- He was an Indian Scout and a Baptist preacher. He was hung for killing a man named Horton, a justifiable killing, as was afterwards shown, had four sons and four daughters who came to Logan early in the century and settled on the waters of Tug River, and who are the progenitors of the Vance family of this county. Abner, Vance, the father of spoken of, was a native of North Carolina, and after serving through the Revolutionary War, settled in Russell Co. Va. He married a Miss Howard. His sons were James, John, Richard, and Abner. His daughters
married Francis Browning, Joseph Dempsey, James Brown and John McCloud. There was another daughter, Bettie, who was never married, but who had two children to whom John was the reputed father.
These were Ms. Ephriam Hatfield and the late James Vance.
He married Susanna Howard in Surry, N C, about 1779. Susanna was born in Va 1767. She was the daughter of Abraham Howard and Jane. Susanna died after 1850 in Logan, Va. History of Logan County, Virginia by Henry Clay Ragland 1896 rewritten by George T. Swain 1927 page 75. As we statedin our last chapter, Francis Browning married a daughter of Abner Vance of Tazewell. This Abner Vance was hung for killing a man named Horton, a justifiable killing, as was afterwars shown; he had four sons and four daughters who came to Logan earyly in the century and settled on the waters of Tug, and who are the progenitors of the Vance family of this county. Abner Vance, the father spoken of, was a native of North Carolina, andafter serving through the Revolutionary War, settled in Russell County, Virginia, and married a Miss Howard. His sons spoken of above were James, who married a Miss Miller; John, who married a Miss Rader; Richard, who married a Miss Sutherland, and Abner, who married a Miss Perry. His daughters married, respectively, Francis Browning, Joseph Dempsey, James Brown and John McCloud. There was another daughter, Bettie, who was never married, , but who had tow children of who John was the reputed father. These were Mrs. Ephraim Hatfield and the late James Vance. Cabell County, Va Census 1820. Census 1830 Logan County, Virginia 05 0510 1015 1520 2-3 3-4 4-5 5-6 6-7 7-8 8-9 Abner Vance Male 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 Female 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 Elizabeth VANCE M 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Female 0 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 James Vance Male 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 Female 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 John Vance Male 0 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 Female 1 2 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 Richard Vance Male 0 1 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 Female 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 Susannah Vance Male 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 Female 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 James Brown Male 1 0 3 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 Female 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1850 Census Logan County, Virginia for children. 484 Francis Browning 69 Male White Virginia Tabby Browning 68 Female White Virginia Mary B Browning 44 Female White Virginia Susannah Vance 83 Female White Virginia Surry County, North Carolina Will Book 3 page 70 & 71 Will of Abraham Howard father of Susanna Vance (Howard) mentions her name as Susanna Vance. Will written 14 May 1782 and proved 12 Nov 1782. Russell County, Virginia Deed Book 3 page 49. Abner and Susannah Vance sold land 22 Oct 1799. Lynchburg Virginia Press July 27, 1819 "On Friday the 16th instant, Abner Vance was executed at Abingdon, in pursuance of his sentence for the murder of Lewis Horton. He addressed about four thousand, for an hour and a half, with considerable ability; and died with the most perfect composure and heroic fortitude. He accused some persons of giving false evidence against him; and said that if he obtained a fair trial, and nothing but truth had been sworn against him, he thought the penitentiary would have been the proper punishment for his offense," Burgess, Mullins, Browning, Brown & Allied Families, James A. Burgess p 219 From Susannah's birth year of 1767, we can calculate that Abner was born between 1760 & 1770. In 1776 he would have been a young man of 15 to 20 years of age; therefore, it is possible that he was a Revolutionary War Veteran. Abner Vance came from Virginia, South Carolina or North Carolina. North Carolina