Preserving the Story

Overview

For all its historical significance, the legacy of women on the Texas frontier is largely missing from the available documentation. Despite limited records, we know that Mary Christian Burleson played a key role in the history of our state.

As one of the earliest settlers in Bastrop and Elgin, and through her relationships with some of Texas' most championed characters, she helped create communities which last to this day. She moved to Texas with her first husband in 1832 when she was thirty-seven, and they settled in Bastrop with their four children as one of the fifteen original families in the Little Colony founded by Stephen F. Austin.   

Educated in the comfort of Virginia, Mary was well suited to bring education and culture to the new frontier; and despite the difficulty of settling an unknown territory, she was instrumental in its development. She did much of it alone, because she was widowed a year after she moved to Texas, remarried two years later, and lost her second husband after he fought in the first major campaign of the Texas Revolution. She became the stepmother of his adult sons, most notably Edward Burleson who would go on to become Commander in Chief of the Texas Army and Vice President of the Republic of Texas between 1841-1844. As a single mother, Mary courageously moved her family to the edge of a settlement in what is now modern-day Elgin. She was three miles from her nearest neighbors.

The homestead we are preserving was built in 1847. It is the oldest Elgin home still standing and remains a symbol of Mary Christian Burleson's enduring legacy - and the hard work and sacrifice of all early Texas settlers.

A Brief Overview of Major Events in 
Stephen F. Austin’s “Little Colony” 
And Mary Christian Burleson, 1827-1845 

  • 1827 Stephen F. Austin establishes the “Little Colony” as a buffer between the hostile Indians to the north and the Anglo settlements to the south.
  • 1832 Thomas Christian receives a land grant in the Little Colony. In April, Thomas moves his family to Texas and settles in Bastrop.
  • 1833 Christian and his family leave Bastrop for Webber’s Fort where they make preparations to move to their land grant, but in August Thomas is killed by Indians. Mary and her children move from Webber’s to Hornsby’s Fort.
  • 1834 Mary marries James Burleson, Sr. at Hornsby’s Bend and moves to Burleson property near Bastrop. James and Mary’s daughter Elizabeth born.
  • 1835 Conflict with Mexico breaks out in October. In late November, James Burleson, Sr. falls ill after participating in the “Grass Fight” at the siege of San Antonio.
  • 1836 James Burleson, Sr. dies at his daughter’s home on January 3. In February Santa Anna enters Texas, Mary and her family flee with other settlers in the Runaway Scrape, returns after the Texan victory at San Jacinto.
  • 1837 Massacre of the James Goacher family by Indians.
  • 1838 Cordova Rebellion, conflict with the Cherokees.
  • 1839 Jacob Burleson killed by Indians in the Battle of Brushy. James Gilliland, who may have been Mary’s pastor, was also killed.
  • 1840 Mary and her children move to small cabin on Thomas Christian grant but unsettled conditions on the frontier force the family to abandon the home.
  • “The Great Comanche Raid” and the Battle of Plum Creek that summer give evidence of the Indian threat. Edward Burleson commands Bastrop militia unit at Plum Creek.
  • 1842 Mexican armies cross the Rio Grande, seize Bexar, and claim Texas as Mexican territory. Edward Burleson raises militia company to oppose the intrusion.
  • 1845 Texas Statehood

    - Prepared for the MCBPDF Board of Directors, December 12, 2015 by Dr. Harry Krenek -

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Mary Christian Burleson Preservation & Development Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  P.O. Box 601, Elgin, Texas  78621

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