Tuesday, February 27, 2024

John B. Christensen was a man with a dream he named Kristenstad



David Cleveland is a board member of the Bridge Street History Center, and is a lifetime Hood County resident. He was a member of the Hood County Commissioners Court from 1985 until 1997.


John B. Christensen grew up in Missouri. After high school he wanted to attend the University of Missouri, but his family had no money for his college education. He paid for his education by working for the university. He studied law and graduated when he was 19 years old, as valedictorian of his class.

He practiced law in Missouri for a while and in 1913 he moved to Texas. He operated a sawmill in East Texas, and in 1922 he moved to the Rainbow community near Glen Rose. John had ideas that were years ahead of their time. Ideas that included a hard-surface road from Cleburne to Glen Rose, with a bridge across the Brazos River.

He also wanted to build a dam on the Brazos River for flood control and to provide electricity to the area. He was unable to find money for these projects and they were not built until years later. In 1928 John bought 6,000 acres of land in the deCordova Bend of the Brazos River. He planned to create a farming and industrial community with honest, hard-working people as property owners.

Christensen named his community Kristenstad. He recruited people by placing ads about his community in newspapers and nationwide publications. David Campbell’s dad, Al Campbell, was a road contractor living in North Dakota when he read about Kristenstad in the Christian Science Monitor. He contacted John Christensen about his project, and in 1933 Mr. Campbell moved his family to Kristenstad.

Each family purchased 20 acres of land for $40 per acre with no money down and 6% interest. Property owners took trees from their property to a community sawmill and made lumber to build their houses. Property owners were encouraged to grow fruit and vegetables for food, and what they did not need they could sell. In 1933 about 35 families with almost 200 people lived in Kirstenstad. As the number of people increased, more industry was added. These included a sawmill, cheese factory, furniture factory, and charcoal was made from scrap wood.

Trucks hauled their products to Fort Worth, where they were sold. A low-water crossing was built across the Brazos River near Fall Creek to reduce the trip to Wort Worth by 15 miles. Later a post office, school and church were added to the community.

No one was allowed to fail in Kristenstad. If someone had a hard time and could not meet their obligations, Mr. Christensen would provide whatever they needed. Some of the people had a difficult time adjusting to the primitive lifestyle in Kristenstad with no plumbing, wood stoves or kerosene lamps. The Depression worsened and their products dropped in price. A prolonged drought caused farm crops to fail and ruined livestock pasture.

Mr. Christensen tried to get federal aid for the community but was not successful. When the furniture factory burned, people started leaving the community to look for another place to earn a living.

Some of the people became bitter and blamed Mr. Christensen for their problems. In the summer of 1936 Mr. Christensen moved his family back to Rainbow. On June 30, 1937, John B. Christensen died suddenly in his Rainbow home, at the age of 61. The property owners were gone and in 1938 his widow returned the Kristenstad property to the previous owner.

The dreams and the dreamer had passed.