Hood County Texas Genealogical Society





The dreams of agrarian prosperity during the 1920's turned into a nightmare in the 1930's. Depression misery, shared by rural and urban residents alike, prompted a large number of citizens to seek relief in various forms of socio-economic organization. The community of Kristenstad became a beacon of hope to many through the romanticized accounts of the "collectivist" activities there. Feature articles appearing in local metropolitan newspapers were picked up by the Associated Press and given wide distribution throughout the United States.1 These early accounts, which promoted Kristenstad as a model by which the economic malaise could be overcome, tended to perpetuate the myth of collectivism in the development.

One of the earliest accounts extolling the merits of the Hood County community appeared in the August 29, 1931, edition of the Texas Weekly. Examining the causes of economic breakdown in the state, C.M. Hammond pointed to Kristenstad as a model by which economic stability could be regained. He concluded that the old economic structure in Texas had "fallen around our heads and buried us" primarily because its foundation was too weak to support it in times of stress. Thus the author felt that rebuilding should begin with the development of self-supporting and self-sufficient communities. The plans and aspirations of the community of Kristenstad represented the only foundation upon which it would be safe to build the economic future of Texas.2

Drawing upon the transcendentalist doctrine of self-sufficiency, Hammond carefully outlined the main characteristics of the settlement. The first lesson taught new settlers was that of doing things for themselves. The family was urged to produce as many crops and other goods as possible for their own needs. Only then were they to produce a surplus of products to market. The success of the family unit was the basis of success for the community as a whole.3

With acceptance into Kristenstad, the family became an integral part of the community. So long as these members were willing to do their part, they were not allowed to fail or suffer. For that reason, every prospective settler was closely examined as to his character and ability, since Kristenstad did not want to admit any citizen that might abuse the privileges extended. Prospective settlers that qualified were then allowed to select a tract of land suitable in size and situated to his needs from any of the unoccupied land at forty dollars per acre. No down payment was required with twenty years allowed for payment at six percent per annum charged on the unpaid balance. Newcomers were encouraged to use what money they might have in building improvements on their farms. Even interest payments were suspended when necessary to assist new settlers to become firmly established.4

Advised that the success of his venture hinged upon his ability to keep the cost of clearing the land to a minimum, Christensen indicated that instead of an expense, the project should produce a profit for the settlers.5 A sawmill from Christensen's Sabine County property was moved to Kristenstad and installed.6 Each settler could fell trees on his property, haul them to the sawmill, and for a small sum, get enough lumber to build his home. Only nails, roofing and windows were needed from outside the community. The waste from the sawing process was converted to charcoal. A ready market for this product to railroads, stores, makers of chicken feed and even medicinal suppliers provided additional income for the settlers.7

Other projects in Kristenstad that were already in the process of implementation, as well as those in various stages of planning, received Hammond's endorsement. Commenting on the merits of thrift and complete utilization of available resources, he described the procedures of a small chair factory that had recently been established. Wood that was too small for lumber but too good to burn into charcoal was used to make old-fashioned straight-back and rocking-chairs with cowhide bottoms. The cowhide came from cattle slaughtered in the Bend. The chairs were sold in substantial quantities in fourteen states besides Texas. This account of the chair factory vividly reflected the blending of fact and fiction that became the saga of Kristenstad.8

Another project under construction at that time that was expected to pay its own expenses, as well as provide a service for the community, was the printing plant. It was built to accommodate the publication of the recently acquired Southern Dairyman. A twenty-page, monthly magazine with a circulation of 25,000, this periodical would provide advertising for local industries and thereby pay its own expenses while attracting buyers for the surplus production of the settlement.9

Future plans for the community included installation of a creamery and an ice plant. This would provide a profitable market for surplus dairy products once the goal of five hundred cows in the bend had been reached. A grist mill was scheduled to be in operation at an early date to grind the grain for livestock feed as well as cornmeal for household use. Lime kilns were envisioned and the abundant supply of sand, gravel and native rock would permit the building of more permanent, sturdy buildings. An ambitious road and bridge program was to be financed by the creation of a road district. A bridge across the Brazos on the northern side of the community would furnish a shorter, more direct route to Fort Worth and facilitate marketing activities of the settlement.10

To coordinate the business activities of the community, Christensen organized three separate corporations. The Marketing Association sought buyers for the surplus farm produce and the products of the industries. In addition, this company bought the supplies that were needed from the outside world and ran the commissary. The Cooperative Association financed the purchase of all types of livestock for individual farmers. The Loan Company provided financial backing for the Cooperative Association and was affiliated with the Federal Intermediate Credit Bank at Houston. The members of the community were permitted to buy shares in any or all of these associations as well as the different industries located there. Hammond reported that approximately two-thirds of the men owned shares in at least one of these financial organizations.11

Much of the confusion about the socio-economic organization was translated into the lifestyle of the community. In this system, the men could work in the industries when they had free time away from their farming duties. No man was required to work, but they could earn between two and two and one-half dollars a day in their spare time. While realizing all of the supposed benefits of a communistic or socialistic plan, this method avoided all the weakness of a collectivist society by providing each individual a reward in proportion to his own initiative. However, it was the mention of communists and socialists that made the greatest impression upon the readers, rather than the explanation of advantages of a unique system given by Hammond.