would be the most likely since this is what Henry Clay Ragland states in his History of Logan County. Abner settled in what is now Russell County, Virginia after 1782 and 1799 we find a deed dated Oct 1799. Abner Vance was a surveyor on the Clinch River and the Big Sandy River. After the hanging, Susanna and his family moved to Cabell County, Virginia that part which later became Logan County, Virginia in 1824. Susanna is found in the 1820 Census of Cabell County. There are several small children living with Susanna. Also there is an older woman whom I believe to be Elizabeth or the woman who was involved with Lewis Horton. Susanna appears in the 1850 Logan County, Virginia Census Dwelling #484 as age 83 making her birth year 1767. First Settlers of South Carolina 1670-1700 Edward Vance arrived in South Carolina before 1700 See Secretary of Province Abstracts of Grants and Commissions of the Lord's Proprietors 1692-1718. 1790 South Carolina Census Male Male other Slaves Over Under Female 16 16 VANCE, David Lauren Co 1 0 0 0 0 VANCE, Isaiah Lauren Co 2 1 2 0 0 VANCE, Jacob Pendleton 1 4 2 0 0 VANCE, James York 1 3 4 0 0 VANCE, John Spartanburgh 1 3 3 0 0 VANCE, Mathis Spartanburgh 1 0 2 0 0 VANCE, Matthew Greenville 2 1 3 0 0 VANCE, Nathaniel Lauren 2 1 3 0 0 VANCE, Nicholas Laurens 1 0 0 0 8 VANCE, Samuel Laurens 1 3 2 0 0 VANCE, David Laurens 1 0 0 0 0 VANCE, Thomas Union 2 1 5 0 2 My best calculation is that Abner Vance was born about 1760. If he fought in the Revoluvtionary War he would have been 16 in 1776. It is very possible that he served in the Revolution. 1790 North Carolina Vance Families. VANCE, Alee Salisbury District, Stokes County 1 1 3 0 0 VANCE, Andw Salisbury District, Mecklenburg Co 1 - 6 0 0 VANCE, David Halifax District, Martin County 1 2 3 0 0 VANCE, David Halifax District, Martin County 2 1 5 0 0 VANCE, David Morgan District, Burke 2 1 5 0 3 VANCE, David Newbern District, Dobbs County 1 2 2 0 0 VANCE, David Salisbury District, Mecklenburg Co 3 3 3 0 0 VANCE, Elijah Halifax District, Martin County 1 1 3 0 0 VANCE, John Halifax District, Halifax 1 1 1 0 1 VANCE, John Halifax District, Martin 1 2 2 0 0 VANCE, Valentine Salisbury District, Mecklenburg 1 0 1 0 0 First Column Over 16 Second Column Under 16 Third Column Female 1800 North Carolina Census Anne Vance Edg 251 Daniel Vance Rch 248 David Vance Bnc 191 John Vance Hlf 348 Samuel Vance Cmb 359 Widow Vance Mck 539 William Vance Hlf 348
Abner Vance was born abt.1759. No birth record has been found for him,so there is no documented date for his birth. This also means that there is no documented name of his Father or Mother. There has been names over the years of people that were suppose to be his Father, but alas, no proof as of YET!! Some places that Abner was during his life are: These were documented!! Pittsylvania Co. Va., Russell Co. Va. and of course Washington Co. Va. Washington Co. Va. is where Abner Vance died. There are a lot of stories about his death, and the events leading up to it. However I was not there, so I don't know what is true and what isn't. In the pages ahead I will try to include some of those stories that have been told over the years about Abner Vance, and his death. Including what my own Father told me about my G,G,G,G,Grandfather Abner Vance. Not to say that what my Father told me is the truth, but he believed it, because it was told to him by his Father, and told to his Father by his Father, and so on. So you pick your own story that you think is true. I will also try to add some information about Susannah Howard and her family, for she was my G,G,G,G,Grandmother, and that makes her and her family important to me. The Howard family is as much a part of my roots as the Vance family, along with several other surnames, which I hope to include in these pages.
Abner Vance, The True Story
by Grace Dotson, VFA Historian
I had not researched my Vance lines long until I realized much more had been written about my 4th great grandfather, Abner Vance, than could be proven. The things that could be proven did not fit the legend as I had heard it. Listed below are the facts, all from Virginia court records, unless otherwise stated.
No birth record has been found for Abner Vance. His parents and place of birth are unknown. His estimated date of birth is 1759/60 from the fact that he and a Matthew Vance swore the Oath of Allegiance in Chatham, Pittsylvania County, Virginia on 29 July 1777. Under Virginia law the requirements for swearing the Oath of Allegiance was: "all white males, over 16 years of age."
