Hood County Texas Genealogical Society





The image of Kristenstad as a socialist society continued to grow in the mid-1930's, especially after another of Douglas' articles appeared in the Fort Worth Press. It was titled "Kristenstad Offers Haven to Jobless," and dual subtitles appeared on either side of a picture of John B. Christensen proclaiming, "Brazos Economic Colony Breaks Isolation With Revolutionary Plan" and "Community Founder Here With Plan to Give Men Chance to 'Rebuild'." The intent of the article was to inform the unemployed in Dallas and Fort Worth of job opportunities in the Bend.

A plan presented by Christensen to H.B. Bowden, head of the Community Chest, and Roscoe Ady of the Chamber of Commerce in Fort Worth, would provide in the village of Kristenstad an opportunity for jobless men to build a home, make a living and regain lost pride and self-respect. Christensen proposed that a small loan fund be raised by cooperating welfare agencies in Fort Worth and when an unfortunate family requested assistance that the head of the household be offered a plot of ground in Kristenstad and a loan that would enable him to get a start. Loans would be extended from a revolving fund established by those agencies and administered by an independent loan company. Money for supplies -- for example, $15 a month -- would be provided while the family constructed a home in Kristenstad from the native materials, and credit to buy a cow, some pigs and chickens would allow the family a new beginning. Once established, the family could work at one of the community industries. Repayment of the loan would be made by setting aside twenty-five percent of every dollar earned to reduce the debt. Once the loan was repaid, ten percent of the family earnings would be credited to the loan fund for a period of time yet to be determined. The revolving fund would allow those who had been helped to help others. The advantage of offering employment instead of charity was the factor that motivated Christensen to devise such a plan. However, it was the provision of taking ten percent of a worker's earnings to provide opportunity and a measure of security for other members of the community that tended to perpetuate the socialist image of the settlement at Kristenstad.1

Death notices of the founder of Kristenstad contained information that further distorted the image of the community. Front-page articles in the Granbury News, July 2, 1937, and the July 8, 1937, edition of the Hood County Tablet each contained background information on the life of John B. Christensen. These notices reminded area residents that Kristenstad was a co-operative Scandinavian colony in De Cordova Bend. The Tablet repeated previously published information about Christensen's attempt to establish a colony in East Texas, but failed to mention his development at Rainbow, which was less than fifteen miles from Granbury. This incongruity was startling due to the fact that the article designated the place of death at his home in Rainbow.2

The myth assumed a nostalgic tone in January 1938. The Fort Worth Star Telegram cited the court decision which signaled an end to the dream of a modern utopia. The order, which returned the De Cordova property to the Burleson and Johns heirs, was reported with sadness. Reconstructing the story of Christensen's dream of a Danish colony, the reported waxed eloquent of the loss: "Buildings that once echoed to the strains of the fiddle and joyous shouts of children were gaunt and empty; land that blossomed with bountiful crops lay bare and untilled." Recounting the magnificent struggle of Christensen and approximately forty other families that inhabited the community, the Star Telegram described a series of misfortunes that ultimately resulted in failure of the project.3 Perhaps the times were not yet right to achieve success with such a "noble" experiment.

A worn newspaper clipping from the files of John Campbell of Irving, reflected a note of bitterness and disappointment with the failure of the project at Kristenstad. The Press Regional Service release bears a Granbury, September 26 dateline, and the year 1946 has been added in pencil. This unidentified source referred to a "worthless deed, a few newspaper clippings and a blueprinted land plat" as being the only remnants of a plan to set up a communist settlement in Hood County. Mr. Al Campbell was quoted as saying the items only brought back "bad memories." According to this reporter, publicity in a national newspaper about a "socialistic colony" in Texas influenced the Campbell family to pull up stakes in North Dakota and head for the settlement. Implying that the Campbells had been duped, the article recounted alleged false promises. The community had been depicted as a land of milk and honey, where colonists reaped all the profits in a share-and-share-alike situation. In reference to the monetary system in Kristenstad, the report caustically stated that "they didn't use that unpredictable United States stuff."4 By painting a dismal picture of the colonists encountering frustration and despair, the author of this news article suggested that the "communist" experiment was doomed to failure from the beginning. Elements of this negative assessment were repeated in personal interviews conducted with area residents in the 1960's and 1970's.5

A history of ghost towns in Texas by Dick King included Kristenstad in the section describing utopian communities. Recounting the philosophy behind the development, King indicated it was tied to the "sell much, buy little" theory and based on the principle of "work if you eat." Interesting pictures of the building remains that existed in 1949 accompany his account of the businesses and homes built from the native stone. He estimated that the population numbered 200, living in an area two miles in length, with approximately 1,200 acres of land under cultivation. Reasoning that the establishment of the commissary was to provide residents the advantage of buying at wholesale prices, King described the "unique" monetary system as the vehicle by which these transactions were facilitated. This colorful account made interesting reading and seemed to add legitimacy to the saga of Kristenstad. Yet, a check of sources used to document this bit of history revealed that King relied on information provided by residents of De Cordova Bend -- "Names are unknown. July 1, 1949."6