Another benefit to be derived from the agricultural-industrial composition of the community was the training opportunities afforded the young people. The experience gained working in Kristenstad would prepare them for life inside the colony or outside if they chose to establish themselves elsewhere. To emphasize the unique nature of Kristenstad, Hammond quoted the founder of the settlement saying there was no "ism" in the community but "pure Americanism."12 This statement was often parroted in subsequent articles, but the emphasis on Americanism was lost and the elements of cooperative effort were stressed until the general concensus among news analysts was that Kristenstad was indeed a collectivist society.

Other aspects of the lifestyle in Kristenstad were revealed in community interests and recreational activities. A non-sectarian Sunday School was held each Sunday with church services following. Preachers of any religious affiliation were welcomed to direct these services and bring their message to the people. The new, rock school building housed the Sunday services as well as served as a community center. Lectures and demonstrations on such topics as grafting papershell pecans onto the native stock in the area and proper methods of livestock feeding were provided to strengthen the productivity of the settlement. Another aspect of the cohesive nature of the community was the organization of a baseball club. Competing with clubs from area communities, it tallied an impressive record by winning fourteen of sixteen games the first year it was organized.13

Hammond's concluding comments reflected the transcendentalist theme of the dignity of manual labor.14 Kristenstad was commended for utilizing the ability and energy of its citizens rather than basing its prosperity on factors over which they had no control. By merging industry and agriculture, Kristenstad was destined to make of itself the "ideal community of the future."15

The feature article by C.M. Hammond in the August 29, 1931, edition of the Texas Weekly was soon followed by coverage in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. "Kristenstad Fulfills Modern Utopia Hopes; Colony on Brazos Has Own Store and Money" headlined the article by C.L. Richhart in the October 11, 1931, edition of this periodical.16 Repeating much of the information and misinformation in the Texas Weekly analysis, Richhart was the source most frequently quoted in later accounts of the settlement. Beginning his article with background information about the founder, Richhard displayed a lack of knowledge or complete disregard for fact.

Christensen's past career was thoroughly misrepresented. Richhart stated that Christensen envisioned a practical utopia while the "Danish colonizer" was strolling through the woods of De Cordova Bend in 1928.17 However, Christensen's interest in the community preceded the date designated by Richhart by several years. Christensen's previous influence was reflected in records of the Common School District No. 34 formerly called De Cordova. The school name was changed to Kristenstad for the 1926-27 school term.18

Other examples of distorted information about the founder and his business activities concern the nature of Christensen's Sabine County lumber business and his development project at Rainbow. The lumber camp near the present day Toledo Bend Lake was perceived to be an attempt, in 1923, to establish a Scandinavian farm community. Richhart reported that the water turned out bad and thus Christensen was forced to search for another location. Attracted to the Brazos River area because of the prominence it had been given in the State Conservation Project, Christensen supposedly selected a site adjacent to another bend in the river and named it Rainbow. Then realizing the need for additional space, Christensen found the land in De Cordova Bend which was to become the site of Kristenstad.19 This was a romantic account indeed, but the community of Rainbow had been named long before Christensen's arrival and the subsequent organization of the Rainbow Company in 1913.20 This development project (which will be discussed in detail in a later chapter) preceded Christensen's venture in the lumber business in East Texas which dated from about 1915.21

The first published mention of the U.S. Post Office at Kristenstad and how the community was named is also inaccurate. According to Richhart, the Post Office Department was responsible for the name of the settlement. Located in the heart of the community in the same building with the community store and the office of the notary public, it was named Kristenstad in honor of the founder of the colony.22 In Denmark, the Christensen family name was spelled Kristensen and meant the son of Christian.23 By adding the suffix "stad" to Kristen - Kristenstad - the name means "the home of Christian."24 However, the community was being called Kristenstad as early as 1926, at least five years prior to the establishment of the Post Office in 1931.25 The community was named in honor Christensen. The Post Office assumed the community name.

While Richhard reiterated much of the previously published misinformation about the chair factory and other proposed industries in the Bend, he did provide a credible account of the system of monetary exchange. This "unique feature" by which the farmers were financed from season to season was treated objectively in his column. He explained that instead of having the settlers charge their supplies or borrow cash and sign notes, Christensen used a system of merchandise checks in place of American currency. The metal checks were exchangeable only through the Kristenstad business agencies or between residents of the community. Each farmer was issued the amount of checks needed for immediate use and signed for that amount.26 What Richhart failed to mention was that Christensen had "picked up this idea" from the East Texas lumber camps where he operated a commissary and also established a similar facility at Rainbow where these tokens were used as a medium of exchange as early as 1915.27 Ironically, the most accurate information in Richhart's article was destined to be distorted in later stories about the community.

