SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
"......called upon to decide between love of country and love of self .......though bound by the strongest ties of love to an affectionate young wife and her infant child, was the champion of Texas liberty.... would remain and share the fate of the heroic few who had rallied under Sam Houston to fight for the independence of Texas against Mexican despotism." Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas by John Henry Brown.
"On an expedition with Gen. Burleson I persuaded German Kleburg to go. We were in camp one day in Brushy bottom there was a pole cat come running along. Kleburg had never seen on, we all hollered "catch him" and he broke after it and put the butt of his gun on its neck. You ought to have seen him, he went to the creek, washed himself and gun, but it was go go but he went back to Bastrop. He wanted no more cat in his...." An anecdote from memoirs of Capt. C.R. Perry
Robert Justus Kleberg, (christened Johan Christian Justus Robert Kleberg), was born on the 10th day of September, A. D. 1803, in Herstelle, Westphalia, in the former Kingdom of Prussia. His parents were Lucas Kleberg, a prominent and successful merchant, and Veronica Kleberg (nee Meier) a lady of fine culture, sweet temper and good sense. They moved from Herstelle to Beverungen in Westphalia, where they were quite prosperous for a time. Besides Robert they had the following children: Ernest, Louis, Joseph and Banise. For a number of years Robert's parents, living in affluent circumstances, were permitted to give their children good educational advantages, but unhappily misfortune and death deprived the children at an early age of kind parental protection, and the subject of this sketch was thrown upon his own resources, which consisted chiefly of a healthy mind and body, a strong will and unsullied name. At an early age he entered the Gymnasium of Holzminden, where after a five years' course in the classics he completed his studies with high honors, choosing the law as his profession he now entered the University of Goettingen, and in two years and a half received his diploma as doctor juris. Soon after he was appointed as one of the justices of the assizes of Nirhiem, where he remained one year, after which he was promoted to various judicial positions, in which he prepared himself for the practice of his profession, and in which he served with credit and distinction.
In 1834 when he was about ready to enter upon a distinguished judicial career, he concluded to emigrate to the United States. His reason for this sudden and important change in his life can best be found in his own language, which is taken from a memorandum of his own writing:
"I wished to live under a Republican form of government, with unbounded personal, religious and political liberty, free from the petty tyrannies, the many disadvantages and evils of old countries. Prussia, my former home, smarted at the time under a military despotism. I was (and have ever remained) an enthusiastic lover of republican institutions, and I expected to find in Texas, above all other countries, the blessed land of my most fervent hopes."
Texas was yet partially unexplored, but the reports that reached the old country were of the most extravagant and romantic nature, and were well calculated to enthuse the impulsive and courageous spirit of the young referendary. The ardor of his desires to emigrate was heightened by a letter written by a Mr. Ernst, a German from the Duchy of Oldenburg, who had emigrated to Texas a few years previous, and who at that time resided in what is now known as Industry, Austin County, Texas. This letter recited the advantages of Texas in the most glowing colors, comparing its climate to the sunny skies of Italy; it lauded the fertility of the soil and spoke of the perennial flora of the prairies of Texas, etc. About this time, September the 4th, 1834, the subject of this sketch married Miss Rosalia von Roeder [photo at left from Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas], daughter of Lieut. Ludwig Anton Siegmund von Roeder, the head of an old family of nobility who, too, were anxious for the same reasons to emigrate to Texas. The party had first contemplated to emigrate to one of the Western States of the United States, but it was now determined to go to Texas. Again, the memorandum above referred to runs as follows:
"We changed our first intention to go to one of the Western States, and chose Texas for our future home. As soon as this was determined upon we sent some of our party, to wit, three brothers of my wife, unmarried, Louis, Albrecht and Joachim, and their sister Valesca, and a servant by the name of Pollhart, ahead of us to Texas for the purpose of selecting a point where we could all meet and commence operations. They were well provided with money, clothing, a light wagon and harness, tools, and generally everything necessary to commence a settlement. They aimed to go to Mr. Ernst, the writer of the letter which induced us to go to Texas. Six months after our party had left the old country, and shortly after we had received the news of their safe arrival, we followed on the last day of September, A. D. 1834, in the ship 'Congress' Capt. J. Adams."
