Vance, William (1813–1878)

By: Zelime Vance Gillespie

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: February 1, 1996

William Vance, businessman, was born in Ireland on December 13, 1813, the son of John and Martha (Davis) Vance. He came to the United States with his family in 1826 and settled in New York. His father became engaged in the mercantile business, and William and his brothers followed in that line of work. With his brothers, James and John Vance, William operated establishments in both Little Rock, Arkansas, and in New Orleans under the name of Vance and Brothers. With the outbreak of the Mexican War, he was appointed commissary agent for the American forces and went to San Antonio in 1846 with Gen. Zachary Taylor's army. Following the war, he and his brothers settled permanently in San Antonio in 1848. They built and operated a mercantile store in San Antonio on Alamo Plaza. Vance and Brothers built the first army barracks in San Antonio, located at what is now the corner of Travis and St. Mary's streets. They also built a two-story building adjoining the barracks that served as an army headquarters. The building was later converted into a hotel known as the Vance House. It has remained a hotel location and is now the site of the Gunter Hotel. The Vance brothers were active in many endeavors; they operated an overland transportation system by stage, and once they contracted to return a nine-year-old boy, who had been kidnapped by Indians and rescued by Christopher (Kit) Carson, to his home in Brady, Texas. After the failure of an army project to train fifty-seven camels as prairie mounts for the cavalry, they bought most of the animals and sold them to a circus. Vance was an early business leader of San Antonio and had extensive real estate holdings. He served as city alderman from 1860 to 1862, and he was an agent for the Confederacy in export trade. Vance married Frances E. Tabor on June 4, 1856, in New York; they had a son and three daughters. Wiliam Vance died on October 2, 1878, and was buried in the Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio.


  • Peoples
  • Irish
  • Business

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas

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

Zelime Vance Gillespie, “Vance, William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996