Robert Justus Kleberg, leading German settler, son of Lucas and Veronica (Meier) Kleberg, was born on September 10, 1803, in Herstelle, Westphalia, and named Johann Christian Justus Robert. His father was a prosperous merchant. Kleberg was educated in the classics at the Gymnasium at Holzminden and then attended the University of Göttingen, where he studied law and received a J.D. degree. After graduating he was appointed a justice of assizes in Nieheim and received several other judicial appointments. He married Rosalie von Roeder (see KLEBERG, ROSALIE) near Paderborn, Prussia, in 1834. They emigrated to Texas that year with their families and settled in Cat Spring in 1836. In the Republic of Texas Kleberg was associate commissioner and president of the Board of Land Commissioners (1837–38), justice of the peace (1841), and chief justice of Austin County (1846). In 1847 the Klebergs moved with the Roeder families to Meyersville, where Kleberg was elected county commissioner in 1848 and chief justice in 1853. He was also a leading Lateiner (see LATIN SETTLEMENTS).
Kleberg fought in the battle of San Jacinto in Capt. Moseley Baker's company and subsequently served as one of the Texas guards around Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna. After the revolution, he volunteered for six months' duty in the Texas army. In DeWitt County he was a member of John York's retaliatory campaign against the Indians on Escondido Creek. He is credited with saving German botanist Ferdinand J. Lindheimer's life when Lindheimer was wounded in the Brazos River bottom near Cat Spring. Kleberg was a loyal member of the Democratic party and supported the cause of the Confederacy. When the Civil War broke out he raised a company of militia but because of his advanced age was not received into active service. He had no official religious affiliation but like most Lateiner had his firm individual moral convictions. Robert and Rosa raised their own seven children in addition to several young Roeder relatives. Their youngest son, Robert Justus Kleberg, became the head of the King Ranch in 1885.
Kleberg died on October 23, 1888, at his daughter's farm near Cuero and was buried there. He was a longtime member of the Texas Veterans Association, and his grave is marked by a stone monument in the form of a soldier's tent with the words "Remember the Alamo" carved at the base. Kleberg County was named in his honor in 1913; a marker at his homesite near Cuero was erected in 1936.
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John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Zachary T. Fulmore, History and Geography of Texas As Told in County Names (Austin: Steck, 1915; facsimile, 1935). Kleberg Family Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Crystal Sasse Ragsdale, ed., The Golden Free Land: The Reminiscences and Letters of Women on an American Frontier (Austin: Landmark, 1976).
Founders and Pioneers
Politics and Government
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Crystal Sasse Ragsdale,
“Kleberg, Robert Justus [I],”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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