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Letters to Alice

Birth of the Kleberg-King Ranch Dynasty

Edited and Annotated by Jane Clements Monday and Frances Brannen Vick; Foreword by Thomas H. Kreneck

Publication Year: 2012

In the summer of 1881, Robert Justus Kleberg rode across the hot, dusty South Texas brush country to the palatial home of Capt. Richard King to consult with the cattle baron about attending to his legal affairs. On that same journey, the young lawyer also first laid eyes on Alice King, “Princess of the Wild Horse Desert.” Neither of their lives would ever be the same. Published for the first time in this book, the love letters written by Kleberg to Alice Gertrudis King provide a glimpse of the lives of two of the most influential people in Texas history. Editors Jane Clements Monday and Frances Brannen Vick have also provided generous documentation and annotation of these important primary documents from the Special Collections at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, affording historians and interested readers an insider’s view of one of the world’s greatest ranching empires as it transitioned from its founders to the next generation. Letters to Alice: Birth of the Kleberg-King-Ranch Dynasty represents the only existing collection of letters between any of the great Texas cattle barons and their wives. Although a great deal is already known about the ranch and its development, Monday and Vick present for the first time Robert Justus Kleberg’s personal perspective on his first meeting with Alice King, their early courtship, the difficulties obtaining her parents’ permission to marry, and the poignant time surrounding Captain King’s death.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Gulf Coast Books Series

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

The special collections & Archives Department of the Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, is gratified to be involved in publishing these edited letters from Robert...

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pp. xiii-xvi

When Thomas h. Kreneck, head of Special Collections & Archives at Bell Library, Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, called us about editing a small cache of love letters from Robert Kleberg...

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Prologue, 1853-1883

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pp. 1-34

ON July 24, 1881, twenty- seven- year- old Robert Justus Kleberg sat down at his desk to write to his parents about a recent trip he had taken, one that would ultimately change his life...

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A Desert Empire

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pp. 1-15

Robert entered The legal profession on the heels of his father; law had thus come naturally for Robert. Robert Justus Kleberg I, a respected lawyer, also served as chief justice of DeWitt...

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Princess of the Wild Horse Desert

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pp. 15-19

At some point during Robert Kleberg’s first visit to the Rancho Santa Gertrudis, he met the woman who would be the love of his life: Alice Gertrudis King. During that summer of 1881, she was nineteen years...

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A Young Lawyer Establishes Himself

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pp. 19-27

Robert Returned To Corpus Christi by train from the Rancho Santa Gertrudis with a good deal to contemplate. Perhaps his thoughts were full of the vast frontier empire he had just visited, but his subsequent correspondence...

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Tragedy Strikes / A Friendship Deepens

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pp. 27-34

While Robert was dealing with the difficulties in his law practice, Alice and her family received a disastrous blow. In late February 1883, Captain King received a telegram that his youngest son...

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The Love Letters, 1884-1887

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pp. 35-133

If we are To believe the letters of Robert Justus Kleberg Sr. to Alice Gertrudis King (and, after reading them, who could not believe?), when he met Alice he fell deeply in love with this child of a larger- than- life Irish...

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My Dear Little Heart

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pp. 35-73

My Dear Little Heart This is a good time of the night to begin writing an answer to your kind and interesting letter of day before yesterday— I received...

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My Little Darling

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pp. 73-111

My Dear Little Heart— If I were not afraid that illness was the cause of my not hearing from you tonight I would scold you terribly. I have felt so disappointed...

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My Little Pet

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pp. 111-123

My Dear Little Heart, While it gives me pleasure to write to you at any time, it gives me still greater pleasure to answer a letter from you but as the letter is out of the question...

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My Darling Little Wife

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pp. 124-133

My Dear Little Pet, I reached San Antonio this evening at 5:40 and after taking my supper called on Rudolph whom I found at his post in his office. With him were several old mutual...

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Epilogue, 1887-2011

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pp. 135-152

Robert and Alice Kleberg welcomed their first- born child on November 18, 1887. Dr. Arthur Spohn, Mifflin Kenedy’s son-in-law, delivered the baby boy in a rented two- story residence called the Greer House...

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The Children of Robert and Alice

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pp. 136-141

Robert and Alice went on to have four more children: Henrietta Rosa Kleberg (Larkin- Armstrong), born July 17, 1889; Alice Gertrudis Kleberg (East), born January 9, 1893; Robert J. Kleberg Jr., born...

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pp. 141-151

The twentieth century brought fame, prosperity, and a new, dynamic generation of Klebergs. In the ten years between Captain King’s death in 1885 and 1895, Robert Kleberg worked hard to consolidate the ranch...

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The Empire Continues

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pp. 151-152

Robert’s sons were worthy successors and had been trained well for their positions. When Robert developed palsy in 1916, his oldest son, Richard Mifflin (Dick) Kleberg, was recovering from a near fatal attack...


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pp. 153-172


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pp. 173-178


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pp. 179-189

Further Reading, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781603443319
E-ISBN-10: 1603443312
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603444712
Print-ISBN-10: 1603444718

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 24 b&w photos. Line drawing. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Gulf Coast Books Series

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ranchers' spouses -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Ranchers -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Lawyers -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Kleberg, Robert Justus, 1853-1932.
  • Kleberg, Alice Gertrudis King, 1862-1944.
  • Kleberg, Alice Gertrudis King, 1862-1944 -- Correspondence.
  • Kleberg, Robert Justus, 1853-1932 -- Correspondence.
  • King Ranch (Tex.) -- History.
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