Nancy Stilley was raised on the Illinois frontier, and died a pioneer in Kansas. From what little I know about her life, she’s a perfect example of a “Fearless Female” whose story should be shared in honor of National Women’s History Month.According to her obituary, Nancy Stilley was born 19 June 1819 in Franklin County, Illinois.1 It’s likely that she never attended school,2 although she was said to have joined the Baptist church at the age of thirteen.3 Records suggest that she may have married as many as three times. Her first marriage took place in 1836; she married Thomas Holman of Hamilton County, Illinois.4 Her second marriage took place in 1843; she married Joseph Edwards of Washington County, Illinois.5 Her third and final marriage took place in 1847; she married Elithan Hall of Washington County, Illinois.6 This marriage, too, was short-lived. After her husband’s death in May of 1860,7 Nancy, still just forty years old, was left a widow with nine children at home.8 This time, she did not remarry.
Although it must have been difficult, Nancy seems to have managed her household and farm through the tumultuous years of the Civil War. Following the settlement of her husband’s estate in 1868,9 she relocated to Kansas with her children, including those who now had families of their own.10
By 1870, Nancy had settled in Solomon, Saline County, Kansas, where she held a respectable amount of real estate worth $1100 and personal property worth $600.11 Four children, between the ages of twelve and sixteen, were at home.12 Nancy was to remain in Kansas for the remainder of her life, eventually joining the household of her eldest son.13 She lived to the age of seventy-nine, her death the result of an unfortunate accident during what was likely a routine visit to her children and grandchildren:
“Last Friday morning, October 21, 1898, Mrs. T. G. McCance hitched a team to a buggy for the purpose of driving her mother, Mrs. Nancy Hall, to the residence of her son, E. L. McCance. Just as the ladies started the team suddenly turned the vehicle enough to throw the occupants to the ground. Mrs. Hall struck the ground with sufficient force to tear the flesh from one side of the face, break the cheek bone and inflict internal injuries, from which she died in a few hours.”14
Nancy was buried two days later, her burial attended “by a large number of friends and relatives,” in the Gypsum Cemetery in Gypsum, Saline County, Kansas.15
1 “A Fatal Accident,” The Gypsum (Kansas) Advocate, 29 October 1898, p. 1, col. 3.
2 1860 U.S. census, Washington County, Illinois, population schedule, District 20, p. 755 (handwritten), dwelling 719, family 681, Nancy Hall; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 March 2014), microfilm publication M653, roll 235. Nancy Hall received a check in the column indicating that she was unable to read and write.
3 “A Fatal Accident,” The Gypsum (Kansas) Advocate.
4 Hamilton County, Illinois, Marriage Record Book A, Thomas Holman and Nancy Stilly, 1836; Hamilton County Clerk and Recorder, McLeansboro.
5 “Illinois Statewide Marriage Index,” database, Illinois State Archives (http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com : accessed 9 March 2014), entry for Joseph Edwards and Nancy Coleman, 1843; citing Washington County, Illinois Marriage Book A: 14.
6 Washington County, Illinois, Marriage Register 22, Mr. Ellithan Hall and Mrs. Nancy Edwan, 1847; Washington County Clerk and Recorder, Nashville.
7 Washington County, Illinois, Ellerton Hall probate file, Box 34, County Court; Illinois State Archives, Springfield. Ellerton was a variation of the name Elithan.
8 1860 U.S. census, Washington Co., Ill., pop. sch., District 20, p. 755, dwell. 719, fam. 681, Nancy Hall.
9 Washington Co., Ill., Ellerton Hall probate file.
10 “A Fatal Accident,” The Gypsum (Kansas) Advocate.
11 1870 U.S. census, Saline County, Kansas, population schedule, Solomon, p. 9 (handwritten), dwelling 99, family 84, Nancy Hall; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 March 2014), microfilm publication M593, roll 442.
12 1870 U.S. census, Saline Co., Kan., pop. sch., Solomon, p. 9, dwell. 99, fam. 84, Nancy Hall.
13 1880 U.S. census, Saline County, Kansas, population schedule, Gypsum Township, enumeration district (ED) 300, p. 12 (handwritten), dwelling 82, family 90, Nancy Hall; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 March 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 396.
14 “A Fatal Accident,” The Gypsum (Kansas) Advocate.
15 “A Fatal Accident,” The Gypsum (Kansas) Advocate.