Many Virginia records were lost or destroyed through the years and tax lists have often been utilized as proof of residency. Abner Vance and Thomas Vance were on the tax lists of 1782-1787 in Montgomery County, Virginia.
Abner Vance was enumerated on the 1789, 1791-1799 and the 1802 Russell County Virginia Personal Property tax list. Other Vances who lived in Russell County before 1800 were Matthew, Phillip, Samuel, and John. Russell County records are incomplete.
Abner Vance was married to Susannah Howard, she was called Susannah Vance in the will of her father's wife in Surry County NC in
1806. No marriage record has been located. Abner and Susannah Vance were the parents of several children. No birth records have been
found for them, dates of birth have been established from census, death or marriage records. In 1784 Abner Vance and James Howard were on the Surry County North Carolina tax list as owning 250 Acres of land.
Other than land transactions, Abner Vance is rarely found in Russell County court records prior to I July 1817 when he was ordered to appear in court to answer to a charge of breach of the peace by Daniel Horton. Abner Vance was "solemnly called but came not." His bond had been posted by John and James Vance who were called to court on 6 August 1817 as the court attempted to recover the penalty of a recognizance. The court ordered that the writ be dismissed at the Vance's cost.
16 October 1817, at a court called and held by the justices of Russell County, Virginia Abner Vance, labourer, and Susanna Vance, spinster,
were charged with the murder of Lewis Horton who died on 27 Sept 1817 in Russell County Virginia. Susanna Vance was allowed to give security of two thousand dollars for her personal appearance, being unable to procure security she was remanded to jail until she found such security or was released by due course of the law. Abner Vance was remanded to
jail with no bond set for his release.
The next hearing on the docket in Russell County Court, October 16, 1817, was William Wingo, who was charged as an accessory before the fact to the murder of Lewis Horton. Wingo's bond was posted by the said Wingo, Squire McGuire and Frances McKinney.
On November 4, 1817, Richard Vance was committed to the jail of Russell County, Virginia charged with being an accessory after the fact to
the felonious shooting and wounding of Lewis Horton by Abner Vance. Richard Vance was remanded to the jail of Russell County, Virginia. The next term of the Court for Russell County Virginia was in April 1817. The Jury heard these cases: Abner Vance was found guilty of murder in the first degree in manner and form as in the indictment against him is alleged; thereupon he is remanded to jail on 14 April 1818. The next day of court, same judge and jury brought forth an indictment against Richard Vance as an accessory to a murder "a true bill" and an indictment against Susanna Vance for murder "not a true bill." Susanna Vance was discharged from imprisonment. On the next day (April 17th) William Wingo was again let go on bond and the Commonwealth Attorney, by comment of the Court, said that he would not prosecute further on behalf of the Commonwealth against Richard Vance and he was released.
During the same Court and on the same day, April 17, 1817, Abner Vance was called before the bar for sentencing, when asked if he had anything to say he said he had nothing but what he had already said. Thereupon it was considered by the Court that he be hanged by the neck until he be dead, and that the execution of the judgment be made and done upon him, the said Abner Vance by the Sheriff of Russell County on Friday the 17th of July next between eleven in the forenoon and two in the afternoon of the same day at the place of execution in this county.
Memorandum: At the trial of this cause and before the Grand Jury retired from the bar the counsel for the prisoner excepted to two opinions of the Court and a third after the jury retired from the bar to an opinion of the Court, which three exceptions were signed and sealed by the Court and ordered to be made a part of the record of this case. (This amounted to an appeal.) Court was adjourned.
September 14, 1818. Superior Court of Law, Russell County Virginia. The Commonwealth against Abner Vance, upon indictment for murder. A copy of the judgement of the General Court awarding a new trial in this cause was produced and ordered to be - ? - on the records of this court. The Writ of error stated "The Court are unaminously of opinion that there is an error in this: that the Court rejected evidence of the witness introduced by the prisoner to prove his insanity before the fact of which he was accused, and in deciding it was improper to introduce such proof until the prisoner's insanity was proven on the day he shot the deceased. Wherefore it is considered that the said judgement be severed and annulled, and a new trial awarded, and in the meantime that he be detained in the safe custody in the jail of the Superior Court of Russell County until the next term, and until he be discharged by due course of the Law.