The party consisted of Robert Kleberg and wife, Lieut. L. A. S. v. Roeder and wife, his daughters, Louise and Caroline, his sons, Rudolph, Otto and William v. Roeder, Louis Kleberg, Mrs. Otto v. Roeder, nee Pauline von Donop and Miss Antoinette von Donop (afterwards wife of Rudolph von Roeder). The other passengers were nearly all Germans from Oldenburg, and one of them was the brother-in-law of Mr. Ernst. They were all bound for the same point in Texas, and after a voyage of sixty days landed in New Orleans. The narrative of said memorandum here proceeds:
"Here we heard very bad accounts about Texas, and we were advised not to go to Texas, which it was said was infested with robbers, murderers and wild Indians. But we were determined to risk it, and could not disappoint our friends who had preceded us. As soon, therefore, as we succeeded in chartering the schooner Sabin' about two weeks after we landed in New Orleans, we sailed for Brazoria, Texas. After a voyage of eight days we wrecked off of Galveston Island, December 22d, 1834. The 'Sabin' was an American craft of about 150 tons. The captain and crew left the island, I think, in the steamer, Ocean.' The wreck was sold in Brazoria at public auction and bought by a gentleman who had come in the Ocean' for thirty odd dollars. Perhaps she was not regularly employed in the trade between New Orleans and Texas, and was only put in order to get her wrecked in order to get the amount for which she was insured. This was the opinion of the passengers at the time. It is impossible for me to name with certainty the exact point of the island at which we stranded, but I think it was not far from the center of the island, about ten miles above the present site of the city; it was on the beach side. The island was a perfect wilderness and inhabited only by deer, wolves and rattlesnakes. All the passengers were safely brought to shore, and were provided with provisions, partly from those on board ship and partly by the game on the island. Most of the men were delighted with the climate on the island and the sport they enjoyed by hunting or fishing. A committee of five was appointed to ascertain whether we were on an island or on main land. After an investigation of two days the committee reported that we were on an island. The passengers then went regularly into camp, saving all the goods and provisions from the wrecked vessel, which was only about fifty yards from shore. From the sails, masts and beams they constructed a large tent, with separate compartments for women and children. Thus the passengers were temporarily protected against the inclemency of the weather. Two or three days after our vessel had sunk the steamer Ocean' hove in sight and, observing our signal of distress, anchored opposite our camp and sent a boat ashore with an officer to find out the situation. The captain would not take all the passengers, but consented to take a few, charging them a doubloon each. I, with Rudolph v. Roeder, took passage on the steamer, which was bound for Brazoria. I went as agent of the remaining passengers to charter a boat to take them and their plunder to the main land. Finding no boat at Brazoria, or Bell's Landing, the only Texas ports at that time, I proceeded on foot to San Felipe, where I was told I would find a small steamer, the Cuyuga' Capt. W. Harris. I found the steamer, but did not succeed in chartering her, the price asked ($1,000) being too high. In San Felipe I heard for the first time of the whereabouts of my relatives, who had preceded us. Here I also formed the acquaintance of Col. Frank Johnson and Capt. Mosely Baker, under whose command I afterwards participated in the battle of San Jacinto. These gentlemen informed me that two of my friends, Louis and Albert von Roeder, had located about fourteen miles from San Felipe on a league and labor of land, but that Joachim and Valesca von Roeder had died. We found them in a miserable hut and in a pitiful condition. They were emaciated by disease and want, and without money. Tears of joy streamed from their eyes when they beheld us. After a few days rest I continued my errand to charter a boat. I had a letter of introduction to Stephen F. Austin and Sam Williams from a merchant in New Orleans to whom our ship had been consigned, which I presented to Mr. Austin's private secretary, Mr. Austin and Mr. Williams being absent. From him I received a letter of introduction to Mr. Scott, the father-in-law of Mr. Williams. From Mr. Scott I finally succeeded in chartering a small vessel for $100.00 for three trips, and immediately returned to Galveston, landing on the bay side opposite the camp four weeks after I had left it. I found the passengers of the old Sabin' in good health and spirits. They had spent their time in hunting and fishing. Those who could not shoot were employed to drive the deer to the hunters. There were deer by the thousands. I left the next day with the first cargo of passengers, including my wife, her parents and Caroline von Roeder. After a stormy trip we arrived on the evening of the same day at Mr. Scott's place, where we were hospitably treated. The next day we reached Harrisburg, where I succeeded in renting a comfortable house, intending to remain there until all the passengers had arrived from the island. The last passengers did not arrive until the winter of 1835, though had I hired another small sloop from Capt. Smith in Velasco, which also made three trips. The winter of 1835 was unusually severe."
