"The Vance Song"

Vance Song main page | song & audio

Several details concerning "The Vance Song" are sketchy, but the story centers around the murder of Lewis Horton in 1817. According to oral history, Abner Vance was a hunter and/or a preacher. His daughter had a sexual encounter with either neighbor Lewis Horton or Lewis' brother Daniel. As a result, Vance quarreled with the Hortons and ended up shooting Lewis off his horse at the Clinch River. Again, oral history suggests that Vance may have actually intended to kill Daniel Horton.

Both Vance and his wife were tried in Russell County for the murder, but only Abner was convicted. After a series of appeals, the original conviction was upheld, and Vance was hung in Washington County in 1819.

"The Vance Song" is unusual in that it is autobiographical. Abner Vance reportedly composed and sang it while awaiting his execution. The song went into oral tradition and was still known in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky more than a century after Vance's death. It has also been collected under the titles "Vance's Song," and "Vance's Farewell."

Vance Song main page | song & audio

Deathly Lyrics:
Songs of Virginia Tragedies


Audio Credits


Breeding Mill

Caty Sage


Dewey Lee


Freeda Bolt

Great Kanawha

Kent Steffie

Mollie Tynes

Old 97

Poor Goins

Roanoke Riot

Rye Cove

Talt Hall

Vance Song

Wreck of the 1256