September 15, 1818. William Wingo appeared in court according to the condition of his recognizance entered into before this court at the last term is ordered into custody of the sheriff to be committed into the jail. William Wingo acknowledged himself indebted to the Governor for bond; yet if Polly Wingo, wife of the said William Wingo, shall make her personal appearance before the court on tomorrow to give evidence on behalf of Abner Vance indicted of murder, and shall not depart without leave of the court, then this recognizance be void. The trial of Abner Vance is continued till tomorrow at ten o'clock.
September 16, 1817. A 48 man jury pool was called and after two days only 7 men had been selected as jurors, the court decided to postpone Vance's trial until the next term of court. Spring Term of Superior Court, Russell County, Virginia. April 12, 1819. Again a jury could not be be seated, after two days only two men had been selected as jurors. A change of venue was ordered by the court, to the Washington County, Virginia Superior Court. (Washington County borders Russell.)
I have not located the Washington County Superior Court records for this trial, but I do know that they upheld the Russell County verdict and sentence. Abner Vance was sentenced to be hung on July 16, 1819. Although we know Abner Vance was hung, no optical record has been found. The Lynchburg Press a newspaper in Lynchburg, Virginia did print this alleged eyewitness account of the execution: "27 July 1819. On Friday the 16th Instant, Abner Vance was executed at Abingdon, in pursuance of his sentence, for the murder of Lewis Horton. He addressed the spectators, about four thousand, for an hour and a half with considerable ability; he died with the most heroic fortitude. He accused some of giving false evidence against him; and said that if he had obtained a fair trial, and nothing but the truth had been sworn against him, he thought the penitentiary would have been proper punishment for his offense. "
I know this is not what has been written in books and is not the tradition that has been passed down for almost two hundred years, but, sadly, this is the way it was. Abner Vance is said to have composed a song or ballad which is called THE VANCE SONG or ABNER VANCE'S DEATH BALLAD, which is recognized, by the Southwest Virginia Folk Lore Society, as the oldest song, still in existence, written west of the Blue Ridge.
The Susanna Vance, spinster, who was arrested and incarcerated in the early months of the court record of this case seems to be a daughter of John Vance, son of Abner. John had been living in Floyd Co KY , which was next door to Russell County, VA. On I Feb 1813, John and a Mary Wilson had applied for a marriage license, John was 33 years old and I believe this was John's second marriage. Susanna Vance, spinster, was released from jail in Russell County on April 16, 1818 and on August 17, 1818 in Floyd County, KY a subpoena was issued against John Vance to appear and show why his children shall not be bound out as the law directs and the sheriff is directed that on the service of the same he take possession of the said children, named William and Susanna, and have them here at the next court. Annals of Floyd County Kentucky 1800-1826 by Chas. C. Wells. I believe this was the girl involved in the incident.
In 15 years of searching for Abner Vance I have never found anything to document he was a preacher as is often claimed, during the trials he was called Labourer. I have never found him serving in the Revolutionary War, just taking the Oath of Allegiance as stated earlier in this article, which was about like registering for the draft now. I have never found any hint of him owning the thousands of acres of land he is said to have owned in present Logan County WV and he surely did not hide from Virginia law enforcement officers for two years after the shooting, the record plainly shows him sitting in jail for that period of time.
I have never found anything to indicate he was half Indian as often claimed, on the Oath of Allegiance papers and on the tax records I've
located he was listed as white. I have never found anything to cause me to think he had been married before his marriage to Susannah Howard, I'm still searching for any marriage record for him. And finally, I've never found a pardon, but did find the earlier mentioned newspaper article, it seems to me that if a pardon had been granted him a copy of it would be somewhere and that it would have surely been newsworthy and certainly mentioned in the report of his death and none was. I have searched every nook and cranny within the realm of possibilities for this supposed pardon to hide, it can not be found. If anyone has a copy of Abner Vance's pardon the VFA and I would surely like to see it.