This, it seems, ended the eventful and lengthy voyage from the old country to Texas, of which only the main incidents are given, to show the difficulties and many privations to which Texas emigrants in those early days were subjected. Robert Kleberg, by reason of his superior education, was the only one among those early German colonists who could make himself understood to the few American pioneers who inhabited the interior, and acted as spokesman for the rest. Indian tribes, both savage and civil, swarmed through the country, and it was necessary for the colonists to explore and settle the country in communities for self-defense. This condition of things is apparent from the narrative, which relates:
"To the place which had been settled upon by Louis and Albrecht v. Roeder we now repaired, leaving the ladies and children in Harrisburg, under the protection of one of the gentlemen. We had formed a partnership with the view of assisting each other to cultivate farms and build houses for each head of a family in our party, and we were to work in good earnest to break up land and fence it, and to build houses, as it was our intention to move the balance of our party from Harrisburg to our new settlement as soon as we could erect houses, but not being accustomed to manual labor, we proceeded very slowly. There was an Indian tribe, the Kikapoos, encamped on our land about a mile from our camp, who furnished us with game of all kinds, which the country afforded in abundance. The squaws were very useful to us, as they would hunt and bring in camp our oxen and horses when they strayed off. We rewarded them with ammunition and trinkets, which we had brought with us for that purpose. We had supplied ourselves with everything necessary to commence a settlement in a new country. We had wagons, farming implements, all sorts of tools, household and kitchen furniture, and clothing which we had brought with us from Germany. Early in September, 1835, we had finished building two log houses, one of them had even a floor and ceiling, as we had sawed by hand the planks from post-oak trees. We had also enclosed and planted a field of ten acres in corn and cotton, and we now moved the members of our party who had remained at Harrisburg to our settlement, with our wagons and team. Such of our goods, for which we had no room, or no immediate use, we left at the house which we had rented at Harrisburg. Among the objects we left was a fine piano, belonging to my wife, many valuable oil paintings and engravings, music books, etc., all of which fell a prey to the flames which consumed Harrisburg during the war, which followed in the following spring."
Many were the privations and severe the task which these early settlers had already undergone in permanently settling in the adopted country, but their trials had only begun; the furies of war threatened to devastate the settlements of the colonies, and Santa Anna was marching his minions into Texas to destroy the constitutional liberty of her people, and Texas patriots, though few in number, bore tip her flag to rescue it from thralldom. Among them we find Robert Kleberg and his brother-in-law and compatriots. Albert and Louis von Roeder had participated in the sanguinary storming of San Antonio and returned to their.settlement near San Felipe, when in the spring of 1836 occurred the massacre of Goliad and the fall of the Alamo. Texas independence had been proclaimed, Santa Anna was preparing his march of conquest to the Sabine, when the young Republic, under her noble leader, Sam Houston, was making her last patriotic appeal to her bravest sons, in whose hearts were now gathered all the hopes of Texas. It was at this juncture that at a family meeting of the Roeders and Klebergs, presided over by Ex-Lieut. Von Roeder, that these distressed colonists held a counsel of war to decide whether to fight for Texas independence, or cross her borders into the older States to seek shelter under the protecting aegis of the American eagle. The meeting was held under the sturdy oaks that stood on the newly acquired possessions. It was a supreme moment in the lives of those who participated. In the language of the historian:
"The flight of the wise and worthy men of the country from danger, tended to frighten the old, young and helpless, furnished excuses to the timid, and sanctioned the course of the cowardly. The general dismay following the adjournment of the convention, induced in any brave men impelled irresistibly by natural impulses to go to their abandoned fugitive wives and children, to tender them protection."
This little band, like their compatriots, found themselves in the midst of a terrible panic and they were now called upon to decide between love of country and love of self and it may well be presumed that the debates in this little convention were of a stormy nature. The subject of our sketch, though bound by the strongest ties of love to an affectionate young wife and her infant child, was the champion of Texas liberty, and it was due to the eloquent and impassioned appeals of himself and the venerable presiding officer that it was decided that the party would remain and share the fate of the heroic few who had rallied under Sam Houston to fight for the independence of Texas against Mexican despotism.