Historical accounts published in the 1950's renewed interest in the "kingdom of Kristenstad." Information garnered from area residents supplemented the earlier news accounts describing the settlement and expanded the scope of the narrative. Depending heavily upon published information, local observers interspersed bits of the legend collected over the years by word of mouth to complete their account of this Hood County community. The character and personality of the founder of the settlement received much attention from local history buffs, with opinion about equally divided concerning the personal integrity of John B. Christensen and his objective in the establishment of Kristenstad. While news accounts appearing from the mid-1930's through the 1950's added credence to the utopian label applied to the settlement, it was the early 1970's before a serious challenge to the utopian theory was published. This article by Mary Ficklen, appearing in the May 1971, edition of the Texas Parade, seemed to have little, if any, impact upon the prevailing views of local history buffs who had no direct contact with the community during the 1930's.7

Confusion created by the multitude of conflicting data found in news accounts about Kristenstad was further compounded by information printed in popular reference books. Generally accepted and readily available to local history buffs, both the Texas Almanac and The Handbook of Texas contained distortions. Listed for the first time in the 1931 edition of the Texas Almanac, Kristenstad was credited with having a post office until 1938; yet the population figure never exceeded twenty as cited in these publications, which would not warrant the establishment of a post office.8 The Handbook of Texas described Kristenstad as a Norwegian community in Hood County. This volume set the year 1915 as the approximate date of establishment. The post office was reported to be in operation from 1928 to 1935, with the settlement disbanding in 1940.9 Amazingly, none of the information listed was accurate.

Yet, the accuracy seemed not to be a prerequisite in the growth of the legend. While few physical traces of the community remained by the 1960's, the curiosity of area residents kept the legend alive. An example of the continuing interest was revealed by comments contained in a camping brochure distributed by the Fort Worth and Tarrant County Council of Camp Fire Girls. "A Bit of History" included the following narrative about Camp El Tesoro and its surrounding area:

"As late as the 1930's and the 1940's, Cordova Bend had its own little kingdom . . . a community named Kristenstead [sic]. One man dominated the group, planned its mode of life, and even issued private currency at the communities nearby. The inhabitants lived in primitive dugouts, women carried water in buckets on their heads, furniture was built of cedar logs, clothes were washed in caves from the spring water. But the community is gone now, the people have moved . . . only the history remains, of this strange world of a man named Kristen [sic]."10

Mailed to numerous homes of camp-aged children, this version of the lifestyle in Kristenstad received wide distribution and contributed significantly to the sense of strangeness associated with the community.

Historical societies have traditionally emphasized the important role of history in shaping our lives. "The Saga of Kristenstad," prepared by Miss Ethel Baker for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, sought to preserve an important chapter in the history of Hood County. Her essay first appeared in early 1970, in the Hood County News Tablet and later the same year in Hood County History in Picture and Story 1970. Bibliographical information revealed that Miss Baker depended entirely upon local news articles to recount the familiar story. A disparate accumulation of comments from present-day citizens of Granbury concluded the account. A valuable portion of the essay, the impressions of Kristenstad reflected in these remarks are characterized by the wide differences of opinion about the founder of the colony. There was a distinct correlation between the personal regard for the founder and the manner in which each person interviewed perceived the settlement. Those who liked Christensen approved of his activities; those who did not, sought to discredit his efforts.11



Newspaper clipping of an article by C. L. Douglas in the Fort Worth Press, date indistinguishable, located in a folder of information on Kristenstad in the Cleburne Public Library.


Granbury News, 2 July 1937; and Hood County Tablet, 8 July 1937.


Fort Worth Star Telegram, 14 January 1938.


News clipping of an unidentified source located in the files of John Campbell, Irving, Texas.


Ethel Baker, "The Saga of Kristenstad," Hood County News Tablet, 29 January 1970.


Dick King, Ghost Towns of Texas (San Antonio: The Naylor Co., 1956), pp. 183-185.


Mary Ficklen, "Texas' Lost Utopia," Texas Parade, May 1971.


Texas Almanac (Dallas: A. H. Belo Corporation, 1931, 1933, 1936, 1939), p. 145, 61, 418, 208.


Carroll and Webb, The Handbook of Texas, II: pp. 665-66.


Fort Worth and Tarrant County Council of Camp Fire Girls, Inc., Camping Brochure, 1964.


Junior Woman's Club of Granbury, Texas, Hood County History in Picture and Story, 1970 (Fort Worth: Historical Publishers, 1970), pp. H44-52.

Copyright 1978 by Vaudrene R. Smith Hunt. Written permission granted to the Hood County Genealogical Society for reproduction to its Internet web site.

Return to Table of Contents of Toward a History of Kristenstad