Judge Elihu Sutherland of Dickenson County Virginia wrote "William Vance, of Sword's Creek (Russell County, VA), a descendant of Abner
Vance, said in 1927: "As I have been told by older people Vance did not kill the Horton he aimed to kill. His mind was to kill Daniel, but Lewis put himself in the way and provoked the old man until he told him to go away or he would kill him, and Horton run and crossed the Clinch (River), a distance of about 200 yards and told the old man to "shoot and be dammed ". The old man fired and Horton rolled off his horse into the river."
Abner Vance's court records are in Order Book 5 and 6 at Russell County
Virginia Court House, Lebanon, VA.
THE VANCE SONG
taken from the Sweet Bird Songbook
Green are the woods where Sandy flows, and peace it dwelleth there. In
the valley, the deer, they like secure and the red buck roam everywhere.
But Vance no more shall Sandy behold, nor drink of it's crystal wave. T
partial judge has pronounced his doom, the hunter has found his grave.
The judge said he was my friend, though Elliot's life I saved. A jury man, I
did become, that, Elliot, he might live. The friendship that I have shown to
others has not been shown to me. Humanity, it belongs to the brave and I
hope it remains with me.
It was by the advice of McFarland that Judge Johnson did me call. I was
taken from my native home and placed in yon stone wall. My persecutors
have gained their quest, they promised to make good. They swore that
they would never rest till they had gained my life's blood.
There are David Horton, Bob and Bill, a lie against me swore, in ord
take my life away that I might be no more. But they and I must meet when
Gabriel's trump shall blow. Perhaps I shall rest in Abraham's breast while
they roll in the gulf below.
I killed a man, I don't deny, he threatened to kill me. And for th
condemned to die, the jury all agree. But, I and they together must meet
when all things are made known. And if I have shed innocent blood, I
hope mercy will he shown.
Bright shines the sun over Clinch's hills, so soft the west wind blows. The
valley, it is covered all over with bloom, perfumed by the sweet red rose.
But Vance no more shall Sandy behold nor smell it's sweet perfume. This
day his eyes must close in death, his body conveyed to the tomb.
Farewell, my friends and children, dear. To you I bid farewell. The love I
have for your precious souls no mortal tongue can tell. Farewell, my tr
and loving wife, to you I bid adieu, and when I reach fair Cannan's shore,
I'll wait and watch for you.
Abner Vance is said to have sang this song just before he was executed,
I worked with the Southwest Virginia Folk Lore Society at Appalachia, VA
to have this formally acknowledged as the oldest song, still in existen
which was written west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have both printed
and oral copies of the song and will send them to anyone interested.
I welcome any corrections or additions, Feel free to contact me at any
Abner Vance (b. 1750 in North Carolina) migrated to the southwestern part of Virginia (Clinch River Valley, Russell County, Virginia) sometime around 1790. He was of the Baptist faith and spent much of his time preaching.
One of Abner's daughter (thought to be Elizabeth) ran off with Lewis Horton. After several months Lewis Horton returned with the girl and dropped her off at her parents house. Abner and Susannah pleaded with Lewis to marry the girl. He refused and turn to ride away. Abner went into the house and returned with his gun and shot Horton while he was riding away. Horton died a few hours later.
Abner became a "fugitive". He left Russell County that night, September 17, 1817 and traveled along the Tug and Guyandotte Rivers where he spent the next two years.
At the urging of family members Abner returned to Russell County to stand trial for the murder of Lewis Horton. Public opinion was that Abner would be "freed" due to his "reputation as a preacher". On his arrival in Russell County, he was locked in jail and held without bail.
The first trial ened in a "hung jury". A second trial was held in Abington, Washington County, Virgina. There Abner Vance was found "guilty" of the murder of Lewis Horton and sentenced to hang. The case was taken to the court of appeals but the lower courts decision was upheld.
Petitions for the release of Abner Vance were circulated but to no avail. The Governor would not interfere. Abner Vance was hanged the 16th of July 1819 in Abington, Washington County, Virginia. A short time afterwards a courier arrived with a pardon from the Governor. Susannah Vance and her children left Russell County and migrated to Tug, Big Sandy and Guyandotte River Valleys.