As Albrecht v. Roeder and Louis v. Roeder had just returned battle-worn from the bloody fields of San Antonio de Bexar, they and others, except L. v. Roeder, were detailed under the aged Ex-Lieut. Roeder to remain with the fugitive families while Robert Kleberg, Louis v. Roeder and Otto v. Roeder were chosen to bear the brunt of battle. Now a parting, possibly for life, from all that was dear on earth and a voluntary march in the ranks of Capt. Mosley Baker's Company was the next act in the drama of our warrior's life and, while the curtain fell on the pathetic scene, a brave young wife mounted a Texas pony with her tender babe to go with the rest of the Texas families to perhaps across the borders of Texas, driving before them the cattle and horses of the colonists. The acts and deeds of Robert Kleberg from this time to the disbanding of the Texas Army of patriots are a part and parcel of the history of Texas. Endowed with a spirit of patriotism which bordered on the sublime, possessed of a healthy and robust physical constitution, a cultured, polished, cool and discriminating mind, he despised fear and was anxious to engage in the sanguinary and decisive struggle for freedom which culminated so gloriously for Texas and civilization on the historic field of San Jacinto. After this memorable battle, in which he and Louis v. Roeder participated to the glory of themselves and their posterity, he was with Gen. Rusk and the Texas van guard following the vanquished armies of Santa Anna to the Mexican border and, returning by Goliad, assisted in the sad obsequies of the remains of Fannin and his brave men.
In the meantime his family had moved back to Galveston Island, and we will again draw from the memorandum for the better appreciation and understanding of the conditions of the country that prevailed at this time:
"It had been the intention of our party who went to Galveston Island in the absence of those who were in the army, to abandon the settlement commenced on the Brazos and settle on the island on the two leagues which were chosen there. This move had been undertaken in my absence, partly from fear or danger from hostile Indians, also a want of provisions, and partly with an idea to permanently settle on the island. For that purpose the party had built a boat of about forty tons in order to move our cattle and horses and other property from the mainland. They were ignorant of the laws of Mexico, which reserved the islands for the government."
To show the state of civilization on Galveston Island at that time, in the summer of 1836, the judge relates the following, incident which occurred while he was in the army:
"One night during a time when all were enwrapped in sound slumber, they were suddenly aroused by the frantic cries of one of the ladies of the party, Mrs. L. Kleberg; she was so frightened that she could not speak, but only screamed, pointing her finger to a huge, dark object close to the head of the pallet upon which lay my wife and Mrs. Otto v. Roeder and their babes. To their great astonishment they discovered it to be an immense alligator, his jaws wide open, making for the children to devour them. Mr. v. Roeder, Sr., and Mr. Chas. Mason, who had hastened to the spot, dispatched the monster with fire and sword."
The narrative, speaking of their residence on the island after Mr. Kleberg returned from the war, proceeds:
"We remained about three months on the island after building our house. Most of us were sick, especially the women and children long exposure, bad food and water were the probable causes. Not long after we moved into the house, Mrs. Pauline Roeder, wife of Otto v. Roeder, died there. We buried her under the Three Lone Trees.' We were all down with chills and fever. Four Mexican prisoners waited on us. Their principal occupation was to gather oysters, pack wood from the beach of the gulf, make fires, wash dishes and clothing, and pack the deer which Mr. v. Roeder and myself killed, which, together with the fish and oysters, was our chief means of subsistence. We had neither bread nor coffee, nor sugar, and the water, of course, was brackish. Finally under these distressing circumstances we became despondent and disheartened; so, late in October, 1836, we again boarded our boat, taking along every thing we had with us, including our Mexican prisoners, who acted as oarsmen, and once more made for the main land, landing at a place called Liverpool, a small village at the head of Chocolate bayou. The house on Galveston Island was abandoned, there being no one to whom we could sell; there were no other families at that time residing on the island. Only Morgan's Fort was situated near the cast end of Galveston Island. There were about 400 Mexican prisoners held there. Capt. Turner, Col. Morgan, and Judge Chas. Mason were there, but no families that I recollect."
