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Selkirk Drive                     28°46'5.32"N      96° 0'0.83"W

Samuel Gross Selkirk Family

Selkirk Island For Kids
 


SELKIRK
ISLAND
By Mrs. E. T. Pabst

Selkirk Island is a resort and permanent-home subdivision on the Colorado River between Bay City and Matagorda. Businesses on the Island include Selkirk Island Corporation (the developers), Selkirk Realty, Selkirk Island Utilities Corporation, and the Property Owner's Association. Ownership of these businesses is vested in J . Pabst, who died March 19, 1984, and Mrs. J. Pabst (E. T. Pabst).

In the late 1960's, when thirty acres (which became Exotic Isle) were cut from the Island by the Corps of Engineers in straightening the Colorado River, Colonel Wyatt O. Selkirk and his nephew, J. Pabst, decided to subdivide Selkirk Island itself. Colonel Selkirk passed away in early 1971; therefore, J. Pabst was responsible for developing, selling, and managing Selkirk Island until his death in 1984.

The first lots in the subdivision were ready for sale in 1970, and by 1977 approximately 500 lots in the five existing sections were sold. From 1971 to 1984, 150 houses have been built, many of which are permanent homes. These homes on the naturally-wooded waterfront have their own fishing piers. The Colorado River affords both fresh and saltwater fishing and is a haven for waterskiing and for boats of all sizes. With the building of the jetties at the mouth of the Colorado River, these residents can take deep-draft vessels directly into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Selkirk name dates back to 1822 when William Selkirk, one of Stephen F. Austin's "Old Three Hundred," came to Matagorda County. Since then the name "Selkirk" has been common in Matagorda County affairs as county clerks, tax assessors, treasurers, postmasters, and developers.

Selkirk Island is a historic spot. A stream called Mill Creek once crossed through the island and was the site of an early saw mill.

Another bit of interesting history is the story of a Scottish sailor, named Alexander Selkirk, who was shipwrecked on a remote island off the coast of Chile. He spent over four years on the island before he was rescued. After returning to Scotland, his story was told to Daniel DeFoe who used Selkirk's diary as the basis for the classic book, Robinson Crusoe. Years later, in 1822, William Selkirk in his own way, was a "Robinson Crusoe" who braved the wilderness to colonize the land. As one of Stephen F. Austin's surveyors, he drew the first map of Matagorda County.

Because of the historical connection between the fictionalized Robinson Crusoe and Alexander Selkirk, the developers of Selkirk Island used Robinson Crusoe's picture as their logo.

Selkirk Island is significant for other reasons. The ownership of the Island has been in the family for five generations; the original Mexican land grant was deeded to William Selkirk in 1824. According to family legend, William Selkirk had been given a map by an old sailor, and he joined Stephen F. Austin's colony in order to pursue the buried treasure, supposedly at the site of Selkirk Island.

The beauty of the natural environment of this recreational area will be enjoyed by those who live at Selkirk Island now and for many future generations to come. The Island boasts an excellent swimming pool, community boat ramp, and fishing pier as well as a picnic area for property owners who have not yet built their dream home.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume I, pp. 398-399, 1986
 



 


William Selkirk
 

William Selkirk (July 24, 1792-1830) was the son of James Selkirk (1757-1820), born in Scotland, and Elizabeth Henry (April 14, 1776-May 9, 1844). James saw service in the American Revolution by 1776 and was discharged on June 7, 1783, from the 2nd New York Regiment; his discharge papers were signed by General George Washington. The Selkirk family lived in Selkirk, New York, near Albany.

William married Matilda Hallenbake (January 18, 1794-August 25, 1820). They had two children: James Henry (1815-1862) and Rachel Elizabeth (1813-____). William served in the War of 1812, and by 1814, was a silversmith working as a foreman for John Doty, who was also a watchmaker. Matilda died on August 25, 1820, and in December 1820, William's father died. William's brother, Charles, became guardian of the two children in 1822, when William came to Texas as a surveyor with Stephen F. Austin's "Old Three Hundred."

Selkirk made surveys throughout the colony, but principally along the Gulf Coast, where the counties of Brazoria, Matagorda and Jackson were organized at a later date. As a colonist, William received a "headright" grant of one league, situated on the Selkirk Islands which were formed by the branches of the Colorado River immediately above the town of Matagorda. The certificate for the lands was dated August 10, 1824.

