Nance, Berta Hart (1883–1958)

By: Mary Simpson

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: September 10, 2020

Berta Hart Nance, known primarily for her poetry about the frontier heritage of Texas, was born near Albany, Texas, on October 6, 1883 the daughter of D. A. and Eugenia (Davis) Nance. Her father was a ranchman, Confederate veteran, Indian fighter, and cousin of Jefferson Davis. Berta attended the public schools of Shackelford County and graduated from Reynolds Presbyterian Academy (later Reynolds Presbyterian College) in Albany, where she also taught. She completed further work through the Extension Department of the University of Texas. She was an accomplished singer and violinist. Miss Nance won a number of juvenile prizes for verse, including a gold medal in 1899 for a young people's competition in St. Nicholas Magazine for her poem "A Texas September." Early poems and stories appeared in Holland's, the Bohemian, Sports Afield, the Great Southwest, Bellman, and Housekeeper. The David C. Cook Publication Company employed her to write children's stories and verse from 1913 to 1923. In 1922 one of her multipart stories, Captured by Comanches, was published by the Cook Company in book form. In 1926 she published The Round-Up, a long narrative poem about West Texas. In 1927 a second edition of this book appeared. Many prizes came to her in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In 1927 the Poetry Society of Texas awarded her its Sonnet Prize; she tied for this award again the next year. The Bookfellows of Chicago awarded her the Texas Prize in 1931, and in 1929 she won the Southern Prize from the Chattanooga Writers' Club. In addition, she won smaller prizes from the magazine Kaleidograph. Perhaps the most widely known passage from her works is the beginning of the poem "Cattle": "Other states were carved or born, Texas grew from hide and horn." Nance's poems have appeared in Poetry World, Kaleidograph, the Step Ladder, VerseCraft, Better Verse, Expression, Troubadour, and Sonnet Sequences, as well as in the anthologies The Golden Stallion (1930), A Century with Texas Poets and Poetry (1934), and New Voices of the Southwest (1934). Besides The Round-Up, she published two more books of verse: Flute in the Distance (1935) and Lines from Arizona (1938). She was a charter and life member of the Poetry Society of Texas and a life member of the Bookfellows. In 1934, suffering from tuberculosis, Berta Nance left Texas for Tucson, Arizona, where she joined the staff of Contemporary Vision. She died there in 1958.

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Florence Elberta Barns, Texas Writers of Today (Dallas: Tardy, 1935). Hilton Ross Greer and Florence Elberta Barns, New Voices of the Southwest (Dallas: Tardy, 1934). Vaida Stewart Montgomery, A Century with Texas Poets and Poetry (Dallas: Kaleidograph, 1934).

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

Mary Simpson, “Nance, Berta Hart,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 10, 2020

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