James George Washington Vance, veteran of the Mexican War and Confederate officer, was born in Washington, Missouri, on March 5, 1829, to Thomas and Rebecca Vance. His father was a carpenter from Georgia born in 1785, and his mother was born in Massachusetts in 1794. The Vance family moved sometime in the mid-1840s to Collin County, Texas, where Thomas worked as a carpenter. In 1846 James volunteered for service in the Mexican War and served in Col. John C. "Jack" Hays's Regiment of Texas Rangers. His time in Mexico was spent recovering from an illness and having both his carbine and Colt revolver stolen while he was at a hospital in Jalapa, Mexico.
After the war James came back to Collin County and married Mary E. (Polly) Beverly on January 25, 1849. She was born in Tennessee in 1834 to William and Nancy Delozier Beverly. James's older brother, Fountain J. Vance, married Mary's sister Pernina Beverly on September 21, 1848. In the 1850 census James was listed as a farmer with real estate valued at $320. The Vance family remained close and lived in Plano, Texas, next to each other into the 1850s. On January 16, 1858, James G. Vance filed a land title with the state of Texas for 320 acres in Collin County. That same year he became a charter member of the Plano Masonic Lodge No. 235 where he was re-affiliated on February 8, 1863, and later demitted on July 4, 1868. By 1860 James and Mary Vance had moved to Kaufman County and were the parents of four daughters. James was working as a carpenter and listed $900 worth of personal property on that year's census. The family also owned one fifteen-year-old female slave that apparently was a house servant.
With the onset of Civil War, James G. Vance volunteered for service in the Confederate Army. On September 10, 1861, he was sworn in at Camp Bartow in Dallas County as second lieutenant of Company A of the Sixth Texas Cavalry commanded by Col. Barton Warren Stone, Jr. Vance and the rest of the Sixth Texas Cavalry took part in the battle at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in March 1862. Soon after, the regiment was dismounted and transferred to Corinth, Mississippi. On May 25, 1862, he was relieved from duty after the regiment reorganized. In early 1863 he joined the Second Texas Partisan Rangers, a regiment formed by Colonel Stone. James G. Vance was promoted to major and served alongside Maj. James W. Throckmorton as a field officer in the regiment for the remainder of the war. The regiment served primarily in Louisiana and took part in the battles of Donaldsonville on June 28, 1863; Bayou Bourbeau on November 3, 1863; Mansfield on April 8, 1864; and Pleasant Hill on April 9, 1864. The regiment was dismounted in February 1865 and marched back to Texas in March that year. James G. Vance and the rest of the regiment officially surrendered on May 26, 1865.
After the war, James G. Vance and his family moved back to Plano in Collin County and lived in the same home with his brother Fountain J. Vance and his family. In 1870 the forty-one-year-old James Vance worked as a millwright and had a personal estate property of $600. New additions to the family included two sons and three daughters. In 1871 the Vance family moved to Upshur County where their eleventh child, a son, was born on June 5, 1871. Their twelfth and final child, a daughter, was also born in Upshur County on December 6, 1875. By 1880 the Vance family lived in Palo Pinto County where James, at the age of fifty-one, worked as a carpenter. On September 5, 1883, James G. Vance died in Baylor, Texas. His wife Mary passed away on September 5, 1916.