(Photo: The Honorable Rudolph Kleberg, first Editor of the Cuero Weekly Star) The colonists, including the subject of this sketch, again located where they had made the first settlement, at a point known as Cat Spring, now in Austin County. This was in the month of November, 1836. Here Judge Kleberg and his family resided until the fall of 1847, when they removed to DeWitt County. At Cat Spring were born the following of his children: Clara Siegesmunde, November 28, 1835 ; Johanna Caroline, November 29, 1838; Caroline Louise, January 15, 1840, and Otto Joseph, October 27, 1841; Rudolph, June 26, 1847. In DeWitt County, Marcellus Eugene, February 7, 1849; Robt. Justus, December 5, 1853, and Louise Rosalie, September 2, 1855.
While living in Austin County, Judge Kleberg did much to develop the new country, which was then but sparsely settled, and was still inhabited by Indians. He frequently spoke of one occurrence during his residence at Cat Spring, where a numerous tribe of Comanches passed by his house to the city of Houston to interview the President of the Republic of Texas on the question of making peace. He speaks of the appearance of these savages upon their return from Houston as most ludicrous. Many of them had adorned themselves with stove pipe bats, red ribbons and all kinds of fancy dress articles, all of which was in strange contrast with their usual wearing apparel. They stopped at the Judge's house on their way from Houston, and requested his wife to mend their flag, which she readily consented to do. Being well acquainted with the prominent citizens such as Sam Houston, Burnet, J. S. Hill, J. P. Borden, Judge Waller, and many other distinguished citizens of that day, Mr. Kleberg's services in the War for Independence and his ability were soon recognized by the young Republic and as early as 1837 he was appointed by President Sam Houston as Associate Commissioner of the Board of Land Commissioners. In 1838, he was appointed President of said commissioners by J. P. Borden, Commissioner of the General Land Office. In 1841, he was commissioned by Mirabeau B. Lamar, President of the Republic, Justice of the Peace, which was then an important office as there were few lawyers, and few law books, and important and perplexing suits to be decided in these courts. In 1846 he was elected Chief Justice in Austin County, and commissioned by Sam Houston, Governor. In 1848 he was elected County Commissioner of DeWitt County, and commissioned by Governor G. S. Wood. In 1853 he was elected Chief Justice of DeWitt County, and commissioned by Governor Bell. He was re-elected as Chief Justice of DeWitt County in 1854.
When the war broke out he became a strong Confederate and raised a company of militia, but was on account of his advanced age not received in active service, but finally commissioned as collector of war taxes, which position he occupied during the entire period of the war, and administered with skill and fidelity. After the war he accepted the situation and filled several positions of trust and honor, such as member of the county school board, etc. Upon his arrival in DeWitt County he found but few settlers, among them the following prominent citizens: John Pettus, the Yorks and Bells, Judges Wofford and Baker, Dr. Robert Peobles, Capt. Dick Chisholm, Judge Young and others. At that time there were hardly any schools and churches in DeWitt County and Judge Kleberg, together with Messrs. Albrecht v. Roeder, John Pettus, the Bells, and Yorks, erected with their own hands a log cabin on the Colita creek, near the old York and Bell farm, which was probably the first school-house in the county.
Hostile Indians still made their accustomed raids on the settlements and as late as October, 1848, the pioneers of DeWitt County had a fight with the savages, in which Judge Kleberg participated, and of which lie gives the following account:
"One October morning Capt. York and Mr. Albrecht v. Roeder and my brother, Ernst Kleberg, summoned me to go with a party of volunteers to fight a tribe of hostile Indians, who were depredating in the neighborhood of Yorktown. We were soon mounted and equipped and off for the place of rendezvous. We reached the Cabesa that same night, where our troops, consisting of some thirty men, camped and elected Capt. York as commander, and Messrs. William Taylor, Jno. Thomlinson and Rufus Taylor were detailed as spies and skirmishers. Next morning the company, as organized, started to meet the foe, whom we encountered about three o'clock p. m. on the Escondido east of the San Antonio river, about fifteen miles west of the present town of Yorktown, just as our company filed around a point of timber. The Indians, about sixty to seventy strong, lay in ambush. Our company was not marching in rank and file, but in an irregular way, not expecting to meet the enemy so soon. Capt. York and Mr. Bell were in front, followed immediately by John Pettus and myself. The Indians raised the well-known and hideous war-whoop and immediately opened on us with a terrible fire of musketry. The majority of our men took to flight and left not more than ten or twelve of us, who made a stand, taking advantage of a little grove near by, where the Texians returned a sharp fire upon the Indians, who still remained in ambush, only exposing their heads now and then as they fired, thus having a decided advantage over the men who were only protected by a few thin trees. It was here that Mr. Bell and Capt. York were killed. The former, a son-in-law of Capt. York, was shot at the first fire and mortally wounded, but he was carried along to the little mott, where Capt. York and myself bent over him to dress his wounds, but he died in our hands. At this juncture Mr. Jim York, son of Capt. York, was shot in the head. Capt. York called me to assist him in dressing his son's wounds. I tore off a piece of his shirt and bandaged his wounds as well as possible. Capt. York, overcome by grief, ran continually from his son to his son-in-law, and thus exposed himself to the fire of the enemy, notwithstanding I kept warning him, and was soon struck by the fatal ball which instantly killed him. A counsel of war was now held by the remaining troops, consisting of eight or nine men all told, and we decided to proceed to a little mound or elevation near by, where we might flank the Indians in their ambush. In attempting to gain this point the Indians kept up a continuous fusillade, which we returned, and by the time we reached the elevation and directed our fire from behind a cluster of large live oaks on the exposed flank of the savages, they soon retired from their position and disappeared from the field. Thus ended probably the last Indian fight in Southwest Texas, and such were the stirring scenes of that time."
