Throwback Thursday: Colonel Sam Robertson

Local News

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Many people in this area in South Texas know well about Col. Sam Robertson.

Robertson’s first step into South Texas was about 1903 with the building of the railroad. He was an engineer and was hired when he won the contract in order to leave the railroad ties in Robstown to Brownsville in 1904. He saw a parcel of land which today is known as the city of San Benito.

Sam Robertson retired from the military in 1919 and came back to South Texas. That’s where he got into a partnership with certain interests that had land holdings up in North Padre Island. Robertson was drawn more towards the southern part of Brazos Island. He obtained Brazos Island intact as a payment on a debt in 1930 and that is what began the Del Mar Beach resort project. Unfortunately it burned down and you can see the remains on these pilings.

That wasn’t all that was built in this area. Behind one of the dunes are were cabañas. These cabañas, or bungalows, were rented out on a daily basis to tourists that would come in and settle for a weekend or even a month. An interesting part about how the island was at that time is that it was not an intact piece of land between where Highway 4 sets in and the Brazos Santiago pass. There was a cut between that and that was called the Boca Chica. It was a tidal wash that actually cut this Brazos Island in half.

Around 1930, Col. Roberts made a causeway over that cut which allowed people to come to this part of the land. He charged a toll going over that causeway of 25 cents. He was very proud of this project. Between 1930 until 1933 a huge storm came out of Tampico and reeked havoc upon his prize community. That did not stop him. In April 1934 he was open and back for business with 26 bungalows. He had the casino going full blast which was the center of activity for Brownsville and the lower Rio Grande Valley to come out on those hot summer days.

Just before Word War II the customers would sit under the moonlight and hear the music of Tommy Dorsey or Eddie Shaw and all those pre-war styles of music. Colonel Sam Roberts died in August 1938. His legacy lived for a while because his wife maintained it with some portions of her family until 1941.

The U.S. Government caused her to close down, at least this land at coastal observation, to see if there were any submarines coming in from the Germans at the time. The legacy was one that Col. Sam Robertson gave this part of the country and the rest is history.

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