Hood County Texas Genealogical Society





"Big Colonization Project Near Cleburne" proclaimed a headline in the November 15, 1927, issue of the Cleburne Daily Times.1 This article, announcing the development of the De Cordova Bend property, set the tone for future analysis and news interpretives concerning the settlement of Kristenstad. While many years of preparation preceded this announcement, the initial plan was to be modified with the actual development.

Scheduled to begin January 1, 1928, the Daily Times stated that the sale of this famous Brazos River peninsula to a Danish colonization society would prove to be of great benefit to the city of Cleburne as well as other towns in the territory. Intensive truck-farming, dairying and poultry-raising on a large scale were planned. Preparation for bringing the first contingent of settlers, which was to consist of about fifty families of Norwegian and Danish origin, was reportedly under way at the time of the announcement.2

Promoting the concept of a Danish settlement, John B. Christensen described the valuable attributes of the Danish and Norwegian people. The industry, thrift and superb management of these people were observed in Bosque County and recounted for the Daily Times publication. "A fair idea as to the character of these people" can be gained by traveling within a triangle formed by a line drawn from Meridian to Clifton, westerly to Cranfills Gap, then back to Meridian. Supplementing Christensen's assessment of the Bosque County residents, the Daily Times quoted Farm and Ranch magazine stating that about 3,000 people of Norse blood resided in that county. "They have been for three quarters of a century one of the major factors in the development of the country."3

Christensen's skill in promoting his project was revealed in this introductory article. By securing the endorsement and cooperation of Chambers of Commerce along the Gulf Coast, he launched an outstanding program of public relations for the colony. The coastal cities were originally targeted for support by Christensen because they were to serve as ports of entry for Danish immigrants. The Galveston Chamber of Commerce felt that the developer's idea to "co-operate with the co-operative societies of Denmark" was a good one. They expressed a confidence that people from Denmark and Norway would make good industrious citizens. "People of this calibre would do much in putting the agricultural interests of Texas where they belong." The New Orleans and Corpus Christi Chambers also went on record in support of this plan. Recounting the achievements of the thousands of Danes and Norwegians who migrated to Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas, they were credited as the main force in the development and up-building of those states. The Danes were recognized as intelligent, industrious, loyal and law-abiding people. Christensen concluded that there was little room for doubt that these people would accomplish for Johnson and Hood Counties "the same kind of good they have already wrought for Bosque County."4

Further justification for locating a settlement in the De Cordova Bend of the Brazos River was the proposed government project to dam the river in that immediate vicinity. The development of Kristenstad was closely related to Christensen's efforts to promote water conservation in the state, especially in the Brazos watershed region.5 He had made numerous trips to Austin consulting with the State Board of Water Engineers and sharing his findings. Over a period of several years, rainfall and water levels in the river channel were recorded. These figures accompanied water samples taken weekly and were sent to the State Board for analysis.6 A dam at the "narrows," where the river loops back to within one-half mile of itself, would allow barge transportation for the products of the colony to be marketed in the Granbury and Fort Worth area. A cable system was to be installed to transport the products across the river at the eastern tip of the Bend to be marketed in Cleburne. Confidence that the state of Texas and the U.S. government would carry out the conservation plan was expressed by Christensen.7

Many of the details relating to the water conservation plans reported in this article reflected the influential role of John B. Christensen in the selection of dam sites. The official maps designated that a dam be built just below the Rainbow bridge.8 This location was adjacent to an earlier development owned and promoted by Christensen. Platted in 1913 for the Rainbow Company, the project never gained the attention its successor, Kristenstad, did.9 Also, Christensen's association with Albert Sidney Burleson helps explain Burleson's initiative in regaining control of the Bend property from the Barnard heirs and others in 1917.10 Recognizing the potential, Christensen encouraged Burleson in this matter, thereby laying the foundation for his plan to develop the property at a later date. It was through the reorganization of the old Rainbow Company plus the mortgaging of his Sabine County holdings that Christensen was able to raise his share of the capital to launch the Kristenstad project.11

Possibly Burleson's influence in the state of Texas and on the national level as a member of the Wilson Cabinet resulted in the funding of the water conservation program. Several years prior to the beginning of the Kristenstad project, the state appropriated $600,000 and the federal government provided an equal amount to be used in surveying the watersheds of Texas and location of sites for construction of "great reservoirs." Definite estimates of costs for the various projects were made and favorably reported by the State Board of Water Engineers and the engineers of the federal government. As president of the Rainbow Conservation Association and as a personal friend of Burleson, Christensen had access to data concerning the state and federal conservation plans and was confident that construction on these projects would be completed with dispatch.12

Added emphasis to the importance of the Danish colonization scheme was expressed in the conclusion of the Daily Times article. The weight of the cabinet level position of the "Honorable S. A. Burleson" was placed behind the project of Kristenstad. Reviewing Burleson's recent European tour of several countries, the time spent in Denmark was reportedly for the purpose of observing the Danish system of farming and cooperative marketing. As one of the conveyors of the De Cordova property, "General Burleson" expressed complete confidence in the Danish people and the proposed project. According to Christensen, this confidence of the former Postmaster-General was a major factor in the conclusion of the land transaction.13

The proposed truck-farming, dairying and the raising of poultry became a reality in Kristenstad, while the ethnic composition of the settlement was not primarily Scandinavian as frequently reported in accounts of the settlement. It is pointless to take issue with the announced plans of the founder of the colony to locate Danish families in the Bend; yet, there is no clue as to why the original plan was not pursued. Subsequent stories, stemming partly from the Daily Times article, continued to depict Christensen as a Danish farmer who envisioned a utopia to be carved from the wilderness of Central Texas.14 The humor of these reports is that Christensen was never a farmer. "He didn't know corn seed from pumpkin seed," declared Mrs. Christensen.15 In fact, Christensen was an attorney and businessman with a broad range of experience to his credit; but the true character of the man never emerged in written accounts of his land development projects.

While the announcement of the Kristenstad project was supported by numerous quotes from John B. Christensen, the founder, the article revealed a complete lack of knowledge of the magnitude of the project and the financial arrangements of the venture. The Daily Times indicated that there were between 6,000 and 10,000 acres of land involved in the development. Also the figure of $200,000 was the estimated contractual agreement between the Burleson and Johns families and the newly reorganized Rainbow Company.16 Whatever shadow of doubt this evident lack of information concerning the fiscal arrangements might cast upon the accuracy of other information contained in the article, it is obvious that this early publicity played a major role in the manner in which Kristenstad was perceived by succeeding generations of Central Texas observers.



Reprint of an article appearing in the Cleburne Daily Times, November 15, 1927, issue. The reprint appears to be an advertising flier designed to promote circulation of that periodical. A copy of this flier was located in the possession of Eugene Connally of Glen Rose, Texas.










Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 29 June 1978.


Reprint of an article in the Cleburne Daily Times, 15 November 1927.




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


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


Texas, Hood County, Deed Records, Vol. 67, pp. 492-494; and interview with Mrs. Christensen, 29 July 1978.


Reprint of an article in the Cleburne Daily Times, 15 November 1927.






Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 26 July 1977.


Reprint of an article in the Cleburne Daily Times, 15 November 1927; and Texas, Hood County, Deed Records, Vol. 67. pp. 492-95.

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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