Mr. Kleberg had the good fortune to outlive this period of romance and adventure, and to see his adopted State and country developed to grand proportions in population and wealth under the magic wand of civilization. In politics Judge Kleberg was always a consistent and intelligent Democrat; a strong believer in State rights and local self-government, and an ardent admirer of the American system of government, and in his severest trials as an early settler, and in the gloomiest hour of the Republic and State of his adoption he never faltered in his faith in the free institutions of this country, and spurned the idea of returning to a monarchical form of government. In religion he was free of all orthodoxy and most tolerant to all denominations; candid and firm in his individual convictions, yet respectful and considerate of the opinions of others. Pure and lofty in sentiment, simple and frugal in habit, honest in motive, and positive and decided in word and deed, his character was without reproach, and indeed a model among his fellow-men. Mr. Kleberg was a man of deep and most varied learning. Besides a knowledge of Greek and Latin he controlled three modern languages and read their literatures in the originals. Reading and study were a part of his daily life, and he enjoyed a critical and discriminating knowledge of ancient and modern literature. In field and camp and the solitude of frontier life his well-trained mind ever found delight and repose in the contemplation of its ample stores of knowledge and the graces of a refined civilization under which it was developed were never effaced, or even blurred by the roughness or crudities of border life. A man of urbane manners and courtly address, his intercourse with men, whether high or low, educated or ignorant, was ever characterized by a plain and noble dignity, free of assumption or vanity.
[Photo: The Kleberg Brothers from The Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas by John Henry Brown, 1890's] The principles which found expression and exemplification in his long and eventful life recall upon a broad and comprehensive philosophy of which absolute honesty of mind was a controlling element, and when the shadows of death gathered around him he met the supreme moment with a mind serene and in peaceful composure. He died at Yorktown, DeWitt County, October 23, 1888, in his eighty-sixth year, surrounded by his family, and was buried with Masonic honors. His wife, Mrs. Rosa Kleberg, and the following children survive him: Mrs. Clara Hillebrand, Mrs. Caroline Eckhardt, Miss Lulu Kleberg, Hon. Rudolph Kleberg, Marcellus E. Kleberg and Robert J. Kleberg. His eldest son, Otto Kleberg, who served with distinction in the Confederate army, preceded him in death in 1880. From The Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas by John Henry Brown.
Biography History of Gonzales County Texas
Robert Justus Kleberg/Kleburg served in Capt. Moseley Baker's Infantry Company D, 1st Regiment of Volunteers, at the Battle of San Jacinto. His reasons for emigrating from Prussia to Texas just at the time he had obtained his Doctor of Juris degree from Goettingen University were in his own words
Robert Kleberg Jr., son of Robert Justus Kleberg, became the legal counsel for pioneering large-scale Texas rancher, Richard King, and assumed successful and innovative administrative control of the King Ranch upon the death of King. He married Alice Gertrudis King, whose son Robert Kleberg III also became manager of the extensive ranch. Robert and Rosa Kleberg's sons Marcellus and Rudolph also became influential public servants of the State of Texas. The Kleberg name continues to present to contribute greatly to the welfare of the economy and health of the citizens of the State of Texas through the Kleberg Foundation. For a more complete contextual history and tribute to the Kleberg and von Roeder families in early Texas, see noted Texas historian John Henry Brown's article on Robert Justus Kleberg in the Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas.
