Finding Mrs. C.P. Vance

What would you do if you were a twenty-one-year-old woman with a one-and-a-half-year-old son who had just moved from Kentucky to Texas and then lost her husband… in 1853?

That’s just the position in which Mrs. A.D.L. Simons found herself on July 14 of that year.

Thus far I’ve mentioned Mrs. Simons twice in my posts about the First Christian Church of Taylor. One of those was about her second husband, Charles P. Vance. The other was about her son, James A. Simons.

It’s not terribly difficult to find information about Vance and Simons. They are mentioned in newspaper articles. Sometimes they are quoted. It’s like the window in the First Christian Church sanctuary that’s dedicated to Mrs. Vance; you can’t miss it if you know where to look.

But Mrs. Simons, later Mrs. Vance?

Not so easy.

That’s more like the window above… which is in the pastor’s study. You have to go looking for it.

So who was Mrs. Vance?

I had to find that information in genealogical records. She was born Anastasia de Noailles Lafayette Hewlett on February 12, 1832, in Hopkins County, Kentucky.

One hundred and eighty-eight years ago today.

She seems to have gone by “Annie” based on one source I found while pulling together my post about Simons, so that’s what I’m going to call her.

Annie’s father, Lemuel, was born in Kentucky and served in the War or 1812 in the 5th Regiment of the Kentucky Militia, which hailed from Hopkins County.

Her grandfather, William Hewlett, served in the Revolutionary War, and her great-grandfather, Thomas Hewlett did his part by contributing supplies. Thomas’ other son, Augustine, also served in the war and lost his life.

On May 13, 1850, Annie married Alfred K. Simons in Montgomery County, Tennessee, which is just south of Hopkins County and the Kentucky/Tennessee border. Annie was just eighteen, and Alfred, a tailor, was twenty-three.

James Simons, their only son, was born a little less than two years later on January 31, 1852.

And then, sometime after James’ birth, the family relocated to Texas. It’s not clear exactly when they came to Texas, or why, but what is definite is that Alfred Simons died somewhere in Milam County on July 14, 1853.

That left Annie, who was at the time only twenty-one and little James, who was only a year and a half old, quite alone in Texas… a state that at the time had exactly one railroad, between Houston and Galveston, which was at the time the largest city in the state with a population of about 4,200.

What did Annie Simons do?

We don’t know, but we do know that about fifteen months later, in October 1854, she married Charles P. Vance, who was at the time living in Lexington (which was at the time part of Burleson County).

Which explains Mr. Vance’s interest in building the public school in Lexington, something I uncovered while researching him a few months ago. He was interested in the schools there because of his stepson, James.

Annie and Charles presumably relocated to Taylor around 1873, which is the same time that James arrives there and sets up his first business up the road in Circleville.

And then the trail goes cold. On May 26, 1891, the Austin Daily Statesman reports that Mrs. C.P. Vance is ill, but recovering. A few days later, on the 31st, the Statesman reports that Mr. and Mrs. Vance are guests at the Driskill in Austin.

And then the October 14, 1891 edition of the Austin Daily Statesman notes that “Mrs. C.P. Vance of the Vance Mansion is quite ill with fever, and at this writing is not expected to live but a few hours.”

But by the time that was published, Annie Vance had already succumbed to the fever, having died the day before at the age of fifty-nine.

And then I find the longest mention of Annie in any newspaper, in the October 16 edition of the Fort Worth Daily Gazette:

“Mrs. C.P. Vance, one of the oldest citizens of Taylor, was buried to-day in the city cemetery. Business houses closed, and there was a large attendance at the funeral.”

Which may mean that her funeral was one of the first held in the new church building that her husband helped build.

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