As depression woes deepened, interest in the development of Kristenstad increased. The Dallas Morning News declared in bold headlines: "Depression Merely News Item To One Little Texas Community." Appearing in the April 3, 1932 issue of the News, this article repeated the familiar story of dreams inspired by the fleur-de-lis shaped plateau surrounded by a large loop of the Brazos River. However, the local currency system outlined in this article differed significantly from Richhart's description. No mention was made about the origin of the currency and the observation that there was "never any shortage of money" underscored the acceptability of the system within the community. The cohesiveness that prevailed among the settlers attested to the fact that the people liked the business arrangements and lifestyle of the community. The writer observed none of the fear that frequently gripped the individual family, dependent only on its own resources. In Kristenstad, the entire community would help in case of illness or distress. The author concluded that while Kristenstad might not be "a utopia," it was far ahead of many industrial-farming communities that possessed greater wealth.28

Widespread interest in the Hood County project continued in 1932. Editorial comment from the pages of the New York Times stressed the unique nature of the colony. The inhabitants were imbued with the idea of building slowly and steadily, a community of independent farmer-industrialists, free from sensationalism, instability or any symptoms of "boom" growth. Cogent messages from Kristenstad supposedly would appear in The Interpreter, a monthly magazine to be published in the community. According to the prospectus of the forthcoming periodical received in New York, the magazine would expound the theories of successful community organization and relate some of the incidents connected with the founding of a new town. The preliminary issue of The Interpreter sought to dispel any notion that observers may have had that the community represented a movement toward "seclusion, monasticism or world-renunciation."29 The need to clarify the nature of the community organization indicated the range and extent of distortion contained in stories being circulated about the settlement. Despite the efforts to project an image free from sensationalism, ensuing articles expanded the myth.

A series of four articles appearing in the Fort Worth Press, beginning November 1, 1932, added a new dimension to the myth of Kristenstad. "Tiny Kingdom of Kristenstad, World Within Itself, Nestles in Bend of River 45 Miles From Fort Worth," declared the front-page headlines of the first article. C. L. Douglas, author of the series, described the community as having the "sound of an old world principality, the kind you read about in story books." He asserted that it was, in fact, an economic principality ruled by a man whose powers might be likened to those of a limited monarch.30 However, the kingdom was basically communal, according to Douglas, who made no attempt to reconcile these conflicting ideas. With time, the use of the term "tiny kingdom" became more frequent as observers sought to explain the socio-economic nature of the community.

The monetary system in Kristenstad proved to be the most surprising aspect of the "communal municipality" to Douglas. He reported that the "home used" currency had become the recognized medium of exchange with Christensen himself serving as "comptroller of the currency." Being valid at the commissary owned by Christensen, it was accepted without question by workers employed in the various community building projects.31

The many roles played by Christensen evoked comments of amazement from Douglas. Besides serving as "comptroller of the currency," Christensen served as postmaster, mayor and "law west of the narrows."32 In the latter capacity, the settlement of a minor disruption was achieved through calm, yet quick, action by Mr. Christensen. The peaceful community was upset by a quarrel between two men in which one of the combatants received a blow to the head with a piece of timber. Witnesses to the altercation sought out Christensen asking if he wanted to settle the matter locally or should they send for the county sheriff. Christensen promptly assembled a group from the community to serve as a jury, meeting at the school house. Evidence was presented and the blame was fixed on the assailant. The man that wielded the timber was "shipped out." The verdict stood, and the exiled party was never to be seen in Kristenstad after that time.33

The source of information that prompted Douglas to travel to the geographically isolated community of Kristenstad was The Interpreter. Having received two copies of the new periodical in the mail, he was very impressed with the quality of the magazine. "A magazine of good things," the slogan printed on the front cover, was an apt description. According to Douglas, The Interpreter contained good literature, sane criticism, and thought-provoking essays in the fields of philosophy, religion, economics and politics. It seemed incongruous to Douglas that a magazine of this quality could be produced "in the depths of a wilderness" in a one-man shop, on a job press that was powered by the motor of an old Ford car. It was only after Douglas entered the print shop that he learned the identity of the editor of the magazine. He was Peter Molyneaux of Dallas, who also edited and published the Texas Weekly which was read throughout the state of Texas.34

Douglas' tour of the colony revealed people of many ethnic origins working together with Christensen to make the community self-sustaining. Dirk Rudy from Holland was the third generation of a family of cheese-makers. He was to be in charge of a cheese factory that was under construction at that time. Rudy was also a shoe-maker. Julius Kromberg from Riga, Latvia, was a wood-carver. He had been a resident of the United States for twenty one years, but had come to Kristenstad about 1930, from Boston where he worked for a company that made church furniture. Pictured with a decorative four-poster bed that he carved from native cedar, Kromberg stated that he also worked as a carpenter, a stone mason, as well as in one of the industrial plants of the community.35

John H. Foss, a native of Norway, was storekeeper of the commissary and assistant postmaster. Having resided in Kristenstad for two years, Foss, age 73, looked forward to many additional productive years in the prosperous community. Responding to Douglas' questions about the depression, he declared, "not here, but we hear you are having one out beyond the narrows of the river."36

A discussion of other ethnic groups was included in Douglas' articles. The country of Bulgaria was represented by James Raicoff, a printer that came to the United States prior to World War I. William Wick, a carpenter, and his wife, a trained nurse, were of Swedish descent. Ed Haas and his family represented Germany. The Norwegian family of Neal H. Brynie completed the tally in 1932 of residents in Kristenstad coming from foreign countries of the world.37

While numerous families came to Kristenstad from surrounding communities, Douglas mentioned only two of these in his series of articles. Mrs. Maude Smith from the Polytechnic section of Fort Worth served as guide for Douglas during his visit. Francis Smith, daughter of Mrs. Smith, worked in the print shop as assistant to Peter Molyneaux. Miss Tovrea Garnett, teacher in the community, came from the community of Mambrino, located across the southern part of the loop of the Brazos that encircled Kristenstad.38

With the emphasis of this series of articles placed upon the foreign origin of some of the residents, the myth that Kristenstad was a Scandanavian colony was advanced. Douglas' use of the terms "tiny kingdom" and "communal municipality," coupled with his description of an old world atmosphere, added to the distorted image of the community.

The early news accounts of Kristenstad significantly contributed to the collectivist myth surrounding the development. It is true there were elements of transcendental though evident in the organization and operation of the settlement such as the concepts of self-sufficiency, the dignity of manual labor, as well as the value of co-operative effort. Although mentioned, the capitalist concepts of private property and the profit motive were played down in these articles, giving the reader the distinct impression that Kristenstad was indeed a utopian society. While much of the world experienced economic depression, the glowing reports of building and general economic health in Kristenstad persuaded many that a "noble experiment" in Hood County was providing a pattern by which the rest of the country could regain its equilibrium.



John Christensen to Svend Waendelin, Archivist, Dan-American Archives Society, Aalberg, Denmark, 3 February 1936, carbon copy of the letter in possession of Mrs. Myrtle Christensen, Dallas, Texas.


C. M. Hannond, "Kristenstad: A Practical Utopia," Texas Weekly, August 29, 1931, pp. 5, 6, and 9.








Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 28 July 1978.


Hammond, Texas Weekly, p. 6.


Facts about the chair business will be recounted in Part III.


Hammond, Texas Weekly, p. 6.










Thrall and Hibbard, A Handbook to Literature, pp. 492-493.


Hammond, Texas Weekly, p. 9.


C.L. Richhart, "Kristenstad Fulfills Modern Utopia Hopes; Colony on Brazos Has Own Store and Money," Fort Worth Star Telegram, October 11, 1931, sec. 1, part 2, p. 1.




Texas, Hood County, School Attendance and Grade Records, located in the office of the County Judge, ex officio County Superintendent of Schools.


Richhart, Fort Worth Star Telegram, sec. 1, part 2, p. 1.


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


Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 28 July 1978.


Richhart, Fort Worth Star Telegram.


Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 29 June 1978.




As a note of explanation, the spelling of the surname Christensen is also spelled Kristensen. The family dropped the old world spelling of their name, Kristensen, before the turn of the century. John B. used Christensen in business dealings in Somervell, Johnson, Dallas and Sabine Counties. Kristensen was used in connection with his Hood County transactions. The news coverage began using the old world spelling in 1931. Correspondence relating to the Hood County project also bore the old world signature. The change in spelling may have been a source of confusion for his children as county school records reflect a different spelling of the surname from year to year.


Richhart, Fort Worth Star Telegram, sec. 1, part 2, p. 1; and interview with Mrs. Christensen, 28 July 1978.


Interview with Mrs. Christensen, 28 July 1978; and Mrs. Gambrell, 16 June 1978.


Newspaper clipping located in Cleburne Library, periodical unknown, but reprinted from The Dallas Morning News, 3 April 1932.


New York Times, 23 August 1932, p. 18.


C.L. Douglas, "Tiny Kingdom of Kristenstad, World Within Itself, Nestles in Bend of River 45 Miles From Fort Worth," Fort Worth Press, 15 November 1932.

















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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