plat a town there, as that was still a part
of Kansas Territory. A caravan was put together and
left from the Hotel. It traveled west for several weeks,
finally arriving at the site ofthe gold discovery. Upon
investigation it was found that all desirable claims had
been taken. However, the group staked out a town
and platted it before leaving. The government needed
that done, as so many people were going there to
settle and some organization was essential. They then
left for Lecompton. On their last day of the trip they
conceived the idea of killing all varieties of wild game
they could get, clean and skin it, then upon their
arrival at the hotel, give it to the chef to prepare a big
dinner for that night and invited all their promoters to
a wild game feast, perhaps to try to compensate for
the lack of gold claims. This was done, and at the
feast that evening, they were discussing what to name
the new town, and couldn't agree. Just then Gov.
Denver entered the room, and several enthusiastically
yelled, "Call it Denver. "It was met with loud cheers,
and it was so named. That is how the big city of
Denver, Colorado was platted and named. So the
results of the trip were a city well planned, a wonder-
ful meal, and a city well named.
In January, 1859, the hotel keepers made prepa-
rations for the multitude of people who would come
to the territorial land sale. They came from all over the
east, south and west to buy land for farms or for
homes, so the hotels were always over crowded.
But what eventually happened to Robert? Did he go to Denver with the multitude? The Denver Public Library posted a list of the "Fifty-niner's Directory, Colorado Argonauts, 1858-1859" in which Robert Nace, while not listed, was mentioned:
WYNKOOP, Edward W., came with the Lecompton Party 1858, and a street in Denver still bears his name. He was a member of the Denver City Town Company, and lived here, but was also a resident of Arapahoe Village in this year, and later. In the diary of Jackson, published by Hall, he is said to be one of the proprietors of that place. In 1859 he was a friend of Bliss, and in the noted duel between that pioneer and Dr. J. S. Stone, on Mar 5, Wynkoop was his Second. (See under these names, also see files RMN of date.)
The following record from Arapahoe County Land Records, Liber D, p. 275, old, gives a little information: Edward W. Wynkoop, partner of Robert M. Nace of Lecompton, Kansas Territory, grantors, Sep 5, 1859, to Jerome Kunkle of Rising Sun, Jefferson County, Kansas, consideration $400” (here follows description of lands or lots), “all their goods and chattels, mortgaged,” the grantors acknowledging paper in Dauphin County, Kansas. This was recorded in Denver Feb 15, 1860: Mr. Wynkoop did not withdraw from the community at this time, for there is a mention in the Colorado Republican and Rocky Mountain Herald, Aug 24, 1861 as follows: Married, in this City, Wednesday, Aug 21, 1861, at Mr. Wakeley’s on Larimer Street, by Rev. Mr. Kehler, Lieut. Edward W. Wynkoop and Miss Louisa M. Brown, both of Denver. Later it is stated in the paper of Apr 15, 1882 (or near that date) that “Ned Wynkoop, a pioneer of 1858, is visiting friends in Denver, and is much surprized at the City’s growth.” This was quoted in the reminiscent column of the Rocky Mountain Herald, Apr 17, 1926.

What became of Robert? Another Nace family mystery. . . .

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