Jeremiah (Jerry) Milton Nance, rancher, son of Ezekiel Edward and Luany Weightsell (Pate) Nance, was born on April 6, 1850, in Hempstead County, Arkansas. His mother died before he was two years old. In about 1854 the family left Arkansas and settled near Mountain City on the Blanco River in Hays County, Texas. Jerry attended Mountain City School until 1860, when his father built a one-room log schoolhouse on his property. Jerry later attended the Johnson Institute, a boarding school at Friday Mountain, in northern Hays County. Nance's early years were associated with the cattle business. On August 22, 1872, he registered a cattle brand called the Pitchfork. On December 16, 1874, apparently in partnership with his father in the ranching business, he registered a brand resembling a spade in the name of E. Nance and J. M. Nance. On April 15, 1877, Jerry Nance, with ten cowboys, forty ponies, and a chuckwagon, left Hays County and headed north with 2,300 head of cattle. At Fort Worth they laid in supplies and drove on to Dodge City, Kansas. After three months on the trail, they disposed of the herd and ponies in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in mid-July. They rode south to Julesburg, Colorado, took a train to St. Louis, and traveled south by the International-Great Northern Railroad to Austin, Texas. A few days after returning home Jerry rode to Mountain City and proposed to Sebastiance (Bassie) Matilda Haupt. They were married on October 24, 1877. Nance settled on Plum Creek near the site of present Kyle. On February 18, 1878, he purchased 480 acres with a small house. On January 10, 1884, he added 50 acres to his holdings. By 1894 he had 250 acres in cultivation and a ten-acre, man-made lake.
In 1880 he drove a second herd to Dodge City. He swung west, purchased supplies at Fort Griffin, and followed the Western Trail north. The water in the Brazos was so salty that the cattle would not drink. At Dodge City, Nance disposed of the herd. The following year, he sold a herd of 2,000 cattle to be delivered at Ogallala, Nebraska, but did not accompany the drive. In 1883 he became a partner in a ranch in Presidio County, in the area that later became Jeff Davis County (1887). Trains were running through Marfa, and ranchers were moving herds into the foothills of the Davis Mountains. Nance grazed cattle for ten years with the Toyah Land and Cattle Company. Associated with him in the company were H. Hillman, W. T. Jackman, W. C. Johnson, and A. D. McGeehee of San Marcos. M. Locker of Galveston was company president. In 1885 Nance bought 3,000 yearling steers at Columbus, Texas, and drove them to the Presidio County range. In 1887 he and his partners shipped 2,000 head by rail to Big Spring, then trailed them to Coolidge, Kansas. The following year he drove another 2,000 head from the Davis Mountains range to Panhandle City. In 1887, with drought and overgrazing ruining their range, Nance and his partners started moving their cattle out. In the fall of 1888 they wintered 2,000 head near Colorado City and Sweetwater. In the spring they collected a herd in a five section pasture at Colorado City and saw a cyclone kill 152 steers and cripple a hundred others. Nance retired from ranching and turned to farming near Kyle. Jerry and Bassie had eleven children, with nine reaching maturity. Nance died on September 16, 1926, and was buried in the Kyle Cemetery.
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J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas (2 vols., San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920, 1923; 4th ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985). Memorial and Genealogical Record of Southwest Texas (Chicago: Goodspeed, 1894; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). San Marcos Record, September 25, 1936. Barry Scobee, The Story of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis County and the Davis Mountains (Fort Davis, Texas: Marvin Hunter, 1936). Ann Miller Strom, The Prairie City: A History of Kyle, Texas, 1880–1980 (Burnet, Texas: Nortex, 1981).
Ranching and Cowboys
Ranchers and Cattlemen
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Joseph M. Nance,
“Nance, Jeremiah Milton,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 02, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 2, 2020