Lea, Nancy Moffette (1780–1864)

By: Samuel B. Hesler

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: October 26, 2019

Nancy Moffette Lea, Sam Houston's mother-in-law, was born on May 1, 1780, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the daughter of Henry and Margaret Moffette. The family moved to Hancock County, Georgia, where in 1797 she married Temple Lea. The couple, who moved to Perry County, Alabama, in 1819, had seven children, one of whom died young. In Alabama they were charter members of the Siloam Baptist Church; religion remained a central part of Nancy Lea's life. In 1823 she was the only woman delegate at the organization of the Baptist State Convention of Alabama. When Sam Houston asked to marry her daughter, Margaret Moffette Lea, Nancy Lea objected on the grounds that he was insufficiently religious, too old, divorced, and a drinker. Eventually she relented and is said to have influenced Houston's decision to join the Baptist Church at Independence, Texas.

Widowed in 1833 or 1834, Mrs. Lea and other members of the family came to Texas soon after the Houston-Lea wedding in 1840. They lived first at Houston and later at Washington-on-the-Brazos. In 1841 Nancy Lea and Margaret Houston joined the Galveston Baptist Church. In 1845 they and another of Nancy Lea's daughters became charter members of Concord Baptist Church near Cleveland. In 1847 Nancy moved to Huntsville with the Houstons; she preceded them in 1852 to Independence, where she joined the Independence Baptist Church. She sold her silverware, worth about $500, and gave the money to the church for a bell, which was cast in 1856. The bell hung for a time in a tower near the cemetery at Independence and later was displayed at the Texas Baptist Historical Center Museum at the church. In 1860 Mrs. Lea donated $1,000 for Bibles for the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. She died on February 7, 1864, and was buried at the Houston-Lea Family Cemetery at Independence.

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Dallas Morning News, November 24, 1935. William Seale, Sam Houston's Wife: A Biography of Margaret Lea Houston (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970).

  • Religion
  • Baptist
  • Women
  • Politics and Government

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Samuel B. Hesler, “Lea, Nancy Moffette,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/lea-nancy-moffette.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 26, 2019

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