Hood County Texas Genealogical Society





The physical characteristics of John B. Christensen and the unique aspects of his life provided an interesting chapter in the saga of Kristenstad. A middle-aged man of portly build, Christensen resembled Burl Ives, and was equally adept in verbal expression. His educational background and individuality were reflected in the varied activities he pursued. Christensen was viewed by some observers to be a jovial, pleasant person whose personality obscured a shrewd, scheming mind.1

Earliest records of Christensen's educational background were recalled by his close friend and former classmate, Homer Mitchell. Coming from a Westport, Missouri, family of modest means, Christensen worked as an apprentice brick layer in order to complete high school. Without funds, but with a "bent for learning," he was determined to enter the University of Missouri Law School. The fifty dollar entry fee seemed an insurmountable obstacle; yet, Christensen sought help through the Rawlins aid fund. Traditionally presented to students of proven ability, Christensen persuaded the scholarship committee to advance him the sum. Gaining entrance to the University, he fulfilled his promise to earn the scholarship.2 The first hurdle was overcome, but financial difficulties continued to plague him throughout his college career. He stoked furnaces to help pay room, board and tuition.3 Letters from his father reported attempts to borrow money in behalf of "John B." until he could complete his education.4 Equal to the challenge, Christensen graduated in 1895, as valedictorian of his class. He was not yet twenty-one years of age.5 In a letter expressing congratulations for his achievement, James Christensen admonished his son not to lose his head. "We need God's grace to stand success as much as we need it in adversity," he concluded.6

After graduation, Christensen practiced law in Pineville, Missouri, forming a partnership with J.G. Lamson, former Judge of the 24th Judicial Circuit. He worked in that capacity for a number of years, succeeding the senior partner in April 1902.7 Never one to be idle, Christensen combined his law practice with the duties of postmaster in Pineville. His first wife, May R. Christensen, served as his assistant.8 In addition to his law practice and duties as postmaster, Christensen established a weekly newspaper and print shop in Pineville. However, a restless nature prompted him to move on to "greener pastures." His next assignment was vice-president of a bank in Indianapolis, Indiana. Pictures of the bank interior depicted women, wearing long dresses, working as cashiers and bookkeepers. Hiring women in business was a new practice in the early years of the century, but "it was typical of John B. to be the first to try something new." The banking business was abandoned when the president of the bank objected to Christensen's practice of underlining in red ink the main ideas on legal documents held by the bank. He felt these and other restrictions were unnecessary.9 For a short time, Christensen worked as attorney for a railroad company in southwest Missouri, "but the job of looking after the other fellow's business could not satisfy the originating brain of John B. Christensen."10

Migrating to Texas, Christensen launched a land development enterprise in conjunction with a hard-surfaced road project at Rainbow, Texas. A plat filed May 6, 1913, resembled the pattern used by early-day railroad towns, with the roadway bisecting the town and business lots fronting each side. Residential lots were situated further away from the road.11 The hard-surfaced road, called the Motorway, was designed to connect with a similar development project in southwest Somervell County called Adastra. The word Adastra, Latin for "at the stars," symbolized Christensen's aspirations for the future.12 To increase revenue, the Motorway was projected to eventually extend from Cleburne to Stephenville.

May R. Christensen remained at the home in Rainbow in 1914, when John B. entered partnership with E.B. Germany in Dallas, Texas.13 They were interested in buying and reorganizing short-line railroads. The purchase and turnover of a branch coal line near Grand Saline was "most profitable."14 But financial success did not assure marital bliss. A series of sales from the Adastra development and land transfers to May and each of the Christensen children suggested a division of property that accompanied the dissolution of marital bonds.15 Mr. Christensen retained control of the Rainbow property, but the lack of capital halted the development of the Motorway. The completed portion of the roadway between Glen Rose and Rainbow generated a small amount of revenue, but hardly enough to assure continued development.16

Never satisfied to confine himself to a single endeavor, Christensen entered the lumber business in 1915. Partnership in the Christensen and Watson Lumber Company near Hemphill marked a pivotal point in Christensen's life. John B. and Homer Mitchell had loaned money to a Mr. Watson to establish a sawmill in Sabine County, Texas. The venture proved unsuccessful and Christensen went to East Texas to get the mill going and recover some of the loss. He hired Thomas Caldwell as a plane foreman and Mrs. Caldwell to operate a boarding house. Christensen obtained a post office for the lumber camp known as Tall Timbers. It provided better mail service and a little extra income on the side. Observers, familiar with his previous development projects at Rainbow and Adastra, assumed that Tall Timbers was a similar business venture.17 This misinformation was repeated in numerous news accounts of his business activities. There was nothing unusual in details of Christensen's lumber business. However, the occasion proved to be momentous. At this remote East Texas lumber camp, he met a comely lass who later became his wife.

