Reverend Abner Vance, Sr.

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Reverend Abner Vance, Sr.

Also Known As: "sang a Ballad of Abner Vance at the gallows upon last request"
Birthdate: (60)
Birthplace: Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States
Death: July 16, 1819 (60)
Abingdon, Washington County, Virginia, United States (Hanging)
Place of Burial: Sarah Ann, Logan County, West Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Ephraim Vance and Theodosia Marr Vause
Husband of Susannah Howard; Susannah Howard Vance; Susannah (Howard) Vance; Elizabeth Vance (Unknown) and Susannah Vance
Father of Abner Vance, Jr.; Elizabeth Vance; Vance; John Vance; Tabitha Mary Vance and 16 others
Brother of Alexander Vance; Thomas Vance; William Vance; Elizabeth Hoge 'Deliz' Hetfield; Jesse Vance and 6 others

Occupation: "Spy/Scout of the Revolution" Patriotic Service per DAR, Long Hunter
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Reverend Abner Vance, Sr.

Abner Vance's early years are a mystery. His parents are unknown. Recent DNA testing has proven that he was not the son of Ephraim Vause or Vance, as previously thought. He is closely related by DNA to a Matthew Vance, but a father-son relationship has yet to be proven. He was born c.1760 in either Virginia or North Carolina. Abner Vance signed the oath of allegiance in 1777 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Family tradition say he was a scout or spy for George Washington during the American Revolution. He has a DAR File (Ancestor #A101861) but the organization requires more proof that this Abner is the one that took the oath of allegiance in 1777.

Abner migrated into the southwestern part of Virginia (Clinch River Valley, Russell Co) sometime around 1790. He was of the Baptist faith and spent much of his time preaching. He married Susannah Howard in Russell County, Virginia and raised 15 children.

One of Abner's daughters (and it is thought to have been Elizabeth) ran off with Lewis Horton. After several months Lewis Horton returned with the girl and dropped her off at her parent's home. The girl was pregnant. It is said that Abner and Susannah pleaded with Lewis to marry the girl. He refused and turned to ride away. Abner went into the house and returned with his gun and shot Horton as he was riding away. Horton died a few hours later.

Abner became a fugitive. He left Russell County that night, Sept. 17, 1817, and traveled along the Tug and Guyandotte Rivers where he spent the next two years. Abner returned to Russell County at the urging of his family to stand trial. Public opinion was that Abner would be freed due to his "reputation as a preacher." On his arrival he was locked in jail and held without bail. The trial ended in a hung jury. A second trial was held in Washington County, Virginia. There Abner was found guilty and sentenced to hang.

The case was taken to the court of appeals but the lower court's decision was upheld. Petitions for the release of Abner Vance were circulated but to no avail. Abner was hanged on July 16, 1819 in Abingdon, Virginia. A short time afterwards a courier arrived with a pardon from the Governor.

From the 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 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."

Children of Abner Vance and wife Susannah Howard:

  • John VANCE was born 1781.
  • Tabitha VANCE "Tabby" was born 1782
  • William Harvey VANCE was born 1789 and died 17 May 1853.
  • Alena VANCE "Adina" was born 1791.
  • Richard VANCE Sr. was born 1792.
  • Elizabeth VANCE , born 1794
  • James H. VANCE was born 1794 in Russell Co., VA.
  • Nancy VANCE
  • Abner VANCE Jr. was born 1796 in Russell Co., VA.
  • Millie Mary VANCE was born 1797.
  • Elijah VANCE was born 1803.
  • Acenthia VANCE was born 1808.
  • Sarah VANCE was born 1811.
  • Minerva VANCE was born 1811.

Links to additional material:

"The Vance Song"


Bright shines the sun on Clinch's Hill. So soft the west wind blows. The valleys are lined with flowers gay, Perfumed with the wild rose.

Green are the woods through which Sandy flows. Peace dwells in the land. The bear doth live in the laurel green. The red buck roves the hills.

But Vance no more on Sandy behold Nor drink its crystal waves. The partial judge announced his doom. The hunters found his grave.

There's Daniel, Bill, and Lewis, A lie against me swore In order to take my life away That I may be no more.

