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Family Bios




JAMES ALEXANDER VANCE III arrived in Mississippi  from South Carolina with his parents, JAMES ALEXANDER VANCE JR. and SUSANNA PRESLEY VANCE  ca 1833. They settled in CALHOUN COUNTY in the general area of SLATE SPRINGS  MISSISSIPPI. We have very little documented history on our family until 1850 when we find JAMES ALEXANDER VANCE III and  his wife MARY NEAL VANCE on the 1850 census of Choctaw County. Mary was the daughter of  ELBERT NEAL and NARCISSA SPURLIN NEAL. The NEAL  family had arrived in Mississippi from COVINGTON COUNTY ALABAMA and settled in Calhoun County sometime after 1830.  

On the 1860 census  they are still in Choctaw County and we now find  JAMES, MARY, and children , NARCISSA SUSAN age 9, Mary Elizabeth  age 7, JOHN ALEXANDER age 4 and WILLIAM H. age 1. 

On 8 October 1863, JAMES enlisted in the Army of the Confederacy at Greensboro, Mississippi. He was placed in Company D, 43 Regiment, Mississippi Infantry. The last record we have for him was reported in THE GENTLE REBEL by Jones and Martin.   The 43rd Regiment was in the Battle of Franklin Tennessee which occurred on 30 November 1864. The Civil War Letters of Lt.  William Harvey Berryhill of Company D published in that book reported that JAMES A. VANCE shot in the head and JOHN G. NEAL (Neal was James wife MARY S first Cousin) shot in the hip, both may die .  It appears that this prediction came to pass, neither JAMES nor JOHN NEAL returned home. We have no record of where they are buried.  

In 1870 Calhoun County, Mississippi census, Mary, a widow, appears as the head of the household. She indicates that her husband was "killed in the war".  We do not believe that the family had moved but that Calhoun County now included a part of what had been Choctaw County.  With her are MARY ELIZABETH age 17, JOHN ALEXANDER age 15, THOMAS W. age 10 and JAMES B. age 7. Also in the household are   her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter: JAMES J. ADAMS age 24, NARCISSA SUSAN ADAMS age 19 and MARY ADAMS age 8/12.  William H. who would have been 11 years old is no longer listed and is presumed to have died.  

Sometime in the early 1870 s the family moved to Shaw, Mississippi in SUNFLOWER COUNTY. On 9th of February 1879 JOHN A. VANCE  and LORILLA V. NORRIS were married in the home of the bride's parents, J. A. and Susanna Norris also of Sunflower County. The ceremony was solemnized by Revered A, D, Brooks, serving as witnesses were; J. G. Carpenter and J. I. Adams (Mr. Adams was the husband of JOHN VANCE's sister, Narcissa Susan). Reverend Brooks founded the Bethel Baptist Church No. 3 (later changed to Fairview Baptist Church) and is said to have founded the first school in the area.  

On the 1880 census of Sunflower County, J. A.  (JOHN ALEXANDER) VANCE age 24, L. V.   (LORILLA V.) VANCE, age 17, MARY LEACH, widow (this was MARY NEAL VANCE, the matriarch of the family), THOMAS VANCE, age 19 and J. B.  (JAMES B.), age 16, are all listed in the same household.  This indicates that MARY had remarried in the 1870 s.  MARY ELIZABETH is not listed. Until recently, we thought that she had married and remained in CALHOUN COUNTY. It now appears that she may have died.  

On 15 August 1882, THOMAS W. was married to ADDIE MCLAIN in Sunflower County.  We have no information on the identity of parents of Addie.  On 28 November 1885, OLA SCOTT VANCE was born to THOMAS W. and ADDIE.  Sadly, this child died on 23 June 1890 and is buried in The Fairview Methodist Cemetery near Shaw.  

On 15 November 1885 in Sunflower County, JAMES B. VANCE married J. P. WOLFE who is believed to have been the daughter of David D. Wolfe and Mary Nelson Wolfe.  

In 1888 JOHN and LORILLA moved to Ellis County, Texas, leaving the rest of their family in Sunflower County. They traveled in two Ox drawn carts and spent many days on the road. My Grandmother recalled that  she drove one Ox Yoke and my Grandfather the other and that the trip was uneventful except for the mosquitoes in the Louisiana Swamps. They joined members of  the Neal family who had earlier settled in  NEAL VALLEY in ELLIS COUNTY, TEXAS.  

On 24 August 1891 THOMAS W. wrote a letter to his brother JOHN who was now living in Texas, the letter says as follows: 

Dear brother and family.  I will write you a few lines this morning. I have neglected writing but I hope you will excuse me for  it. The health of the country here is bad. We are sick, our baby  has been dangerously sick but is better now.  I have been right sick for several days but aim to  get up some this morning.  John I am in bad health, Jim  (this would have been his brother JAMES B. is in very good health. I sold him mags colt for $89.00. My crop is cut off by the rain. It looks like I never have my health in this country.  John will you kindly tell me the value in that TOM BRYANT tract. I want to go and look at it.  I want to leave here If I can get rid of what little stuff I have got.  We had a protracted  (revival) here last week, brother TOM WILSON dun the  preaching.  I am the present  supertendant for the fair  view Sunday School.  I ask for  your prayers.  A man came from the hills  by the name of  Revis to buy land.  I supose he bought the tract lying behind the Watson farm. As I am very puny I will close write soon love to all. 

The letter was transcribed using the same words and spelling as the original, some punctuation was added to improve clarity of thought.  

Sadly only 17 days later, Thomas died and is buried in the Fairview Methodist Cemetery alongside his child who had died in 1890.  

