Monday, December 29, 2008

Rev John Henry Lance (1834-1890)

Concerning family history on this blog, lastly mentioned was Samuel Riley Lance that came with his wife Rebecca Hunter (my relative) to Union County, after shooting a man in a duel and decided it was a nice place for his family to be.

Sam and Rebecca had a dozen children. One of them, Harriet, you have already met.

The oldest child was John Henry Lance (1834-1890). He married Sarah Caroline Turner (1841 – 1916) and they too had a dozen children. Because of his unusual death I had featured him before, and well, here we go again*.

Here is what I have in my genealogical notes about John Henry Lance:

John Henry Lance moved to Union County, Georgia, when he was six years old.
John grew to adulthood in Union County, and was always ready participant in the rough and tumble games of the mountain boys. He earned a reputation of being one of the toughest individuals in Choestoe and seldom lost a fight. The tenacity of his fighting spirit would accept defeat and in the end he prevailed. He was fearless and it is reputed that he would "look a wild cat in the eye and then spit in its face". John readily took to drinking mountain 'shine but it only drove him into committing more boisterous acts, which further added to his reputation.
But something good happened to John when he married Caroline Turner, the daughter of Jarrett Turner in 1857. He settled down, laid the old ways aside and started rearing a family.
He farmed and they lived in a small cabin alongside Lance Creek at the foot of Lance Mountain. John taught himself to read, write, and sometimes later became a Methodist minister. John remembered how he acted when he was drinking, so regardless of his text he always got around to condemning the practice and he always spiced his sermons with a multitude of "amen, amen, amen."
Rev. John was preaching at Hoods Chapel, a church some five miles from his house. On the trail leading from his house to the church, Tom Swain and Fred Cannup had set up a "wildcat still" in plain view of all who traveled the trail. They were openly flaunting the law and corrupting the good name of Choestoe, so Rev. John called on them at their illicit place of business and demanded that they cease their operation. Threats were tossed about as to what would happen if anyone or anything interfered in their business.
A short time later on February 17th 1889, Rev. John Lance preached at Hoods Chapel. He chose as a text, Matthew 25, verses' 1-13, the parable about the virgins. It has been passed down that he preached with a fury like he might have some sort of premonition about the death and he was afraid that he might have much more time to speak out on this evil. He closed with "watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man cometh".
On the way home, he passed the home of Tom Swain where a crowd had gathered and were having a drinking party. The crowd started taunting Rev. Lance by saying mockingly "amen, amen, amen". Rev. Lance wasn't intimidated by this drunken crowd and he kept on walking. They became so enraged that some of them took a near cut, went straight over the ridge and hid behind a big fir tree that was adjacent to Wolf Creek. When Rev. Lance came by they brutally assaulted him. His neck was cut almost entirely around and was held on by only small strip of flesh. The wind pipe was completely severed and the rest of his body was covered with a multitude of deep cuts and stabs. He was so mutilated that T.J. Butt, a member of the coroner's jury remarked that he "had never seen such a fiendish attack."
Jim Lance, the second oldest son, lead the posse that hunted down the murderers. Tom Swain's sons, Frank and Newt were arrested for this brutal murder but only Frank was found guilty and he was given a sentence of Life imprisonment. He served thirteen years before he was paroled. Frank Swain went directly to Tolar, Texas, and never dared come back to Union Co., for the rage that consumed Jim Lance had not abated one iota.
This murder indirectly touched every citizen of Union Co., and directly changed the life of the Lance family.

*I am not above plagiarism of myself.

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