Selkirk was active in the affairs of the colony and had the confidence of Stephen F. Austin, both personally and professionally. This is evidence by the fact that in July, 1824, the empressario sent him to deliver Austin's "talk" to the Waco Indians. Judge Thomas Duke, James Baird, Thomas H. Bond, a Mr. Jones and John McCrosky went with him. William was elected second sergeant of the militia at an election held at San Felipe on July 10, 1824. On January 4, 1827, Selkirk was appointed on a committee of three to wait on the governor of Coahuila and "assure him of the loyalty of the citizens of Austin's Colony in regard to recent uprisings in Nacogdoches" (the Fredonian Rebellion).

In a letter dated January 27, 1829, Austin wrote Selkirk telling him "to fire the prairie at different places as you go along. In case we do not find you, I wish you to continue on the meanderings to the forks of Karankaway, and then go to John Brown's where you will find a letter of instruction.

William Selkirk will be remembered, not only as the first Selkirk to come to Matagorda County but for his work as a surveyor. He helped to plot the town of Matagorda and made one of the first maps of the county. In a bill for surveying, Stephen F. Austin paid Selkirk $400 for surveying part of the meandering Colorado River consisting of 31,655 bars.

Selkirk, together with other surveyors, will be remembered for shaping Matagorda County into what it is today.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume I, pages 94-95
 


Robinson Crusoe's Descendants Have Their Own Islands
By Bess Hamilton

The old adage, "History repeats itself," again scores a mark in the story of the Selkirk family, direct descendants of Alexander Selkirk, known the world over as Robinson Crusoe. It was the lure of an island that brought William Selkirk, a prosperous New Yorker, to Matagorda County in the year 1824, where he was given the Spanish headright to three islands, which he named the Selkirk Islands.

A few months before, William Selkirk had befriended a sick, outcast sailor whose name, coincidently, was Robinson. At Robinson's death, the grateful mariner gave Selkirk the only thing he had, a map; and told him the story of his life. He had been, he said, a pirate on one of Jean LaFitte's vessels. One day, while sailing in the Gulf of Mexico, the hold of their boat laden with treasure, they found they were being pursued by the Spaniards. They made their way to Matagorda Bay, and aided by a stiff breeze and a high tide, managed to cross a sandbar and get into the mouth of the Colorado River. Robinson and another sailor were put ashore and commanded to bury the chest on the tip of an island there. The next morning the enemy overtook them, destroyed their ship and killed the crew; Robinson alone escaped, the map still in his possession. With difficulty, he made his way back to New York; but the hardships of the trip were too great, and soon after William Selkirk aided him, he died.

Found Another Treasure

Immediately after the sailor's death, Selkirk set out for Matagorda Bay, and when he had secured his grant to the islands, started his search for the treasure. He called the trip of the largest island, where the chart indicated the treasure to be buried, Gold Point, and so it is known to this day. He did not find the pirates' gold, but it seemed to him he had found another treasure in the islands themselves. Their fascination filled him, and often he found himself dreaming over his pick and shovel. Even at night the mystery of the islands hovered over his slumbers. Who knows, perhaps it was that first Selkirk's dominant wish to be put ashore on the island of Juan Fernandez that stirred again in William Selkirk's heart a century later. At any rate, he decided to go back to New York, get his family, and settle permanently near his islands.

He started one night for Galveston, where he intended to visit friends before going on to New York, but he was never seen alive again. Early the next morning, when the first streaks of dawn could be seen on the horizon, while the gulls screamed over a school of fish, and a buzzard made a tiny speck against the gray sky, William Selkirk was found with an Indian arrow through his heart.

Some time later, his family, headed by his son, James Henry Selkirk, came to Texas to claim the islands. They made their home in Matagorda, and the islands possessed by them as they had claimed their father before them. In time James married and had a son, Samuel Gross Selkirk. He lives today in Bay City, and at the age of 76 is the oldest living descendant of Alexander Selkirk.

Other Selkirks

Other members of the immediate family are: Ethel Selkirk Rayne of New Orleans, Luline Selkirk Crofton of Dallas, Adelaide Selkirk Secretan of Houston, Samuel Gross Selkirk, Jr., and his sister, Grace, who live at the Bay City home with their parents and their aunt, Adelaide Selkirk Fisher. James Henry Selkirk, the youngest, follows the sea, just as Robinson Crusoe did, but in a capacity that would have sorely puzzled Crusoe in his day. He is the radio operator on the SS Samuel Q. Brown. He was the radio operator on the SS Henderson when that ship took President Harding on his last voyage, the trip from Alaska to the coast of California.