Robert Justus Kleberg Sr. was born on the 10th day of September, 1803 in Herstelle, Westphalia, in the former Kingdom of Prussia. His parents were Lucas Kleberg, a prominent and successful merchant, and Veronica (Meier) Kleberg. Robert had four siblings; Ernest, Louis, Joseph and Banise. The family were very affluent and gave their children good educations until the untimely death of the parents. Robert chose the law as his profession and attended the University of Goettingen, and in two years and a half received his diploma as doctor juris. In 1834 when he was about ready to enter upon a distinguished judicial career, he concluded to emigrate to the United States. On September 4th, 1834, Robert Justus married Miss Rosalia von Roeder, daughter of Lieut. Ludwig Anton Siegmund von Roeder. The party emigrating to Texas consisted of three von Roeder brothers, all unmarried, Louis, Albrecht and Joachim, and their sister Valesca, and a servant by the name of Pollhart. This group went ahead for the purpose of selecting a point where they could all meet and start a settlement. Six months after their departure, the rest of the group departed on September 31, 1834 in the ship Congress with Capt. J. Adams. The second group consisted of Robert Kleberg and his wife, Lt. L.A.S. von Roeder and wife, his daughters, Louise and Caroline, his sons, Rudolph, Otto and William von Roeder, Louis Kleberg, Mrs. Otto von Roeder, nee Pauline von Donop and Miss Antoinette von Donop. After a voyage of sixty days they landed in New Orleans. When Robert finally reached Brazoria, Texas he was informed that Louis and Albert von Roeder had located about fourteen miles from San Felipe on a league and labor of land, but that Joachim and Valesca von Roeder had died.
After many hardships and fighting for the Independence of Texas, the settlers first made their homes at Cat Springs, Texas and then came to DeWitt County in 1847. At Cat Spring were born the following of Robert and Rosalie's children: 1) Clara Seigesmunde, November 28, 1835; 2) Johanna Caroline, November 29, 1838; 3) Caroline Louise, January 15, 1840; 4) Otto Joseph October 27,1841; and 5) Rudolph, June 26,1847. In DeWitt County the following children were born: 6) Marcellus Eugene, February 7, 1849 7) Robert Justus, December 5, 1853; and 8) Louise Rosalie, September 2, 1855.
Being well acquainted with the prominent citizens such as Sam Houston, Burnet, J.S Hill, J.P. Borden, Judge Waller, and many other distinguished citizens of that day, Mr Kleberg's services in the War for Independence and his ability were soon recognized by the young Republic and as early as 1837 he was appointed by President Sam Houston as Associate Commissioner of the Board of Land Commissioners. In 1838 he was appointed President of said commissioners by J.P. Borden, Commissioner of the General Land Office. In 1841, he was commissioned by Mirabeau B Lamar, President of the Republic, Justice of the Peace, which was then an important office as there were few lawyers, and few law books, and important and perplexing suits to be decided in these courts. In 1846 he was elected Chief Justice in Austin County, and commissioned by Sam Houston, Governor. In 1848 he was elected County Commissioner of DeWitt County, and commissioned by Governor G.S Wood. In 1853 he was elected Chief Justice of DeWitt County, and commissioned by Governor Bell. He was re-elected as Chief Justice of DeWitt County in 1854.
When they reached DeWitt County, there were few settlers and no schools or churches in the area that they settled. Judge Kleberg together with Messrs. Albrecht von Roeder, John Pettus, the Bells and Yorks, erected with their own hands, a log cabin on the Coletto Creek, near the old York and Ball farm, which was used for a school. Robert Justus Kleberg died at Yorktown, DeWitt County, October 23, 1888, in his eighty-sixth year, surrounded by his family, and was buried with Masonic honors. His wife, Mrs. Rosa Kleberg, and the following children survived him: Mrs. Clara Hillebrand, Mrs Caroline Eckhardt, Miss Lulu Kleberg, Hon Rudolph Kleberg, Marcellus E. Kleberg and Robert J. Kleberg. His eldest son, Otto Kleberg, who served with distinction in the Confederate army, preceded him in death in 1880. (From The History of Gonzales County, Texas. Reprinted by permission of the Gonzales County Historical Commission).
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS