Sgt Chauncey Leland “Chance” Harris

Sgt Chauncey Leland “Chance” Harris

Birth
Greece, Monroe County, New York, USA
Death 9 Jan 1898 (aged 56)
Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana, USA
Burial Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana, USA
Plot Block E Lot 126 Grave 5
Memorial ID 117938415 · View Source
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Chauncey Leland "Chance" Harris was born 4 July 1841 at West Greece, Monroe Co., New York, son of Daniel Ely Harris and Fidelia Strickland. He was descended from Revolutionary War Sergeant Gideon Allen who had served in Vermont and later was an early settler of the Town of Scipio, Cayuga Co., NY. Chance was censused at Rushford, Allegany Co., New York in 1850; Buffalo, Erie Co., New York in 1855; and Rochester, Monroe Co., New York in 1860. At that time, Chance was a Clerk residing in his father's household. On 31 July 1862, he enrolled as a Private in Captain Francis E. Pierce's Company F, 108th Infantry Regiment, New York Volunteers, was Mustered In at Camp Fitz John Porter in Rochester on 18 August, and departed with his Company the following day by train bound for Washington, DC. Chance participated in the Battle of Antietam one month after being mustered in, followed by the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. Chance received the rank of Corporal on 28 February 1863 and saw action in the Battles of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristoe Station, and Mine Run during the remainder of the year. The next battle for the 108th didn't occur until the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864, quickly followed by the Battles of Spotsylvania Courthouse, North Anna, Totopotomoy Creek, Cold Harbor, Second Battle of Petersburg, Jerusalem Plank Road, and Deep Bottom (First). The Battle of the Crater occurred on 30 July 1864; however, Chance's unit occupied a flanking position and was spared direct fighting. In August 1864, Chance participated in the Second Battle of Deep Bottom and the Second Battle of Ream's Station where he was captured on the Weldon Road on 25 August. As a prisoner of war, Chance was incarcerated at Petersburg, moving through Libby Prison, Belle Isle Prison, and the Pemberton Buildings. It appears he subsequently was held at Danville Prison in Virginia and at Greensboro and Salisbury Prison in North Carolina, eventually being moved back to Virginia to Castle Thunder and Libby Prison before being paroled on 22 February 1865. For the remainder of the Civil War, Chance was assigned first to Camp Parole in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland and second to Camp Distribution in Alexandria, Fairfax Co., Virginia. He Mustered Out as Sergeant (some records show Corporal) with his regiment at Bailey's Crossroads, Fairfax Co., Virginia on 28 May 1865.

Not much can be found about Chance's life during the decade following the Civil War until 1876 when he became a resident of Butte, Silver Bow Co. (then Deer Lodge Co.), Montana Territory after removing from Alder Gulch, Madison Co., Montana Territory. An obituary in a Detroit newspaper indicates that Chance spent three years there, probably from 1866-1869. The same source states that Chance was a Civil Engineer participating in survey work for the Northern Pacific Railroad. This was probably the work that brought Chance to the West. Chance was intimated to have been a Scout during the Indian Wars in northern and eastern Montana in the early 1870s, and an account exists of Chance passing through Fergus Co., Montana Territory in company with a detachment of soldiers seeking a party of Indians who were on the war path. Chance also was reputed to have written for newspapers in the East and elsewhere, perhaps as a Correspondent, and exhibited a great talent for writing. Several sources state that Chance was the first City Editor of The Butte Miner ca. 1876-1878. He also was City Editor of the Frontier Index ca. 1879-1880.

In 1881, Chance moved to Woodville, a short-lived boomtown in Elk Park, Jefferson Co., Montana Territory, where he became involved in the business of supplying timber and fuel wood to the mines and smelters springing up in the vicinity of Butte. One report called Chance the leader of the Woodchopper's Union. It was probably in this capacity that he unfortunately led an armed group of over 200 men to scatter and disperse a group of about 40 Chinese contract woodchoppers working in Highland Park for a man who had a wood contract with the Colorado Smelter. Anti-Chinese sentiment was rife at this time in the West, and non-Chinese woodchoppers presumably didn't want the competition from Chinese labor. A non-violent confrontation with law enforcement followed, and Chance, generally seen as the ringleader, was arrested with five others and charged with unlawful interference with private rights and private property. In the end, only Chance and James Matingly were indicted by the Grand Jury and went on to stand trial. Chance was found guilty and fined $100 plus $58 costs in early March 1882 whereupon he went to jail in lieu of paying the fine and was subsequently released in April. Returning to Woodville, Chance conducted a wood-hauling business and engaged in prospecting, eventually participating in ownership of several lode prospects but never striking it rich. He also continued to write as a Correspondent for The Butte Miner and, at some point, for the Jefferson County Sentinel for several years. While at Woodville, Chance was appointed as a Notary Public, was Clerk of the Woodville School Board, and involved in Democratic Party politics, including serving as Assistant Secretary of the Territorial Democratic Convention and Alternate Delegate for Jefferson County.

Chance moved back to Butte by early 1885, apparently briefly serving as an Alderman on the Butte Common Council. His life seems to have devolved into alcoholism by 1887, a pattern that continued until 1892. Chance undertook the Keeley alcoholism cure, a medically based intervention, sometime between late 1892 and early 1893, thereafter maintaining sobriety for the rest of his life. In 1893, Chance began a new career variously described as Private Secretary, Assistant Coroner, or Deputy Coroner in which he assisted the Coroner of Silver Bow County with investigating deaths, transporting remains to Butte, and serving either as a witness to the scenes and circumstances of deaths or as Juror or Jury Foreman at Coroner's inquests. Local humorists came to call Chance "the dead reporter" for his involvement in the legal resolution of the cause of death for the many mining deaths, suicides, and murders that occurred in the booming mining town of Butte and vicinity. Chance continued in this role through the terms of Coroner Porter and Richards (1893-1896) and to a limited extent under Coroner Tremblay in 1897. During this period, Chance earned the respect of the community for friendly nature and good will and seemed to be known by all the residents of Butte. He was a respected member of the Montana State Press Association, serving as 2nd Vice-President at the time of his death. Chance also was a member of the United Order of Moderns, Lodge No. 45.

Chance unexpectedly died of an aortic aneurism on 9 January 1898 at the age of 56. His funeral was held on 11 January 1898 at Muntzer's Hall on North Wyoming Street with the Rev. Mr. Russell officiating. Bearers were provided by the local Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.) and the United Moderns, with a large procession of members of both groups following the remains to Mount Moriah Cemetery where the United Moderns performed their services.

Contributor: Roger Post - owascolake@acsalaska.net
July 24, 2018


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  • Created by: Suzanne Andrews
  • Added: 1 Oct 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 117938415
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Sgt Chauncey Leland “Chance” Harris (4 Jul 1841–9 Jan 1898), Find A Grave Memorial no. 117938415, citing Mount Moriah Cemetery, Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana, USA ; Maintained by Suzanne Andrews (contributor 47490425) .