At age sixteen, Myrtle Doris Caldwell married John B. Christensen, who was twenty-nine years her senior. The difference in age created few problems for the couple. Mrs. Christensen proved to be an enthusiastic helpmate providing inspiration and moral support. Her education, mostly received in East Texas lumber camps, was sketchy at best, so Christensen launched a program to overcome this deficiency. He bought numerous books, mostly the classics, and read to her each evening. Under his direction, her cultural development progressed rapidly.18

Christensen previously worked with Homer Mitchell in establishing Texas Employers Insurance of Texas. Following his marriage to Myrtle, the couple returned to Dallas and the insurance business for a time. In 1922, prior to the birth of their first child, the Christensens moved to Rainbow where he renewed his efforts in real estate development.19 They built cabins along the river frontage and operated a summer camp. A spring at the edge of the main channel of the river was dammed to create a swimming pool. Attractively landscaped, the facility was a haven for weary, urban residents fleeing the congestion of the city.20

A reorganization of Christensen's priorities returned conservation to the foreground of his activities. Recognizing the potential benefit of strategically located dams on the Brazos River, he launched a one-man campaign to bring about the development of these projects. He authored many articles that appeared in metropolitan newspapers throughout the state.21 Christensen also promoted his projects in the Rainbow Reminder, a monthly periodical he owned and published.22 A regular Sunday morning program aired by station KFPL in Dublin, Texas, featured a program of music and lecture-discussion conducted by Christensen, promoted water conservation and rural electrification. Transportation for Christensen's trips to Dublin was often provided by Mr. Earl Flanary of Rainbow.23 He received no support from anyone to help pay for this advertising. "He bought the air time with his own money," declared Mrs. Christensen.24

Christensen's efforts to promote water conservation, rural electrification and industry in Texas were directly related to his land development activities. The founder of Kristenstad was a restless, highly competitive man. He was respected by many, distrusted by some. Often depicted as a man forty years ahead of his time, Christensen's projects were left to be completed by others.25



Interview with Lester Maddox, Fort Worth, 29 July 1977.


Dallas Morning News, 22 January 1933.


Interview with Mrs. Myrtle Christensen, 27 July 1978.


James Christensen to his son, John B. Christensen, while attending the University of Missouri Law School, October 13, 1894, in the possession of Mrs. Christensen.


Dallas Morning News, 22 January 1933.


James Christensen to John B. Christensen, Westport, Missouri (no date), in the possession of Mrs. Christensen.


John B. Christensen to Mr. Neils Kristensen, Kjobenhavn, Denmark, April 14, 1902 (John B. altered the formal letterhead of the firm to read "Successor to J.G. Lamson"), in possession of Mrs. Christensen.


John B. Christensen to John Anderson Publishing Co., Chicago, Illinois, May 22, 1902 (May R. Christensen listed on United States Post Office letterhead as Assistant), in possession of Mrs. Christensen.


Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 26 July 1977.


Dallas Morning News, 23 January 1933.


Texas, Somervell County, Deed Records, Vol. S., p. 23.


Ibid., pp. 150-51.


Interview with Zilpha Gambrell, Rainbow, Texas, 16 June 1978.


Dallas Morning News, 22 January 1933.


Texas, Somervell County, Deed Records, Vol. P., pp. 441-97.


Interview with Zilpha Gambrell, 16 June 1978.


Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 26 July 1977 and 28 July 1978.


Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 26 July 1977.




Interview with Mrs. Billie Flanary, Rainbow, Texas, 20 July 1977.


Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 26 July 1977.


Rainbow Reminder, June 1928.


Interview with Earl Flanary, Rainbow, Texas, 20 July 1977.


Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 26 July 1977.



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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