The Crusoe Ranch, owned by the Selkirks, is about midway between Bay City and the islands. Every fall the cattle are driven from the ranch down the banks of the Colorado and made to cross to Wild Cow Island, the largest island. It is the top of this island that is known as Gold Point. Here the cattle spend the winter protected from the cold and the wind by the heavy brush and canebrake. Wild Cow Island has an area of 4030 acres. The next in size is Field Island, about 1000 acres; and the smallest, Dick's Island, about 400 acres. One spring, four calves were overlooked. They remained on the island for four years. One day while hunting, Samuel Selkirk, Jr., caught a glimpse of them. After a struggle, for they had become entirely wild, they were roped and brought to the ranch. They lived only three months; the hot sun on the prairies was too intense after the shadows of the islands.

Islands' Fascination

This is a brief sketch of the last four generations of the Selkirks. Their lives are like the Colorado that flows around the islands. Fresh and deep; a few shadows from the overhanging brush near the banks; but for the most part, clear sparkling in the warm Texas sun; rippling softly here and there in the breeze; and flowing at last into the Gulf of Mexico and to the great beyond. Like the river too, the islands stand in the center of their lives, with a fascination to them all that can not be answered or explained. Laughingly, the youngest generation refer to themselves as the "heirs to the islands," but there is a seriousness behind it all.

I wonder, if, on a moonlight night, when the canebrake rustles with  wind from the gulf, two shadows, one a shade darker than the other, could not been seen wandering happily on Wild Cow Island. Perhaps we could even faintly hear the barking of a dog, and if we came along the shore at Gold Point before the water had time to wash away, we might even see the print of a bare human foot in the sand.

Author's note: Gold Point is mentioned in "Coronado's Children" by Dobie.

A copy of the original Spanish headright can be seen in the state files at Austin.

Palacios Beacon, November 16, 1933
 

SELKIRK ISLAND
 

WILLIAM SELKIRK (1792-1830), ONE OF STEPHEN F. AUSTIN’S ORIGINAL “OLD TREE HUNDRED” SETTLERS, CAME TO TEXAS FROM NEW YORK IN 1822. SELKIRK WAS A SURVEYOR FOR THE AUSTIN COLONY AND SERVED IN THE COLONIAL MILITIA. HE WAS PART OF A GROUP SENT (1824) BY AUSTIN TO MAKE A TREATY WITH THE WACO AND TAWAKONI INDIANS. HIS GRANT OF LAND, KNOWN AS SELKIRK ISLAND, WAS AMONG THE FIRST ISSUED BY THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT TO AMERICAN COLONIST IN 1824. OWNERSHIP OF THE PROPERTY HAS REMAINED IN HIS FAMILY SINCE THAT TIME. SELKIRK’S DESCENDANTS HAVE BEEN PROMINENT CIVIC AND BUSINESS LEADERS IN MATAGORDA AND GALVESTON COUNTIES.

ORIGINALLY SELKIRK’S LAND GRANT CONSISTED OF SEVERAL ISLANDS FORMED BY THE BRANCHES AND CHANNELS OF THE COLORADO RIVER. WHEN THE GRANT WAS SURVEYED IN 1824, A LOG RAFT (FALLEN TREES) BLOCKED THE RIVER NEAR SELKIRK’S PROPERTY. THIS RAFT HINDERED NAVIGATION INLAND FOR MANY YEARS. RECENT DREDGING CLOSED THE CHANNELS SO THAT THE LAND IS NO LONGER DIVIDED INTO ISLANDS. IN THE 19TH CENTURY A SAWMILL STOOD WHERE MILL CREEK ONCE EMPTIED INTO THE NOW DRY EAST BED OF THE COLORADO RIVER. ACCORDING TO LEGEND, ONE OF JEAN LAFITTE’S PIRATES HID A TREASURE AT THE NORTHERN END OF SELKIRK ISLAND. (1974)
 

Inscription typed by Faye Cunningham.




