Preserving the Story
Mary Christian Burleson and Early Texas History
Mary Christian Burleson was an independent business woman, stock raiser and farmer, granting the lands that became Elgin, Texas. She was the wife of Thomas Christian who was killed at Wilbarger Massacre, second wife of James Burleson Sr. who was a hero of the Grass Fight, and stepmother of Gen. Edward Burleson who was commander at the siege of Bexar and Vice President of the Republic of Texas 1841-44. She probably had significant influence in the Texas' early history.
Despite enthusiasm regarding the history of Texas, the lives of women on the Texas Frontier are undervalued. Scholarship over the past 30 years has established that women’s roles on the frontier were an integral part of Texas history, but women's stories often weren't recorded. The name Mary Christian Burleson only appears a half dozen or so times in state and regional histories. Diligent research into documents and artifacts informs us that there was great richness and a variety of experiences for women on the frontier. What short mentions are made of Mary paint a portrait of a strong woman of many convictions. She was a committed mother, leader, teacher, pioneer, and land manager.
Much of what we know the life of Mary Christian Burleson must be drawn from the history of her first husband Thomas Christian and her second husband James Burleson, Sr. Mary’s story can be carefully extrapolated from the lives of her husbands. It is ironic that so little is written about Mary, considering her close relationship with some of the most championed characters in the history of Austin’s Little Colony, the Republic, and Statehood. The histories written of the men important in Mary’s life sheds light on the interactions between Native Americans and Anglos, slavery and freedom, education, early life on the frontier, farming, and fledgling towns.
Today we are faced with an amazing possibility. Her story of migration, hardship, and success is worthy of preservation and celebration. Through the continued research and preservation of Mary’s 1847 home, we gain a unique insight not only into some of the most important periods of Texas and US history, but also into the untold stories of women. As a community, we are presented with a unique opportunity to recover rare details existing only in the context that we are so fortunate to possess: her homestead in its original location.
Citation: Embree, Cristin L. A History of Mary Christian Burleson, In Mary Christian Burleson, Historical Background, Homestead Site Chronology, Development and Use.