Published on February 4, 2020

Famed Western writer’s wife, Bertha Dobie, was also acclaimed writer, editor

By Janice Edwards / The Bulletin

I shared with you all about acclaimed Western novel author J. Frank Dobie’s visit to the Poole Ranch in one of my December columns. But, did you know that Dobie, Texas’ man of letters, married Bertha McKee of Velasco in Brazoria County?

Though most people have heard of J. Frank Dobie, Bertha McKee Dobie was an acclaimed writer and editor in her own right.

Bertha McKee Dobie was born July 8, 1890 in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, to Richard Alexander and Ray (Park) McKee. They had been living in Texas, but returned to Pennsylvania for the birth of their first child, Bertha. After that, the family returned to Texas, living in several small towns before settling in Velasco, which is now part of Freeport. Bertha was seven years old then and spent her childhood in this coastal town.

After high school, Bertha attended Southwestern University, where she met her future husband, J. Frank Dobie. Both worked on the 1910 yearbook. She was class valedictorian and commencement speaker at graduation. After six years of communicating mostly through letters, Bertha married J. Frank Dobie in the McKee family home in Velasco, Sept. 20, 1916.

J. Frank Dobie credited Bertha as his best critic and editor, and while she served him in that capacity, she also became a writer in her own right. They often collaborated, as is evident in “Legends of Texas,” edited by J. Frank Dobie and published by the Texas Folklore Society (Austin, Texas) circa 1924. In it, Bertha related three legends from Brazoria County: “Mysterious Music in the San Bernard River”, “The Death Bell of the Brazos”, and “The Legend of the Salt Marshes”.

A niece of J. Frank and Bertha McKee Dobie, local resident Ray Pearl (Wood) Condry, remained active in historical organizations in our county until her recent death.

(Write Jan in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)