 



James Henry Selkirk
 



Lucy Hall Selkirk
 


James Henry Selkirk
 

James Henry Selkirk (March 29, 1815-October 31, 1862), the only son of William Selkirk, came from Selkirk, Albany County, New York, in 1836-- after the Battle of San Jacinto-- with a group of New York volunteers recruited to help the Texas colonists like Mexico for independence. According to family records, James Henry was an apprentice in the establishment of James Gould, in Albany, New York. This company manufactured post coaches and other vehicles. James Henry was in the painting department where he became and "ornamentor" and was most proficient. After serving his time as an apprentice in becoming a skilled ornamentor, he received the highest fee been paid to coachmakers. he was active also in the establishment of a historic society and, while in Albany, was the leading actor in theatrical performances.

After working as a journeyman in saving enough money with the intent of going to Matagorda to recover the lands received by his father from the Mexican government, the failed first by ship to Galveston and then to Matagorda, where he found the land occupied by "squatters." By legal proceedings, the "squatters" were evicted and he came into the rightful possession of the Selkirk property.

Federal Hall and his family came from Birmingham, England, to the United States about 1826. He was married to Lucy Bromwich on February 13, 1820, and settled on Staten Island, New York. Paul was a gunmaker in England and became a manufacturer of firearms in the United States. His first child, William, was born in England on April 8, 1823, and the second, Lucy, was born August 4, 1825, in England. By the time Hall came to Texas in 1841, there were three children living: Lucy, Joseph and Sarah. All lived in Victoria prior to moving to Matagorda in 1843. As the family neared Matagorda, young Joseph road ahead to the ferry on the Colorado, which was just above the Selkirk land. James Henry Selkirk was operating the ferry at the time and as Joseph approached, he told James Henry to hold the ferry for his family who were short distance behind. James Henry asked jokingly whether or not Joseph had any sisters. He answered that he had to, Lucy and Sarah, Ben remarked, "You can have Lucy for your sweetheart!" Lucy Hall and James Henry Selkirk married August 5, 1843. The family Bible records the following children:

(1) William (December 1, 1845-March 15, 1915) married June 21, 1871 to Louisa Redmand Mann (May 14, 1842-Novembr 13, 1921)
(2) James Henry, Jr. (October 14, 1847-June, 1919) married Leona Hutchinson of New Orleans (they had no children)
(3) Catherine Civill (November 21, 1849-June 2, 1924) married December 24, 1867, to Edward J. Inglehart
(4) John McMullen (August 12, 1852-October 13, 1920) married first April 1, 1871, to Ada L. Penish; married second Hulda J. Beasley (September 5, 1863-September 12, 1932)
(5) Samuel Gross ( August 31, 1836-June 22, 1934) married January 18, 1883, two Seraphina Eleanor Smith ( July 27, 1861-April 17, 1952)
(6) Lucy Adelaide ( October 13, 1856-October 25, 1939) married July 12, 1877, to Frederick Kenner Fisher ( May 22, 1852-February, 1919).

James Henry Selkirk played a prominent part in the affairs of Matagorda, both of the town and county-- as a businessman and a public official. With his cousin, James Selkirk (also from Albany), he constructed the first dock in Matagorda which was built on the south side of the town. For seven years he conducted as shipping and warehouse business for the interior planters and ranchers. Selkirk with city clerk and treasurer, County Clerk, County surveyor, and treasurer he was interested in art and was a member of the American Art Society. He was also a member of Masonic Lodge #7.

In the Colorado Tribune, Matagorda, dated January 28, 1848, James Henry advertised his :Daguerreotype Studio:

J. H. Selkirk having purchased a new and improved daguerreotype apparatus is now prepared to take likenesses. The materials for the purpose have been selected with care and are of the best quality, the camera is furnished with the most costly acromatic lenses, and he feels assured the likeness will recommend themselves to the favor of the public better than by words and advertisement.

James Henry made many daguerreotypes over the next few years and use them in training for services for his family.

James had Selkirk was the victim of the yellow fever epidemic that scourged Matagorda County in the fall of 1862. Lucy Hall Selkirk died in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 1992. Both were buried in the Matagorda Cemetery.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume 1, pages 93-94
 



Matagorda Cemetery
Photo courtesy of Bill Anderson
 



Dock built by James H. Selkirk in 1850. Picture taken in 1913.
 

 

Copyright 2010 - Present by the Selkirk Family
All rights reserved

Created
Dec. 25, 2010
Updated
May 30, 2014
   

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