Dance Family (Powhatan County, VA)

Willis Jefferson Dance (21 June 1821-13 Feb 1887) was the son of William Spencer Dance (1791-1849), Clerk of the Powhatan County Court and Virginia legislator, and his second wife (m. 5 Sept. 1817), Mary Page Finney Branch (1796-1871). He was born at “Homestead” in Powhatan, VA. He attended, first, Hampden-Sydney College, then the University of Virginia in sessions 14-15 (1837-1839), and established a law practice at Powhatan Court House.

On 16 July 1861, W. J. Dance enlisted in the Confederate Army and raised a company of artillery which was called the Powhatan Battery (or “Dance’s Artillery”) of the 1st Virginia Light Artillery Regiment. Toward the end of the war, Dance was wounded at the battle of Fort Harrison, VA, and while recovering was promoted to the rank of Major. After the war ended, Dance resumed his practice of law in Powhatan County and represented the county in the Virginia legislature.

On 13 Oct. 1845, Willis J. Dance married Margaret Catherine Miller (b. 1822); their only child, Kate B. Dance, died in infancy.  He and his wife and child are buried in the Dance family cemetery at  “Homestead.”

Powhatan Spencer Dance (19 July 1834-23 Nov. 1898) was the younger brother of Willis J. Dance, and also attended Hampden-Sydney College and the University of Virginia (in session 30 — 1853-1854), before graduating from the Medical College of Philadelphia in 1856. He began practicing medicine in Powhatan County prior to the Civil War.

During the Civil War, P.S. Dance served as surgeon in the 4th Virginia Cavalry Regiment — he was stationed at the General Hospital in Huguenot Springs in Powhatan County. During the last year of the war, he was stationed at the General Hospital in Richmond, VA. After the war, Dr. Dance returned to his Powhatan County practice, as well as serving in the Virginia legislature as a senator representing Powhatan County.

On 18 Aug. 1858, P. S. Dance married his first wife, Virginia Cornelia Graves (1833-1883). The couple had six children: Mattie Page (d. young), Peachy Sherwood, Willis Jefferson, William Freeman, Stuart Lee, and Harry Campbell Dance. P.S. Dance married secondly, Pocahontas Clarke; this couple had no children. Dr. Dance is buried in the Dance family cemetery at “Homestead” in Powhatan County.


  • Campbell, Leslie Lyle. The Dance family in Virginia. Lexington, VA, 1951.
  • Graves Family Association. “Captain Thomas Graves, 1608 settler of Jamestown, Virginia, and his descendants” [website, rev. 1 March 2011]. (Accessed 6/21/2011).
  • Historical Data Systems, comp.. American Civil War Soldiers [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1999.
  • National Park System. “Richmond National Battlefield Park.” [website] (Accessed 6/21/2011).
  • Wise, Jennings C. The long arm of Lee; or The history of the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia. Lynchburg, VA, 1915. Accessed via
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