Partner Edward Harris Heth

Queer Places:
722 Lafayette St, Lafayette, Louisiana
US-18 & WI-83, Wales, WI 53018
Salem Cemetery Wales, Waukesha County, Wisconsin, USA

William Chancey (May 3, 1920 - June 24, 1961) was born in Montgomery, Alabama. In the 1940s he was an Instructor at Spencer Business College, Lafayette, LA, and lived at 722 Lafayette St, Lafayette, Louisiana. He met Edward Harris Heth in New York City.

Wales in the 40s isn’t the first place that you’d expect an accomplished New York writer to settle. Edward Harris Heth, the author of Any Number Can Play and his life long ceramist partner William Chancey built The House on the Hill where William created his pottery and Ed had a second career writing cookbooks. The neighbors, including Heth’s electrical contractor, generally knew the two were gay and seemed to accept them. Since this was the 1950s, a time of witch hunts against radicals and gays, Heth could not write openly about a domesticated gay couple in the country, so he wrote a late-appearing fiancée into the last part of his book for the narrator to marry. This plot echoes that of Heth’s 1931 story about a phantom marriage that never took place.

In Heth’s 1951 Almanac: A Handbook of Pleasure, he acknowledged that “Mr. Chancey shares the House on the Hill.” The small, self-published twenty-six-page document was basically a monthly calendar stuffed with local rural lore. The unusual feature was artwork from, as Heth put it, “Wisconsin’s noted young art group,” including a picture of a pottery piece by Chancey. Several of the artists would later appear in other gay social circles.

William's work was exhibited at the US Nationals in 1961 and as detailed in the Milwaukee Journal as “Particularly lovely are the glazes the young potter has achieved-delicate oranges, reds, rusts, purples, grays. Mr. Chancey believes, apparently, in “gilding the lily,” for all of his work has added decorations, this frequently in gold.”

The home where Heth lived with Chancey burned down in 1960 while the two were out of town. Though the house was rebuilt, Chancey committed suicide in 1961, and Heth sold the home they had shared. He moved into an apartment in Milwaukee and died on April 26, 1963. Heth seems to have taken his own life after Bill died.

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