Col. Sam Robertson

Founder of San Benito

By Mark Arguelles, 8th Grade, Berta Cabaza Middle School

Entire text taken from "Roots by the River" by Minnie Gilbert

and "Gringo Builders" by J.L. Allhands with photos from San Benito Historical Society


Military Service

Early Days

Late life

San BenitoDays

His House

Pardre Island Developer


Projects Menu

Men with the frontier spirit were accustomed to thinking big and Colonel Sam Robertson was a classic example. Sometimes he was called a one-eyed visionary, even by friends. None of his ventures ever brought him anything approaching riches. Yet many of his seemingly far-fetched dreams--to others--became reality. While building the first railroad into the valley, he convinced railroad magnate B.F. Yoakum that international waters of the Rio Grande must be impounded to support planned development on both sides of the river. He founded San Benito and created an irrigation system serving 68,000 acres. The 200-mile Spiderweb railway, which he planned and obtained financing for, was the equivalent of today's farm-to-market roads. Still thinking big 30 years before the Valley's Gulf beaches were opened to tourism, he launched the first development on Padre Island, including construction of a 3-mile trough* causeway near Corpus Christi.

It never troubled him that others profited financially from projects he went broke pioneering. He had an inborn toughness that carried him through a lifelong series of ups and downs. He tackled a challenging job the way he tackled life-with gusto. When disasters occurred, he never lost his bounce. With unquenchable zeal, he would forge ahead, plans already in mind for his next project.

*see section Padre Island Developer, last sentence for explanation of "trough causeway"

Photo courtesy of San Benito Historical Society