Hood County Texas Genealogical Society





Characteristics attributed to previous owners of the De Cordova Bend property in Hood County, Texas, have added to the saga of Kristenstad and to its image as a utopian community. These colorful figures from the pages of history re-emerge to add spice and provoke the imagination of neighboring residents of that Central Texas community. Many of the rumors contributing to the legend emanated from events surrounding their lives and from their dreams of the eventual development of the area. To compound the confusion, there were many similarities in educational background and business activities of the previous owners to that of the founder of Kristenstad. Certainly, the predecessors of John B. Christensen left an indelible mark on historic accounts of that unique community.

The first owner, under state auspices, supplied the name for the Bend property. On September 2, 1847, J. Pinkney Henderson, the first governor of the state of Texas, issued a patent relinquishing 15,838,000 square varas of land owned by the state in the Milam District to Jacob de Covdova.1 This land was called the James W. Moore survey. De Cordova was a land merchant who owned more than a million acres in the Brazos River watershed area. The best known of the De Cordova landmarks is the large loop in the Brazos River near Granbury.2

The career of De Cordova provided many threads to be woven into the Kristenstad myth. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, British West Indies, in 1808, he came with his parents to the United States when he was very young. During his life, he traveled extensively in the United States, London, Paris and other European cities. By his teens, he could speak several languages. These included English, French, German, Spanish and Hebrew. Coming from a well-educated family, De Cordova was able to tell interested listeners about the wonders of Texas, especially Central Texas, including his holdings there.3

This illustrious man tallied a long list of accomplishments. He published a newspaper in Kingston, then, upon returning to the United States, De Cordova was a merchant in New Orleans during the Texas Revolution. In 1837, he moved to Galveston, then on to Houston where he entered politics. De Cordova served as a representative from Harris County in the Texas legislature, later moving to Austin to edit the Texas Herald. But, his chief interest was land, so he began buying and accumulating land scrip, some for as little as five cents per acre. In order to attract needed men and women to develop his empire, De Cordova produced a Texas map and guidebook. He also wrote several newspaper articles telling of the beauty and wealth of the new land in Texas.4

In the 1860's, De Cordova, his wife Rebecca, and their five children moved to a farm near the town of Kimball. He dreamed of damming the river, putting in a power plant and establishing a textile mill. As is often true of great men, De Cordova never lived to realize his dream. While working on his project, he overtaxed his strength and suffered overexposure in a rainstorm while exploring the river bottom. He became ill and died in 1868. De Cordova was buried at Kimball, but later his remains were moved to the state cemetery in Austin.5

On February 26, 1852, the De Cordova Bend property was transferred to Richard B. Kimbell of New York, an early day financier in the Republic of Texas.6 Kimbell backed De Cordova in some of his land dealings and probably accepted title to this property to secure his investment.7 Almost four years later, the property was transferred back to De Cordova and on January 26, 1856, he sold it to Dr. Josephus Murry Steiner of Travis County.8

Dr. Steiner was one of the more colorful owners of the "Bend." Born on September 17, 1823, at Frederick, Maryland, he attended Kenyon College in Ohio, and medical school in Pennsylvania. He first came to Texas with the U.S. Army troops during the Mexican War. At the end of the war, Steiner's commanding officer, Major Ripley A. Arnold, had him arrested. He killed Arnold in the dispute. The army was unable to place Steiner under arrest, but he surrendered to a civil court in May 1854 and was acquitted. He was dropped from the army rolls in May 1856. Dr. Steiner was married to Laura Fisher at Tiffin, Ohio, in November of that same year. He served as an Indian Commissioner and Superintendent of the State Insane Asylum. He died May 20, 1873, and was buried at Marietta, Georgia. Later, his body was moved to Oakwood Cemetery in Austin. The town of Steiner and Steiner Valley in Hill County were named in his honor.9

Steiner's ownership marked the division of the De Cordova Bend property. In 1872, Dr. Steiner sold half interest to Charles E. Barnard and willed the remainder to his wife, Laura.10 She, in turn, willed her interest in the property to their two daughters, Adele and Bessie. The interest that belonged to Barnard was divided and resold many times between the years 1872 and 1917. Subsequently, Steiner's daughters and their husbands, C.D. Johns, husband of Bessie, and Albert Sidney Burleson, husband of Adele, regained ownership of the original James W. Moore survey.11

Details in the life of A.S. Burleson provided an interesting link of understanding to the business transaction surrounding the creation of Kristenstad. A contemporary of John B. Christensen, Burleson was born June 7, 1863, in San Marcos, Texas. He attended the Colonial Institute, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas and the University of Texas. He was admitted to the bar in 1884, and became city attorney of the Twenty-sixth Judicial District. Burleson represented Texas in the Fifty-sixth through the Sixty-third United States Congresses, serving on the Committee of Agriculture, Census, Foreign Affairs and Appropriations. Accepting the appointment to Woodrow Wilson's Cabinet as Postmaster-General on March 6, 1913, he remained in that post until March 1921. Described as an affable Texan, Burleson, nonetheless, pursued a hostile policy toward those who advocated socio-economic change during the Wilson administration.12 The United States Post Office experienced considerable growth during his term of office due to the development of parcel post and air mail service. Burleson retired from public office in 1921.13 His death on November 24, 1937, was preceded only a few months by that of his friend and colleague John B. Christensen, founder of Kristenstad.

There are many parallels to be drawn between the lives of previous owners of the Bend property and that of John B. Christensen. Yet, some of their activities were mistakenly attributed to Christensen. Sharing a similar educational background in history, literature and law, it is possible that he also was aware of their aspirations and built his own dreams upon some of those previous projections. While it is impossible to weigh the exact degree of influence that events in history had upon the creation of Kristenstad, the correlation between accounts of events surrounding the lives of former owners of the Bend and the story that emerged is undeniable. The dreams of Jacob de Cordova, the volatile controversy that surrounded Steiner, and the reputation of suppressing domestic radicals associated with Burleson during his tenure as Postmaster-General, are all intermingled to form a collage depicting Christensen and his role as developer of Kristenstad. As former inhabitants of Kristenstad and neighboring residents reconstruct those events, the listener is immediately aware that elements of the account have been heard or read before in another context.



Texas, Hood County, Deed Records, Vol. 55, p. 484.


The Mart Herald, 30 March 1961.








Texas, Hood County, Deed Records, Vol. L., p. 224.


Interview with Jenkins Garrett, 6 April 1965.


Texas, Hood County, Deed Records, Vol. 54, pp. 241-242.


H. Bailey Carroll and Walter P. Webb, eds., Handbook of Texas. 2 vols. (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1952), II: 665-66.


Texas, Hood County, Deed Records, Vol. 54, p. 242.


Jenkins Garrett, notes taken when examining the abstract of the Bend property prior to its purchase by O. P. Leonard on February 27, 1947.


Robert K. Murray, Red Scare, A Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1955), pp. 203-204.


Carroll and Webb, Handbook of Texas, I:248. 

Copyright 1978 by Vaudrene R. Smith Hunt. Written permission granted to the Hood County Genealogical Society for reproduction to its Internet web site.

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