Empresario's Son: E. S. C. Robertson of Salado

​​Elijah Sterling Clack (E. S. C.) Robertson trusted that his journals might one day tell a curious descendant the kind of man he was.  Fortunately, his personal papers survive and now almost 140 years since his death provide a wealth of information about his personality, his relationship with his family, his political and social views, and the challenges he faced in the management of his vast Texas land holdings.

Twelve-year-old E. S. C. Robertson arrived with his father Empresario Sterling Clack Robertson in the Mexican Province of Texas in December 1832, and he would live in Texas for the rest of his life.  The elder Robertson established Robertson’s Colony, participated in the Texas Revolution, and served in the legislature of the Republic of Texas before his death in 1842.  

During his years in Texas, the younger Robertson served as a soldier, community leader, and businessman.  He carried the papers of his father’s colony to safety during the Texas Revolution, served as postmaster general of the Republic of Texas, and participated in the Texas Secession Convention and the Constitutional Convention of 1875.  He married twice and fathered fifteen children. 


His journals and correspondence tell of the people he encountered at various points in his life and offer an interesting perspective on him and Texas history.  Among the large collection of his letters is a detailed description Robertson gave of the condition of the Alamo as he viewed it in 1842.  His writings combined with other records disclose information about his life and accomplishments, the murder his father committed in Nashville, Tennessee, the murder he committed against his father-in-law, his son’s battle with alcoholism, and his daughter who following her divorce resumed use of her maiden name for herself and her son.  

Robertson’s writings provide information about his character, his dreams, and aspirations for his children, and about how hard he worked to provide for his family.  Personal details point to his use of a pipe.  There are records of his purchases of a pipe and tobacco.  He wore glasses and was fond of quality clothing.  According to Jim Shaw, a Delaware Indian, Robertson was tall and had red hair.  

Robertson’s archives reveal information that put to rest several long-held flawed assumptions concerning him and Salado.  Specifically, the location of the first Salado post office, the settlement in the area when Robertson moved to Salado Creek, the extent of his role in the establishment and growth of Salado and Salado College, and which member of the Willingham family initiated a transaction with Robertson to acquire land in Bell County.   

Documents in Robertson’s archive prove that the town of Salado established in 1859.  However, signs posted throughout Salado claim the town dates to 1852.  Salado Historical Society perpetuated the erroneous information through items as the pamphlet History of Salado, on directional signs in town, and on a sign at the main entry to Salado Cemetery.  The date also appears in books including Story of Bell County, Texas and online in The Handbook of Texas.  Additionally, the Historic Texas Cemetery plaque for Old Salado Graveyard reads, “This burial ground was likely in use about the time a U. S. Post Office was established in Salado Springs in 1852.”  The belief in the founding year 1852 led the village to celebrate its 150th birthday in 2002.  

Among the misconceptions and petty grievances that surround E. S. C. Robertson and his family is the unfounded claim that the Robertson family considered themselves superior to those around them.  In fact, the criticisms depict Robertson and his family living in a cultural landscape he would not recognize or comprehend.  Every indication is that the community admired and respected Robertson and his family.  While numerous Texas luminaries visited Robertson in Salado, his family never held lavish or extravagant social events.  The Robertsons welcomed under their roof the wealthy, the politically connected, and the common man.  Their home was open to the weary traveler.  

It would be easy for anyone to assume that the imposing white house on the outskirts of Salado belonged to a rich man who with his wife and children never accomplished a day of work let alone make any significant contributions to history.  In many ways, Robertson was a wealthy man, rich in character, family, faith, and land.  However, he did not have a great deal of money and was not as some believe a man who sat idly on his porch.  In fact, Robertson shared no similarities to the planter aristocracy of the other southern states or to the planters of the lower Brazos River Valley in Texas where extensive cotton cultivation and sugar production took place.


Robertson’s home in Salado, often described as an antebellum plantation, was, in fact, a large-scale ranch supported by auxiliary farms.


E. S. C. Robertson’s story began with his arrival in Texas.  

“The subject of this book is a complicated man who lived in a complicated time.  His journals and correspondence provide glimpses into his psyche concerning the events of his life.  Much changed in the years between 1842 and 1879, and Colonel Robertson was in the forefront of many of them resulting in an enduring effect on Texas, central Texas and Salado in particular.  Reading this book will reveal a most interesting telling of one Texas pioneer’s dreams and how he brought them to fruition.”  Cile Ambrose Cowan (Robertson descendant), 2017  

Published in June 2018, this 487-page hard-bound book includes more than 200 illustrations (documents, photographs, and maps) and a 65-page, every name and place index.  Source material included more than 9,000 documents and photographs from the family archive the Robertson Plantation Collection.  

Essential for every Central Texian's library and anyone interested in Texas history, particularly those interested in a first-hand account of many of the important events that occurred during the days of Mexican Texas and the very early days of the Republic and the State of Texas.  This book includes information about many early Texas and Salado pioneer settlers that figured at some level in E. S. C. Robertson's life.

Please note that this book is not a genealogy.  While it includes information of interest to genealogists, the book is about many people, places, and events in the history of Texas, told primarily through the life of early Texas pioneer E. S. C. Robertson using his journals, letters, documents, and maps.  


Award (courtesy TxSGS Stirpes) (pdf)


Review (courtesy TxSGS Stirpes) (pdf)


Ordering Information

Empresario's Son:  E. S. C. Robertson of Salado

ISBN:  978-1-940850-51-1

Book price is $85.00 (plus $7.01 sales tax for Texas residents)

Shipping is $6.00 (plus $.49 sales tax for Texas residents)

Please download and complete the order form at the link below.
Send the form with payment (check or money order) to:

Nancy Kelsey

400 S. Main Street

Belton, TX  76513

We are happy to complete forms and provide additional information
needed for purchases by libraries and other organizations.

Book Order Form (pdf)




Other Books by the Kelseys

Provided below is information about books published previously by the Kelseys.  The books are listed under the headings Bell County, Texas; Texas; Alabama; and Southern United States.


Notes on Bell County, Volume 1 - South Belton Cemetery [Belton, Texas] - published 2006 and currently out of print. 
Provides a glimpse of life and death in early Bell County. Information collected from the South Belton Cemetery grave markers is augmented with information from local newspapers, deeds, wills, marriage records, pictures and personal papers. Hardback, 92 pages. Please let us know if you are interested in purchasing a copy of this book as we are considering a second printing.  Contact the Kelseys at for information about potential availability of this book.

Notes on Bell County, Volume 2 - Hillcrest Cemetery [Temple, Texas] - published 2007.
Provides a history of the cemetery and tombstone and biographical information collected from local newspapers, family genealogies, court records (deed, probate, birth, marriage and death records, civil and criminal records), pictures and personal papers. Hardback, 507 pages, all name index, place index. $50.00 plus $4.13 Texas sales tax and $5.00 postage. Contact the Kelseys at for information about availability of this book. 

Notes on Bell County, Volume 3 - Temple [Texas] - published 2008.
Explores the history of Temple from the time the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad first established the little town on the prairie in 1881 through years of growth to the much larger and progressive city of the 1950s.  We spent more than 12 years researching, collecting, and compiling information from newspapers, personal letters, Bibles, ledgers, court records, city directories, and oral interviews.  Much of our archival research was conducted at major universities throughout Texas and at the National Archives. This information and more than 400 photographs of local residents, events, and documents are used to tell the story of the town and its residents.  Hardback, 293 pages, all name index, place index.  $50.00 plus $4.13 Texas sales tax and $5.00 postage.  Contact the Kelseys at for information about availability of this book.

Images of America - TEMPLE [Texas] - published 2010.

This book includes photographs that illustrate the transformation of Temple from "Prairie Queen" to the progressive city it is today.  The authors gathered the photographs from the archives of Temple Public Library, Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum, and private collections.  Paperback, 127 pages.  Available online, and at local book stores (ask about availability and price).  A postcard pack of photos is also available at

Images of Modern America - BELL COUNTY [Texas] - published 2015.

​The establishment of Fort Hood during World War II ushered in a period of rapid progress for Bell County.  Its predominately agrarian identity was transformed into a modern, multidimensional economy focused on defense, health care, education, transportation, and heritage tourism.  Beginning in the 1960s, the county experienced a population shift to the suburbs, and its numbers tripled, from 94,097 in 1960 to 310,235 in 2010.  The Centroplex of Killeen, Belton, and Temple is one of the fastest-growing regions in Texas.  In 2014,  Killeen ranked 18th in the nation for growth.  US News & World Report ranked Baylor Scott & White Hospital in Temple 10th among Texas hospitals for 2014–2015.  Today, the culturally diverse population respects its history and anticipates a bright future for the county.  Paperback, 96 pages.  Available online, and at local book stores (ask about availability and price). 


Miscellaneous Texas Newspaper Abstracts - Deaths, Volume 1 - published 1995.  

This volume includes abstracts from 40 different newspapers.  While Texas is the focus of the majority of the death notices, there are over 800 references to the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  To a lesser degree references are made to the states of Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont, and provide either the place of birth, place of death, or residence.  Abstracts include information from obituaries, letters written to and published in the newspapers as well as military dispatches, reports from the frontier and death notices that appeared in other newspapers.  Census, mortality schedules and county histories were also consulted as supplemental sources.  Paperback, 271 pages, surname index, slave name index.  Available for purchase at

Miscellaneous Texas Newspaper Abstracts - Deaths, Volume 2 - published 1997.  

This volume contains abstracts of deaths or implied deaths from 44 newspapers originally published in Texas during the years 1839 through 1881.  Included is a German newspaper, New Braunfelser Zietung, published in New Braunfels, that has been translated into English.  Paperback, 455 pages, surname index.  Available for purchase at

Texas Masonic Deaths with Selected Biographical Sketches - published 1998.  
Information from Grand Lodge annual reports published for the years 1858 through 1882 is the basis for this book.  Organized in three parts, part one is Deaths Reported in Lodge Records, part two is Biographical Sketches of many of the Masons mentioned in part one, and part three is additional information, including an article "Petition for First Lodge in Texas".  Paperback, 203 pages, surname index.  Available for purchase at


Miscellaneous Alabama Newspaper Abstracts - Volume 1 - published 1995.  

Includes abstracts from central Alabama newspapers published during the years 1823 through 1869 in the counties of Dallas, Green, and Talladega.  However, the genealogical information found within the notices are by no means limited to central Alabama.  Many notices include the surrounding counties of Perry, Autauga, Wilcox, Bibb, Sumter, Montgomery, Shelby, and Tuscaloosa.  Abstracts consist of marriages, death, legal and slave notices, advertisements, and a great number of names in lists of letters left unclaimed in the local post offices.  Paperback, 256 pages, surname index, slave name index.  Available for purchase at

Miscellaneous Alabama Newspaper Abstracts, Volume 2 - published 1996.  

The newspapers abstracted for this volume were originally published in counties of middle and southern Alabama during the years 1821 through 1877.  The items abstracted include business advertisements, runaway slave notices, divorce notices, legal notices, lists of letters remaining unclaimed during the early 1820's in the local post offices of many towns, marriage notices, advertisements for sale of land, queries on whereabouts of family members, obituaries and tributes of respect, and names of doctors in Alabama, by county, in 1825.  Paperback, 352 pages, surname index, slave name index.  Available for purchase at


Marriage and Death Notices from the South Western Baptist Newspaper - published 1995.  

Marriage and death notices were submitted to this newspaper from all over the South.  Researchers will love the abundance of information contained in the abstracts, which are arranged chronologically in the text.  Of particular interest are the newspaper's Civil War obituaries, which provide accounts of battles as well as insight into family life during the war.  In addition to the couples' names and the dates and locations of their marriages, marriage notices generally include their places of residence and the names of their parents and presiding clergymen.  Regularly included in death notices are places, dates, and causes of deaths, as well as family names (including maiden names), dates and places of births and baptisms, places of residence, church memberships, and military accounts.  The earliest birth date contained is these notices is 1758.  Paperback, 223 pages, surname index.  Available for purchase at ​​​​

The Southern Argus:  Obituaries, Death Notices and Implied Deaths June 1869 through June 1874 - published 1996. 
Abstracted for this volume were deaths, implied deaths, accidents, illnesses, and murders that occurred from June 1869 through June 1874.  Paperback, 410 pages, surname Index.  Available for purchase at