The address that follows was by C. Stanley Banks of San Antonio, Texas, at dedication and unveiling of Historical Marker at the grave of Horatio Chriesman in the Cemetery at Chriesman, Texas, in Burleson County, Sunday, June 15, 1969, 2:00 O’clock P.M.
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The old San Antonio Road, also known as the King’s Highway and the Camino Real, which was blazed in 1691, traversed Burleson County. The part of the county North of the road was in the Colony of Sterling C. Robertson; the part of the county South of the road was in the first colony of Stephen F. Austin.
In Robertson’s Colony Alexander Thomson, Jr. was associated with a partner of Sterling C. Robertson as well as being the land surveyor of the Colony. He came to Texas from Tennessee with Robertson. Horatio Chriesman was the chief surveyor for the Stephen F. Austin Colony and served as Alcalde in the Colony. He came to Texas from Missouri with Stephen Austin. These two men spent their last years in this area of Burleson County at and near this settlement of Chriesman, originally know as Yellow Prairie and are both buried here: Horatio Chriesman in this Chriesman Cemetery and Alexander Thomson, Jr. is buried in a cemetery a short distance away. Their Children married, that is Thomas Coke Thomson, a son of Alexander Thomson, Jr. married Mary Jane Chriesman, a daughter of Horatio Chriesman, and they too are buried in this Chriesman Cemetery near the grave of Horatio Chriesman.
Horatio Chriesman died in 1878, 90 years ago, at the age of 86 years. Today the dedication of this historical marker at his grave is a belated recognition of the great contribution which he made to early Texas History. He was born in Virginia in 1792, drifted west with the human tide that flowed incessantly toward the Spanish lands West and South, and in 1818, by way of Kentucky, he was in Missouri. In Missouri he engaged in surveying and there he married Miss Mary Kincheloe, daughter of William Kincheloe. In Missouri he became acquainted with Moses Austin and his son Stephen F. Austin. It was Moses Austin who made a memorable visit to San Antonio, Texas, in 1820, and secured from the Spanish Governor of Texas the contract to bring into Texas the first three hundred Anglo-American families. Moses Austin died shortly thereafter, and it was the son, Stephen F. Austin, who carried out the colonization contract and brought the first colonists into Texas in 1821. It was in this year 1821 that Chriesman prepared to emigrate to Texas with the Kincheloe family. Winter coming on, they held up until the next spring. On February 25, 1822, Chriesman, along with the families of Kincheloe, Rawls and Pruitt, left St. Louis in a flat boat on the Mississippi River. At New Madrid, Missouri, on the river, the party was detained by sickness due to the exposure and hardship of the winter voyage. Mary Kincheloe Chriesman and her sister died there. The remaining members of the emigrant party moved on to New Orleans and from there to Texas by boat, arriving at the mouth of the Colorado River on the 4th day of June, 1822.
The emigrant party reached Texas after Stephen F. Austin had gone on his first trip to Mexico. After Austin’s return in 1823, with definite permission from the Mexican Government to complete the colonization contract, he employed Horatio Chriesman, who he had known in Missouri, to head his corps of land surveyors and they made a formal contract which has been preserved in the Austin papers.
By the terms of the contract between Austin and Chriesman, all surveys were to be made by Chriesman, “using the Mexican vara as a standard and running by the true meridian”. At the corner of each survey, he was to mark bearing trees with the initials of the owner cut on the trees, or if in the prairie, a mound of earth three feet high. For these services Chriesman was to be paid $5.00 per Spanish Mile, payable in property, or $3.00 per mile in cash.
The equipment of an early day Texas surveyor consisted of a “peep sight” compass and “Jacob Staff” and a Spanish or Mexican vara chain. The nature of the surveying work demanded men of peculiar qualities. They had to be hardy men who could bear the privations and discomforts of a frontier settlement. Chriesman, for example, could afford no shirt during the first year of Austin’s colony, but wore a leather-hunting coat throughout the hot months of a Texas summer. Surveying of land remote from the settlements was a hazardous undertaking because of the Indians. The Indians called the surveyor’s compass “The thing that steals the land”. Early Texas History records numerous deadly raids made by Indians on surveying parties. These early surveys were men of character and experience.
