Burleson, Mary R. B. Christian (1795–1870)

By: Byron Howard

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

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 (see WILBARGER, JOSIAH PUGH). 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 Burleson and ten 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 Burleson died on May 27, 1870, in Bastrop and was buried at Christian-Burleson Cemetery on the Christian league.

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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).
  • Women
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • Pioneers
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War
  • Reconstruction
  • Central Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Byron Howard, “Burleson, Mary R. B. Christian,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/burleson-mary-r-b-christian.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994

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