J. Milton Nance

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Joseph Milton Nance​

(Historian of Texas; professor at Texas A&M University)​

Born September 18, 1913​
Brazos County
Texas, USA

Long-time resident of College Station

Died January 17, 1997 (aged 83) ​
Brazos County, Texas ​

Resting place:
Wheelock Cemetery in Wheelock in Robertson County, Texas

Spouse Eleanor Glenn Hanover Nance (married 1944-1997, his death)

Three sons:
Jeremiah Milton Nance
​ Joseph Hanover Nance
​ James Clifton "Jim" Nance​
Jeremiah Milton and Mary Louise Hutchison Nance​
Alma mater:
University of Texas at Austin

Joseph Milton Nance, known as J. Milton Nance (September 18, 1913 – January 17, 1997),[1] was an American historian who specialized in the study of his native Texas. He was affiliated with Texas A&M University in College Station from 1941 until his retirement in 1979. He was his department chairman from 1958 to 1973.[2]


​ Nance was born in Brazos County lived in Kyle in Hays County south of the capital city of Austin. His parents were Jeremiah Milton "Jerry" Nance, Jr. (1884–1966), and the former Mary Louise Hutchison (1890–1967). Jerry and Mary Nance married in 1912 and had eight children born between 1913 and 1930, with Milton Nance being the oldest of the offspring. Jerry and Mary Nance are interred at Kyle Cemetery.[3]

On March 19, 1944, Nance married the former Eleanor Glenn Hanover (1920-2002), who excelled in art. The couple had three sons, Jeremiah Milton Nance (born c. 1948) and Joseph Hanover Nance (born c. 1952), both of Bryan, Texas, and James Clifton "Jim" Nance. J. Milton and Eleanor Nance resided in College Station.[2]

Nance served as a lieutenant in the United States Navy during World War I.[1]

Academic career

Nance studied at the University of Texas at Austin from which he received his Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and Ph.D. degrees in history in 1935, 1936, and 1941, respectively.[2] He moved to College Station to teach at TAMU, when the institution was all-male and military-motivated, particularly during World War II. He was a visiting professor for a year at Texas State University in San Marcos. Nance was active in the National Geographic Society and the historical associations, Texas State, West Texas, East Texas, Southern, and American. He authored nine books on Texas history. In 1962, he published The Early History of Bryan and the Surrounding Area, which focuses on Bryan and College Station, Texas.[2]

In 1969, he published Some Reflections Upon Modern America. In retirement, Nance was active from 1983-1996 in the publication of the Texas State Historical Association's New Handbook of Texas, much of which is available on line.[4]

Major scholarly publications

Among Nance's nine books are: ​

  • Sandbars and Sternwheelers: Steam Navigation on the Brazos (ISBN 978-1-58544-058-0), by Pamela A. Puryear and Nath Winfield, Jr., with introduction by Nance, published in 2000. This short work examines the early vessels that attempted to sail on the Brazos River, an intrastate waterway which passes some eight miles west of Bryan-College Station.[5]

  • After San Jacinto: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1836-1841 (ISBN 978-0-292-75581-9) (1963) with 24 chapters, covers the continuing unrest on the border after the surrender of Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.[6]
  • Dare-Devils All: The Texan Mier Expedition, 1842-1844 (ISBN 978-1-57168-214-7) (1964). This volume of more than seven hundred pages is the full account of the Mier Expedition, a Texas militia which attacked the Mexican border community of Ciudad Mier on December 26, 1842. The men were seeking financial gain and retaliation for the Dawson Massacre in which thirty-six Texans had been killed by the Mexican Army. In the infamous black bean episode of the Mier Expedition, the Texans were forced to draw black or white beans from a pot to determine who would be allowed to live and who would be killed by firing squad. Seventeen drew black beans from a pot of mostly white beans and, along with one other who drew a white bean, were executed on March 25, 1843. Dare-Devils All was shortened to 547 pages and re-released in December 1997, after Nance's death, under the editorship of Archie P. McDonald[8]​ (1935-2012), historian at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches.[9]


​Nance died at the age of eighty-three. He and Eleanor are interred at Wheelock Cemetery in Wheelock in Robertson County, Texas.[1] His gravestone reads: "Loving Husband, Father, Historian, Educator, and Author."[1]

Nance's papers, both family and professional from 1874 to 1994, are located at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas, established through the philanthropy of former Governor Dolph Briscoe of Uvalde. The material includes lectures, research notes, and maps.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Joseph Milton Nance. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on January 21, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Joseph Milton Nance, Who's Who in America, 40th ed., 1978-1979, p. 2364.
  3. Mary Louise Hutchison Nance. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on January 21, 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 A Guide to the Joseph Milton Nance Papers. lib.utexas.edu. Retrieved on January 21, 2020.
  5. Sandbars and Sternwheelers: Steam Navigation on the Brazos. Texas A&M University Press, 2000, 168 pp., ISBN 1-58544-058-2. Retrieved on January 21, 2020. 
  6. After San Jacinto: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1836-1841. Self-published by J. Milton Nance, 1963; renewed, 1991; reprinted courtesy of University of Texas. Retrieved on January 21, 2020. 
  7. (1964) Attack and Counter-Attack: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1842. University of Texas Press. 
  8. (December 1, 1997) Dare-Devils All: The Texan Mier Expedition, 1842-1844. Eakin. ISBN 1-57168-214-7. Retrieved on January 21, 2020. 
  9. Archie Philip McDonald. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on January 21, 2020.

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