We have been told that the FAIRVIEW BAPTIST CHURCH was originally named THE BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH #3 . THOMAS makes reference to the FAIR VIEW CHURCH. This would indicate that the name was changed prior to 1891. 

On 26 March 1893, L. ETTIE ADAMS, child of JAMES J. and NARCISSA  SUSAN ADAMS died and was buried in the Fairview Cemetery near the graves of THOMAS and OLA SCOTT VANCE... 

 In the mid 1890 s, Addie VANCE and her two children MOLLIE and WILLIAM moved to Ellis County, Texas and joined JOHN and LORILLA there. She later remarried and had two children by her second husband.  She died in Wichita Falls, Texas. 

On the 1900 census MARY LEACH b. February 1835 is living with her husband WILLIAM LEAH b. March 1841 in Missouri, They indicate that they own the farm and had been married for 21 years which would indicate a wedding date in 1879.  Mary says that she has 6 children and that three of them are living. The living children were JOHN ALEXANDER VANCE, NARCISSA SUSAN ADAMS and JAMES B. VANCE. We know that WILLIAM H. had died in Calhoun or Choctaw County prior to 1870, THOMAS W.  had died in 1891. This would leave MARY ELIZABETH who may have died before they left Calhoun County. However, if  Narcissa Susan died before 1900, as we now suspect, this would indicate that Mary Elizabeth may have been the other living child. 

On the 1900 census and living  next door to MARY AND WILLIAM, was JAMES B. VANCE and his wife JERUSHA P. VANCE  and their four children, VELMA 13, EMMA 11, CLAUD 6, and MARY  1 year old (this would have been MARY ALMA). 

On 15 July 1900 MARY ALMA VANCE, the youngest child of JAMES B. and JERUSHA P. VANCE  died and is buried in the Fairview Methodist Cemetery near Shaw, Mississippi.  On 25 June 1901, JERUSHA died and is buried beside her child. In about 1904 James B. was married a second time, to MARY A.. (MOLLIE) HOPP. They had 4 children, CHARLES, ETHEL., MARY AND VALLIE. James died in 1941 and buried in the Old Shaw City Cemetery in Sunflower county.  

We have not found JAMES and NARCISSA SUSAN ADAMS on the 1900 census. However, we do find on the Sunflower County census,  GEORGE FRAZIER b. November 1861 in Louisiana and his wife MARY   b. September 1869 in Mississippi with their two children, MARY b August 1897 and EDDIE b September 1898.  Mary indicates that she has been married for 8 years, is the mother of 3 children and that two (shown above) are still living.  We have no record on the deceased child. Also in the household is brother-in-law DEWRELL ADAMS b 1881. MARY, who was the oldest child of JAMES AND NARCISSA SUSAN, her husband, their two children  and  her brother,  Dewrell  Adams. There is an unmarked grave in Fairview Methodist Cemetery near the other family members that we believe is that of Narcissa Susan. There is a broken headstone strewn about, but not enough remains for positive identification. We have learned that James  moved back to Calhoun County at about that time and  later remarried.  This gives further evidence that Narcissa Susan died in that time frame.  A number of the descendants of James and Narcissa Susan still live in Mississippi  

DEWRELL ADAMS died 10 October 1900 and is buried beside his sister ETTIE and his Uncle THOMAS W.  VANCE and other family members  in THE FAIRVIEW METHODIST CEMETERY 

 MARY LEACH, who was born 3 February 1835 died on 27 February 1901and he is buried in the family plot at Fairview Methodist Cemetery. Nearby is a broken gravestone with LEACH that is readable, there is no other legible inscription. Cemetery records indicate that this is the final resting place of WILLIAM LEACH who was MARY NEAL VANCE LEACH 's second husband. We have no explanation as to why MARY stated on the 1880 census that she was a widow.  If the 1890 census had not been destroyed we might find some additional answers. 

We have no further history until 1911.  On 26 December of that year JOHN A. VANCE wrote a letter from Shaw, Mississippi to his wife Lorilla at Wills Point, Texas, the letter is as follows: 


Dec the 16 1911 

Dear Rilla and babes, I am still at Jim s (his brother James B. Vance).  it has been raining every day since I have been here and it just pour down this morning. The rivers are bank full and water all over the country. I looked across the road this morning and a man was chopping wood on the galary. Mr. Leach is dead, James Adams  (his brother-in-law) is here. Jim (presumably his brother) and I have to go to Indianola just as soon as it quits raining.  I am coming home as soon as I get through with some business. Here the business is in bad shape.  The farm is sold. I think Jim will come home with me to look at Texas. He is going to leave here . This country I consider a dead letter.  I will see you all soon,  as ever your loving husband and pa pa, kiss the babies for me, write me at Shaw. John Vance  

This letter was transcribed as written, some periods and comas were added  for clarity.  In his letter, JOHN said that "Mr. Leach is dead"  and mentioned selling some land. We now believe that the Mr. Leach was WILLIAM LEACH, MARY'S  husband and  the land   to which  reference was made,  was the land that had belonged to his MOTHER  and WILLIAM LEACH  

We have never learned what illness prematurely took the lives of so many of our loved ones during the period 1860 through the early 1900 s.  Some have suggested that it may have been Tuberculosis but that is purely speculation.  

Family history is a treasured thing; we have lost so much because we became too soon old and too late smart.  Our prayer is that future generations will benefit from our mistakes and record their history while facts and events are still clearly in their mind.  

By Don Blasingame, Great Grandson of  JAMES ALEXANDER VANCE III


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