Chriesman received as one of the original “Three Hundred” a grant of a league of land in Fort Bend County and another grant of one league in Washington County and a further grant of two labors in Austin County.
In 1825, he married Miss Augusta Hope, a sister of Adolphus, Prosper and Richard Hope. All three Hope brothers were in the battle of San Jacinto in 1836.
In the organization of the militia in Austin’ colony as defense against the hostile Karankawa Indians, he was captain of one of the five companies organized for that purpose. He participated in several fights with the Indians, and by reason of his military service, he was referred to as “Captain Horatio Chriesman”.
He was made Alcalde of Austin’s colony in 1832 at San Felipe. This Alcalde was the most important man in any early Texas town. He had control of the political and economic affairs of the town. He acted as judge trying civil and criminal cases. While serving as Alcalde he signed the official call for the Convention of 1832. At San Felipe, while serving as Alcalde, he was closely acquainted with William Barret Travis, then a young lawyer from Alabama, who was later to die in the Alamo at San Antonio. In the diary of Travis, frequent reference is made to Chriesman.
Along about 1834 he moved to Gay Hill in Washington County and in that year he signed, with others, the petition requesting the organization of the Municipality of Washington, which really started Washington County on its way.
One of his neighbors at Gay Hill was the Swisher family. In his memoirs, Col. John Milton Swisher, stated:
“Captain Horatio Chriesman settled the next point above Hickory Point. He came to the country along with the first of the original “Three Hundred” and was one of the most noted of the early settlers: he was chief surveyor of Austin’s Colony and was universally beloved by all who knew him. He kept an open house and never charged for a meal of victuals and my father was one of Chriesman’s nearest neighbors for a number of years.”
In 1837 Chriesman was one of a commission of five chosen to select a site for the capital of the Republic and at that time offered 700 acres of land in Washington County near the town of Washington-on-the Brazos as a capital site.
In the latter years of his life, he moved to Burleson County. His wife Augusta Hope Chriesman died in 1869. Here in the area of this Chriesman settlement he passed away on November 21, 1878, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Mary Jane Thomson. At the time of his death, he was 86 years of age. With his death there ended a long eventful live. He had eleven children, one child of his first marriage and ten children of his second marriage. His descendants are legion. Some are present to-day for this dedication service. One of his grand-sons Thad A. Thomson, born here in the Chriesman settlement in 1853, was envoy and minister to the South American Republic of Colombia in 1913-1916, having been appointed by President Woodrow Wilson. On April 21, 1938, when a celebration was being held at the monument on the San Jacinto battlefield, the U. S. Cruiser “Wichita” passed up the ship channel in sight of the assembled multitude. Admiral Thad Thomson, great grandson of the Old Alcade, Horatio Chriesman, commanded it.
Two years after his death, the railroad came through this area of Burleson County and the settlers moved to the railroad tracks. In 1884 the original name of Yellow Prairie was changed to Chriesman in his honor.
Horatio Chriesman was one of the great characters of Austin’s Colony as well as of Texas, and their story would be incomplete without recognition and mention being given to him.
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REFERENCES ON HORATIO CHRIESMAN
-ONE LEAGUE TO EACH WIND p. 315
A publication of the Texas Surveyors Association
-Never Again Vol. 2 Pub. – The Naylor Co.
San Antonio, Tx. Clayton Williams
Pg. 5, 6, 7, 11, 32, 98, (pg. 174 index)
-The Freedom Tree pg. 3
By Edward C. Hutcheson
–Texas, the Lone Star State Pub. Practice Hall, Inc.
Rupert Norvel Richardson –pg. 65
Edgewood Cliffs, N. J.
-An Abstract of Original Titles of Record
In the General Land Office – Austin
-The Handbook of Texas – (Big)
A bibliography of notable Texans
-Books in Library of Loraine Perry
Also Reference Books
-Signer of the Declaration of Independence–Tex
L. W. Kemp – pg. 11, 63, 289, 339
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The above information was furnished to the Chriesman Citizens’ Center by Lee Perry Perkins, San Antonio, Texas from the archives of her Mother, Loraine C Perry, Andrews, Texas. Lee Perry Perkins, whose father Lee Neblett Perry, Jr., is a descendent of Horatio Chriesman. We wish to express our appreciation to these gracious ladies for sharing this information with us.