But I and them shall meet again When Immanuel's trumpet shall blow. Perhaps I'll be wrapped in Abraham's bosom When they roll in the gulf below.

My body it will be laid in the tomb. My flesh it will decay, But the blood that was shed on Calvary Has washed my sins away.

Farewell, farewell, my old sweetheart, Your face I'll see no more. I'll meet you in the world above, Where parting is no more.


Vance DNA Project

Correspondence with Vance DNA group: "Hi Keith, Sorry to take so long getting back to you. We have at least two Abner descendants in the project already. One of them is, like you, a descendant of Abner's son Richard (through his son Paris). We have about all we need on the DNA front when it comes to Abner. You're still welcome to test if you want, but it probably won't advance our understanding of Abner's genealogy. You can see the results here: As you can see, Abner's descendants closely match several other participants. I don't think there's much debate over Abner being the son of Ephraim Vaus/Vance. Simply put, there's no good evidence to suggest that he was Ephraim's son. I'm sure a DNA test from an Ephraim descendant would settle the issue, but I think that's just one of those things you see floating around the internet that looks like it's on good authority, but actually there's no evidence for it. Incidentally, there's no evidence to suggest that Ephraim himself was the son of Andrew Vance. At one point, every single Vance in America was supposed to be descended from Andrew, so if the generation fit, people just made the person Andrew's son. On the other hand, based on DNA it seems very likely that Abner was closely related to Matthew Vance of Pittsylvania County, VA. The DNA evidence and other traditional evidence link the two families. Opinions differ over whether Abner was Matthew's son or perhaps a nephew, but it is very likely that they were closely related. Let me know if you'd still like to participate in the DNA project or if you have any other questions. - Adam Bradford, Administrator, Vance Y-DNA Project -"

On Sun, Oct 5, 2008 at 10:58 PM, <> wrote:"I have documented my ancestry to the infamous Abner Sr who was hung in Abington, Washington County, VA in 1819. He was my GGGGGfather. There seems to be a debate whether Abner Sr was the son of Ephraim Vance (vaus) son of Andrew. Do you have any information on this and would I be a good canidate for your project? Thank you - Keith Alexander Vance, San Diego, CA.


Misc. Correspondence and Notes Subject: Jack's real name was William Harrison Dempsey, Author: SpookiestRider, Wednesday, September 12, 2001 - Surnames: Dempsey, Vance, Solomon, Baisden, Lake, Workman: "Hi, It was good to hear from you. Jack's real name was William Harrison Dempsey. His great grandparents were Joseph and Alena Vance Dempsey. Alena's father, Abner Vance, Sr., was the unfortunate soul who was hanged before the governor's pardon arrived. I'd have to check my records (or the book), but I'm pretty sure Abner's mother was Rachel Solomon, who was Jewish, a fact "Jack" was proud of. At one point in his career, he was proclaimed "The King of Jewish Boxers" in New York City, by his managers in order to sell more tickets. Haha. He was proud of his Irish-Cherokee roots also. He mentioned attending a family get-together in WV in 1957. He said someone called him, and 27 Jack Dempseys waited in line to answer the phone! My ggg grandmother was Teena Ann Dempsey ( married to John Smith Baisden), and she was Jack's great aunt. Teena Ann had a son named Anthony Baisden (married to Gordia Anise Lake). It is commonly spelled Gordiannis here on Their daughter, Teny Ann Baisden married John Floyd Workman, and they had my grandmother, Grace. Incidentally, Teny Ann was named after her grandmother, Teena Ann. Teena Ann Dempsey was a sister to Jack's grandfather, William Anderson Dempsey. This makes his son, Hyrum (Jack's spelling of his father's name), and Anthony Baisden first cousins. So, Teny Ann Baisden Workman (my great grandmother), was a second cousin to Jack. My grandmother knew Jack, and his eldest two daughters would have been her third cousins. Jack was born in 1895, and passed away in 1983. Hope this helps you some. P.S. I guess all of Jack's children were Grandma's third cousins, DUH....Write me back when you can-----Bev"

