Manuscript Map Signed by Important, Early Texans
Among the Earliest Extant Maps of Matagorda (1835)
331. [MAP]. [MATAGORDA, TEXAS]. Untitled manuscript map of Matagorda in ink and watercolor on two joined sheets of paper mounted on contemporary cartographic linen (with selvage). Color key to owners’ properties at upper left. [Matagorda, 1835]. 60 x 94 cm. Attestation text at lower left in the handwriting of S. Rhoads Fisher: “I certify that this is a true Copy of the original map or plat of the town of Matagorda and that the several col[o]rs represent the several distinct ownerships or shares of the original and present proprietors, as described by general and mutual partition—that is to say that the blocks—fractions of blocks—and lots coloured in green belong in sole property to Ira R. Lewis, those those [sic] in red to Elias R. Wightman—those in orange to Seth Ingram, those in yellow to Ira Ingram—those in lilac to Stephen F. Austin, and those in blue to S. Rhoads Fisher, and those in colored stone or lead colour were sold or donated by the board of proprietors anterior to the said partition being made, which is shown by the scale of colors above in evidence of which I sign this with the witnesses of my assistants according to law for the want of a public clerk. Matagorda July 8th 1835. S. Rhoads Fisher, Primary Judge. Assisting witness Ira Ingram, assisting witness I.R. Lewis.” Professionally washed and reaffixed to new, sympathetic linen; nevertheless still missing areas at lower right, upper left, and along central folds. The central image of the town for the most part survives intact, as does the manuscript portion at lower left. Some staining and discoloration at corners. A rare Gulf Coast survival of a pre-Republic of Texas manuscript map, which came from the estate sale of the contents of the home of William Selkirk and his descendants (provenance letter on file). In 1824 William Selkirk received title to Selkirk’s Island in the Colorado River in Matagorda County. The Selkirk descendants owned and continuously occupied the land until the 1970s, when the property and contents of the house were sold and the land subdivided into resort-home lots. Selkirk helped lay out Matagorda and made the first maps of Matagorda County.
This finely detailed map, showing numerous streets, town lots, and other features such as the public square, clearly indicates a town intended for prosperity, founded as it was by some of the early luminaries in Texas. Areas for future growth are shown along the Colorado River on the right side of the map, where large parcels are indicated that are well watered and said to be “timbered ground.” Established by Stephen F. Austin in 1827 as a town to protect incoming settlers, the area grew rapidly and became an important entry point into Texas for emigrants. Although Matagorda was a significant port during the Civil War and continued to grow afterward, due to repeated damage by hurricanes the town went into decline after World War II. This is an early map showing the divisions of land held by the original founders. It is among the very earliest maps of Matagorda, the few others extant being in institutions.
The persons involved in the creation and signed attestations of this map were among the prime movers in the establishment of Matagorda and the Republic of Texas. All participated in the forging of the Texas Republic, in part to protect the animating pursuits of their land speculation. The Father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin, is a named grantee, and surely needs no introduction.
The map is signed by and in the handwriting of S. Rhoads Fisher, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Handbook of Texas Online:
Elias R. Wightman (1792-1841), one of the grantees indicated on the map, was a founder of Matagorda (1826), one of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred colonists, and Austin’s choice to conduct the first surveys for the town of Matagorda. He also worked with David Burnet to recruit colonists to Texas from the U.S. Handbook of Texas Online:
Ira Ingram (1788-1837), a grantee named on the map and a signer of the map as a witness, was one of Austin’s Old Three Hundred colonists, organized resistance to Mexican Centralist rule of Texas, wrote the Goliad Declaration of Independence (signed on December 22, 1835) and served in the military of the Texas Revolution and Republic. See Handbook of Texas Online.
A native of Virginia, Ira Randolph Lewis (1800-1867) served on the Consultation and the General Council of the provisional government of the Republic of Texas and was commissioned as a colonel at that time. He went on to raise funds and recruit soldiers for the Texas Revolution. See Handbook of Texas Online.
Seth Ingram (1790-1857) platted the town of San Felipe for Stephen F. Austin in 1823, received a grant to land in Matagorda the following year, and served with his brother Ira on the Committee of Safety and Vigilance in September, 1835. See Handbook of Texas Online.
As noted above, the present map came directly from the William Selkirk family. William Selkirk (1792-1830), the founder of the Selkirk family in Texas, played a central role in the development of Matagorda. In 1835 or 1836, William’s son James Henry Selkirk came to Texas as a lieutenant with a company of New York volunteers for the Texas army. James constructed one of the first dock-and-warehouse businesses in the town and moved freight along the Colorado River. See Handbook of Texas Online.
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