Monday, March 10, 2014

Reuben Nance - A soldier of the Revolution and neighbor of Charles Philpott

Family lineage: Reuben Nance  1, Sarah Nance  2, Enos Philpott  3, Rebecca Philpott  4, Lula Jane Johnson  5,                  Charles Thomas Copeland, Sr.Charles Thomas Copeland, Jr. 7

 1745- 1812

Reuben (or Reubin) Nance was the grandson of William Nance, who immigrated from England in the late 1600's.  Reuben and his large family lived in Henry County, Virginia.  He was a neighbor and intimate friend of both Charles Philpott, whose military record was described earlier in this blog, and Patrick Henry (who, upon his return from the convention to adopt the Federal Constitution, told Reuben that it  – the Constitution – would “prove a road of sand”). His first wife was Amy Williamson, with whom he had 13 children. After her death in 1785, he married Nancy Brown, with whom he had at least 7 more children.  (Yes - that totals at least 20 children, although some genealogists believe there were even more).

In October of 1779, at age 34, Reuben was appointed Ensign (or second lieutenant) in the Captain Brice Martin Militia Company under Captain John Walls.  This was the first militia company ever  formed in Henry County, Virginia. Although there is no documentation of exactly where Reuben might have fought, the history of militia action in Virginia from 1779 through 1780 is fairly extensive. Since Reuben did not enlist until late 1779 and the initial period for militia enlistment was three months, it is likely that he fought in 1780, at a time when the militias had become much more active than previously.

 “Virginia Militia in the Revolutionary War, McAllister's Data” by J.T. McAllister) lists Reuben Nance, Captain Brice Martin and Captain John Walls as militia participants and described what was happening at that time:  (

“In 1779, Virginia was authorized to send militia to South Carolina and by 1780, the militia was out in large numbers. The final phase of the Revolution in Virginia did not actively begin until the close of 1780 although, in 1779, Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander-in-chief, had sent an expedition to ravage the coast. Unable to make headway against Washington in the North, Clinton had carried the war into the South.
Under Cornwallis, armies overran South Carolina during the spring and summer of 1780, Georgia being already in their power. North Carolina was thus threatened from the South, and continued British success meant peril to Virginia from the same direction. To render the outlook all the worse, there were few disciplined Virginia troops who could be summoned to defend the State because the Virginia Continentals had been sent South, as well as North.

Gen'l Mathews' regiment had been captured at Germantown, Buford's had been massacred by Tarlton's troopers, and still other regiments had been included in the surrender of Charleston, to say nothing of still further losses. The drilled Continentals had proved themselves equal to the best British regulars, but although Virginia still had somewhat numerous militia, they were untrained men and therefore at a great disadvantage when confronted by veterans."
Thanks to a land grant awarding him 182 acres of land for 20 shillings and signed by Governor Thomas Jefferson on July 4, 1780, we can assume that Reuben's service in the militia was rewarded. By the time of his death, his property was extensive and – as of 1937 - the house was still standing and described in detail. He and some members of his family are believed to be buried on the plantation property.

    After his death, there was a bitter battle between the "old family" (children with his first wife) and the "new family" (children with the second wife), both of whom claimed a share of the estate.  According to Virginia Chancery records, this bitter battle for Reuben's property went on for years.  Even Reuben's close friend and neighbor, Charles Philpott, became enmeshed in the legal battle as the administrator of the will, and eventually had to subpoena his son, David, and daughter-in-law, Sarah, (who was a child from the second marriage) to return to Virginia from Georgia to testify during the probate hearing.

His service has been documented by the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution).