Mary Christian Burleson Cemetery
The cemetery is located on part of the original land grant of Thomas Christian, the first husband of Mary Christian Burleson and one of the original settlers in the area. On fenced private property about two miles northeast of downtown Elgin, Texas, the cemetery is not visible from the public road. The cemetery was fenced by the Boy Scouts in the 1950s and is maintained by volunteers from the Elgin community.
Shown above is the entrance sign before clean-up and the grave of Mary Christian Burleson.
Thanks to the efforts of William Angie Smith and others, the Texas Historical Commission has approved a historical marker to be placed in the easement of Red Town Road, near the Mary Christian Burleson Cemetery, to acknowledge and to recognize this history of this site. Special thanks to Donna Snowden of the BCHC for her assistance!
MARY CHRISTIAN BURLESON CEMETERY
Mary Christian Burleson came to Texas in April 1832 with her husband, Thomas Christian, and five children. They settled in Mina (Bastrop), built one of the first houses there, and obtained one of the 15 original titles to a league of land in Austin’s Little Colony. Soon after arrival she gave birth to a sixth child – a daughter. Thomas Christian was one of the two men killed in 1833 at the Wilbarger Massacre. In 1834 Mary married James Burleson, Sr. and they had one child – a daughter, but James Burleson died in January 1836 after a brief illness. Mary was a true Texas pioneer woman – quickly outliving two husbands shortly after arriving in Texas, then raising and providing for a family on her own on the prairie until her death in 1870. Mary Christian Burleson and her descendants, including children and grandchildren, are buried in the cemetery that is located on land that was originally part of her land grant.
BURLESON, MARY R. B. CHRISTIAN (1795–1870). Mary Randolph Buchanan Christian Burleson, pioneer settler, daughter of John and Nancy (Wright) Buchanan, was born in Wytheville, Virginia, on March 1, 1795. She married Thomas Christian in 1822 in Kentucky, gave birth to three children, and traveled to the Illinois frontier where she two more children were born. While in Missouri, the family joined immigrants headed to San Felipe de Austin in Texas, where they arrived in April 1832. They settled in Mina (Bastrop), built one of the first houses there, and obtained a grant of a league in Austin’s Little Colony. There, Mary Christian gave birth to a daughter. In 1833 Thomas, Mary and their children moved north to Webbers Fort on the Colorado River. Thomas Christian was scalped and killed while out surveying in what became known as the Wilbarger Massacre in August 1833. Mary Christian and her children moved to Reuben Hornsby's fort, where in 1834, she married James Burleson, Sr. They had one daughter.1 Mary was widowed a second time in January 1836 when James Burleson, Sr. became ill and died after having fought in the Grass Fight – the first major campaign of the Texas Revolution.2
At Mina, in 1835, Mary Burleson and ten other women, including Cecilie, a slave of the Samuel Craft family, organized what some believe to be the second oldest Methodist congregation in Texas. Shortly after becoming a widow, Mary fled with her children and the Jenkins and Burleson families in the Runaway Scrape, the name Texans applied to the flight from their homes when Antonio López de Santa Anna began his attempted conquest of Texas in February 1836. In 1840, she and her seven children moved to a newly built log house on Thomas Christian’s league. Their house, at the edge of the settlement, was the first at the site of present-day Elgin. They moved back to Bastrop, however, after their house was ransacked during an Indian attack. Mary Burleson returned to the area in 1847, built another house and remained there until her death. In the 1860s, she and her stepson, Jonathan Burleson, granted a right-of-way to the Houston and Texas Central Railway route through their headright leagues and land for the town site of Elgin (1872). A one-room log schoolhouse called Burleson Branch School operated between Bastrop and Elgin around 1870. With Mary’s encouragement, her sons-in-law obtained a charter for the school as the Burleson Male and Female Academy in 1873. In this sparsely settled area, the school was never well attended; it closed when a school was organized in Elgin.1
Mary died on May 27, 1870, and was buried in the family cemetery less than a mile from her homestead in Elgin. Although Mary was married twice, both marriages were to men who played a significant part in Texas history. Thomas Christian gathered his family and took a chance on a new life in Texas by joining Stephen Austin’s Little Colony. Unfortunately, he only lived in Texas about 15 months before he was one of two men killed during the Wilbarger Massacre on a surveying trip near Austin. Mary’s second husband was James Burleson, Sr., father to Edward Burleson who would go on to become the Commander in Chief of the Texas Army and the Vice President of Texas from 1841 to 1844.
She was the mother of seven children who became leaders in the growth of Texas and many in the Elgin Community including the first mayor, local judges, teachers, business owners and educated men and women who called her Grandma Burleson.2 Two of Mary’s great grandsons who were born in Elgin – A. Frank Smith and W. Angie Smith – became Methodist Bishops of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
In July 2017 the Cemetery was designated a Historic Texas Cemetery by the Texas Historical Commission.
1. Texas State Historical Association, - Burleson, Mary R. B. Christian
2. Embree, Cristin L. - A History of Mary Christian Burleson, In Mary Christian Burleson, Historical Background, Homestead Site Chronology, Development and Use.
To read Mary's Story, click here.
To learn more about Mary Christian Burleson and her homestead, click here.
For information about the Mary Christian Burleson Homestead Preservation and Development Foundation, click here.
Be sure to stop by the Elgin Depot Museum at 14 Depot Street in downtown Elgin, Texas to see their collection on Mary Christian Burleson or call the museum at 512.285.2000.
Inscription approved August 23, 2018 by Cindye Ginsel, BCHC Chair. Awaiting marker.
MARY CHRISTIAN BURLESON CEMETERY
MARY (BUCHANAN) CHRISTIAN BURLESON (1795–1870) WAS MARRIED TO THOMAS CHRISTIAN (1795–1833) AND JAMES BURLESON (1775–1836), PROMINENT MEN WHO PLAYED SIGNIFICANT ROLES IN TEXAS HISTORY. HER SEVEN CHILDREN WENT ON TO BECOME MAYORS, JUDGES, TEACHERS AND BUSINESS OWNERS IN ELGIN. MARY, HER FIRST HUSBAND, THOMAS AND THEIR FIVE CHILDREN WERE SOME OF THE FIRST SETTLERS IN AUSTIN’S LITTLE COLONY IN 1832. WITH THE HELP OF TEN OTHER WOMEN, IN 1835 MARY FORMED ONE OF THE OLDEST METHODIST CONGREGATIONS IN TEXAS. MARKED BY FIELDSTONE GRAVE MARKERS, SHE AND AT LEAST TEN OF HER DESCENDANTS INCLUDING HER CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN ARE BURIED AT THIS CEMETERY, WHICH IS LOCATED ON HER FAMILY’S ORIGINAL LAND GRANT.