Message Boards > Surnames > Vance URL: Subject: Samuel Vance and Abner Vance Author: Tim Vance Date: Saturday, July 17, 1999 Surnames: Vance Vause Howard Burnsides Elswick Helton Smith White Whited Kiser Kennedy - "I visited a man today by the name of John Vance, this John Vance is a direct decendent of Samuel Vance & Sarah Colville. Samuel b. 1716, d. 1778. Sarah b. 1715, d. 1792.This John Vance is the 4th great grandson of Samuel Vance, My Father was the 3rd Great Grandson of Abner Vance & Susannah Howard, Abner b. 1753-63, d. 1819. Susannah b. 1767, d. aft. 1850. This John Vance I visited today could be my Father's twin brother, they are definately related. I have no documented proof that Samuel Vance and Abner Vance were related, but I saw living proof of it today, two people with the same last name could not look so much alike and not be related. I believe that Samuel Vance was the Uncle to Abner Vance. Any clues about these relations would be most appreciated by everyone related to both Samuel & Abner Vance. Tim Vance"

This research says Abner is kin to Alexander: 

Parentage in doubt: Some researchers believe that Abner Vance MAY be a son of Ephraim Vance who died in Russell County, Virginia in abt. 1790. Ephraim Vance settled and lived in Augusta County, Virginia until about 1760, when he appears to have relocated to the area that is now Russell County.

Russell County Records

  • Page 49. - Abner and Susannah Vance sold land 22 Oct 1799. [Russell County, Virginia Deed Book 3]
  • April 3rd 1806: Abner Vance enters 25 arces of land by virtue of part of a Land Office Treasury Warrant #1855 dated the 18th day of March 1796 lying in Russell County (VA) on both sides of the Lavisa Fork of the Sandy river beginning on the bank of the river about a quarter of a mile above the 12 mile tree andrunning down the river including the house and improvement where the said Vance Lately lived and to include all or so much of the good land as the quantity will admit.
  • January 31st 1816: Wiliam Ratliff, Sen Enters one hundred acres of land by part of a Land Office (Exchange) treasury Warrant #1978 dated December 10th 1808 lying in Russell County on both sides of Lovisa fork of the Sand river to begin at the ford of the river first below where John Vance now lives and to run up the river on both sides to incldue all of the good land and the plantation where John Vance now lives and to run up what is called big Prater creek to indlude the good land on it.
  • February 3rd 1816: Francis Browning (married to Tabitha daughter of Abner Vance of Sandy enters thirty acres of land by part of a Land Office Tresury Warrant No 1078 dated December th 10th 1808 lying in Russell County on each sie of the Levisa fork of he Sandy river beginning at the upper end of the bottom at the 22 mile tree and running down the river and binding on the rive and the hills to include the bottom and all of the good land where the said Browning now lives.
  • abt. 3 Feb 1816: Richard Vance enters twenty two acres of land by part of a Land Office Treasury Warrant No. 4829 dated Feb 3rd, 1812 lying in Russell County on the North East side of the Lovisa fork of Sandy river and a little above the 18 mile tree to begin at the upper end of the bottom where the said Vance now lives


Birth: 1760 North Carolina, USA Death: Jul. 16, 1819 Abingdon Washington County Virginia, USA

children: James Howard Vance

Family links:

 Susannah Howard Vance (1767 - 1860)

 William Harvey Vance (1789 - 1853)*
 Richard D Vance (1792 - 1850)*
 Elizabeth Vance Horton (1794 - 1850)*
 Abner Vance (1796 - 1888)*
 James Vance (1799 - 1872)*
 Rhoda Vance Elkins (1811 - 1881)*
  • Calculated relationship

Burial: Hatfield Family Cemetery Sarah Ann Logan County West Virginia, USA

Created by: Sandra Sain Record added: Jun 01, 2012 Find A Grave Memorial# 91114519

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Reverend Abner Vance, Sr.'s Timeline

Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States

Per Tazcova

Age 22
Russell County, Virginia, United States
Age 23
Tazewell County, Virginia, United States
Age 30
Russell Co, Virginia, United States
Age 32
Russell County, Virginia, United States
Age 32
Age 33
Russell County, Virginia, United States
Age 34
Vance Bottom Russell, Virginia, United States
Age 35
Tazewell, Tazewell County, Virginia, United States