Decendents of Abner Vance (Dau. Adina-Alena)
DECENDENTS OF ABNER VANCE
(1) Abner VANCE was born abt. 1753-63 Probably in North Carolina, Possibly Buncombe Co. His parents has not definately been proven. There has been some speculation as to his parents, one being Ephraim VAUSE (VANCE) and Theodosia HEWLINGS, but not proven by ant official documents or bible records.
In 1777 Abner VANCE and Matthew VANCE swore the Oath of Allegiance in Pittsylvania Co. Va. In 1777 a young man had to be 16 years of age before he could take the Oath, apparently Abner VANCE was born before 1761.
In 1779 Abner VANCE married Susannah HOWARD in Lebanon , Va. Russell Co. Susannah Was the Daughter of Abraham HOWARD and Jane (ALLEN). They made their home in Russell Co. Va. and this was where their children were born.
Children of Abner VANCE and Susannah HOWARD:
(2) John VANCE b. 1781
(2) Tabitha (Tabby) VANCE b. 1782
(2) William VANCE b. 1789
(2) Adina VANCE b. 1791
(2) Richard VANCE b. 1792
(2) James H. VANCE b. 1784
(2) Elizabeth VANCE b. 1794
(2) Abner VANCE Jr. b. 1796
(2) Millie "Mary" VANCE b. 1796
(2) Sarah VANCE b.1811
(2) Acenthia VANCE b.
(2) Minerva VANCE b. 1811
(2) Nancy VANCE b. 1794
(2) Elijah VANCE b. 1803
(2) Isabella VANCE b. 1815
This line continues with Abner's daughter Alena VANCE. (Possibly Called Sena)
(2) Alena VANCE (Abner 1) was born 1791 in Va. She married Joseph DEMPSEY abt. 1826 in Logan Co. Va. Joseph DEMPSEY was born abt. 1799 in Logan Co. Va. He was the s/o John DEMPSEY and Rachel SOLOMON.
Note for Alena VANCE & Joseph DEMPSEY:
Alena's name may have been Adina, and or "Sena"? 1860 Logan Co. WVa. census-Joseph DEMPSEY and Alena VANCE were living in dwelling # 315. Joseph was 61 and Alena was 71.
Children of Alena VANCE and Joseph DEMPSEY:
(3) William Anderson DEMPSEY b. 1827
(3) Sophinony J. DEMPSEY b. 1832
(3) Sena Ann "Sarah" "Tena" DEMPSEY b. 1824
(3) William Anderson DEMPSEY (Alena 2) (Abner 1) was born 1827.
(3) Sophinony J. DEMPSEY (Alena 2) (Abner 1) was born 1832.
(3) Sena Ann "Sarah" "Tena" DEMPSEY (Alena 2) (Abner 1) was born 1824. She married John S. BAISDEN
Children of Sena Ann "Sarah" "Tena" DEMPSEY and John S. BAISDEN:
(4) Anthony BAISDEN b.
(4) Anthony BAISDEN (Sena Ann 3) (Alena 2) (Abner 1) was born. He married 1st: Unknown. He married 2nd: Grances HAGER.
Children of Anthony BAISDEN and Unknown:
Children of Anthony BAISDEN and Frances HAGER:
(5) Carrie Grace BAISDEN b.
(5) Carrie Grace BAISDEN (Anthony 4) (Sena Ann 3) (Alena 2) (Abner 1) was born. She married Roman Harrison BURGESS.
Children of Carrie Grace BAISDEN and Roman Harrison BURGESS:
(6) Clifford BURGESS b.
(6) Clifford BURGESS (Carrie Grace 5) (Anthony 4) (Sena Ann 3) (Alena 2) (Abner 1) was born. He married Patricia SMITH.
Children of Clifford BURGESS and Patricia SMITH:
(7) Hollye BURGESS b.
(7) Hollye BURGESS (Clifford 6) (Carrie Grace 5) (Anthony 4) (Sena Ann 3) (Alena 2) (Abner 1) was born.