Mary Christian Burleson Homestead
By Byron Howard
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 had two more children. 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 the Christians moved north to Webbers Fort on the Colorado River.
Thomas Christian was scalped and murdered in 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.
At Mina in 1835 Mary Christian Burleson and 10 other women, including Cecilie, a slave of the Samuel Craft family, organized what some believe to be the second oldest Methodist Church in Texas. Mrs. Burleson, by then a widow, fled in the Runaway Scrape with the Jenkins and Burleson families. In 1840 she moved with her seven children 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 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 townsite 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. Mary Christian Burleson died on May 27, 1870, in Bastrop and was buried at Christian-Burleson Cemetery on the Christian league.
John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Elgin Historical Committee, Elgin: A History of Elgin, Texas, 1872–1972 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1972). Kenneth Kesselus, History of Bastrop County, Texas, Before Statehood (Austin: Jenkins, 1986). Bill Moore, Bastrop County, 1691–1900 (Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1977).
The Mary Christian Burleson home. Photo taken in 2015 by William Angie Smith IV.
Historic homestead awarded grant for repairs
By the Mary Christian Burleson Foundation
August 21, 2019
The Mary Christian Burleson Foundation has been awarded a grant of $158,968 by the Texas Historical Commission to repair and restore the homestead of Mary Christian Burleson.
"We are honored and thrilled to receive this grant to move forward with repair and restoration of the homestead and thrilled to receive this grant to move forward with repair and restoration of the homestead of the Grandmother of Elgin, Mary Christian Burleson," said Sue Beckwith, president of the Mary Christian Burleson Foundation. "We are a small group of volunteers committed to saving this critical piece of Elgin's rich history."
"Mary is my great-great-grandmother and my family has enjoyed working with the Foundation to restore her homestead," said Shelby Smith of Shreveport, Louisiana. "The strength and tenacity of the women of Texas has been overlooked for too long and this homestead will commemorate and honor their contribution -- a contribution of which my family and I are extremely proud."
We thank Sue Beckwith for her diligence and enthusiasm in pursuing the restoration of the Mary Christian Burleson home.
This grant is the third received from the Texas Historical Commission (THC) and will fund repair of damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. the group was working on the final stabilization of the structure when Harvey hit, and the winds buckled the 150-year-old roof structure and blew siding off the building, allowing rain to damage the interior.
Former Elgin Mayor Marc Holm and Foundation board member credits Burleson descendants and committed Elgin residents with the continuing success of this restoration. The Mary Christian Burleson Foundation has been awarded a grant of $158,968 by the Texas Historical Commission to repair and restore the homestead of Mary Christian Burleson.
Mary's descendants and committed Elgin residents have really carried this project, donating time and money to preserve their family's contribution to Texas history," Holm said.
Bastrop county Commissioner and founding board member Donna Snowden is thrilled to see the progress.
"Mary Christian Burleson was in many ways the Grandmother of Elgin," said Commissioner Snowden. "Her family donated much of the land on which present day Elgin sits. By restoring her homestead, we are preserving a most important piece of Elgin's history -- OUR history."
"This restored homestead will draw visitors to Elgin boosting economic activity to downtown businesses," said Molly alexander, downtown business owner and member of the Elgin Economic Development Corporation. "The homestead will be a place for Elgin residents to learn about history and agriculture, and celebrate the strength of Texas women."
To fully complete the historic restoration, the Foundation must raise another $125,000 in addition to this grant from the THC.
"The descendants are doing their part and I'd love to see more involvement of Elgin residents to continue our momentum and complete this restoration in 2020."
Photos of the Mary Christian Burleson home: The first photo was taken prior to work on the home. Other photos feature interior furnishings in the home. The last photo was taken following work on the home to stabilize it in preparation for restoration.
Photos by William Angie Smith IV.