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Manuscript Map Signed by Important, Early Texans

Among the Earliest Extant Maps of Matagorda (1835)

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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:

Samuel Rhoads Fisher (1794-1839), secretary of the Texas Navy during the republic era, was born in Pennsylvania on December 31, 1794…. Fisher came to Texas in 1830 and settled at Matagorda. He represented Matagorda Municipality in the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos and there signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Fisher’s nomination by President Sam Houston as secretary of the Texas Navy was confirmed by the Senate on October 28, 1836. In October 1837 Houston suspended Fisher from office, supposedly to secure harmony and efficiency, but the Senate resented the suspension and ordered Fisher’s reinstatement on October 18, 1837…. Fisher County, established in 1876, was named for him.

     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:

Elias R. Wightman…was in Texas as early as 1824, and by July 1825 he had been appointed by Stephen F. Austin as one of the appraisers of goods damaged on the schooner, Lady of the Lake. In August 1826 Wightman and several other persons petitioned Austin for the establishment of the town of Matagorda, and Wightman himself petitioned for a league of land on the east side of the Colorado River. As one of the Old Three Hundred colonists, he received title to a sitio of land in the area of present Matagorda County on May 25, 1827. In 1828 Austin sent Wightman and David G. Burnet to the United States to help recruit settlers for his colony. Wightman went to New York, beginning his return journey south in November 1828 with approximately fifty to sixty colonists, including his parents, whose 1830 burials, the first in the Matagorda Cemetery, are commemorated by a Texas Historical Commission historic marker. Traveling by wagon train, river, and finally from New Orleans on the schooner Little Zoe, they reached the mouth of the Colorado and the small fort built there for the protection of the incoming settlers in late January 1829.

Wightman may have been at an 1829 meeting in San Felipe de Austin to discuss the founding of a Masonic lodge there, and by August 1829 he had been elected surveyor for Matagorda, where he had built his home. By that October he had surveyed the town of Marion on the Brazos River. Around that time he was also corresponding with Austin about operating a salt works and had agreed to teach school at Matagorda for a year. Wightman was working for Austin as a surveyor in 1830, and the Austin Papers contain voluminous correspondence between the empresario and the surveyor. The Wightman family participated in the Runaway Scrape in 1836. In 1837 Wightman was among the first justices of the peace elected in newly organized Matagorda County and the following year was involved with the Caney Navigation Company, a group organized to improve transportation on Caney Creek by clearing its channel and adding connecting canals. In October 1840 Wightman and other citizens of Matagorda signed a letter to Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar recommending John Delap as successor to Silas Dinsmore as county judge. Wightman died on October 26, 1841, shortly after he had sold his Matagorda County land and moved to his new property in Covington, Kentucky. In the 1980s some of Wightman’s field notes were housed at the Matagorda county clerk’s office and in the Matagorda County Museum in Bay City.

     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.


Sold. Hammer: $9,000.00; Price Realized: $10,800.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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