SHELBY is situated in far northwest Austin County at the intersection of Highway 389 and FM Road 1457. A settlement developed here when Otto von Röder of Cat Spring financed construction of a water powered mill around 1840 on Skull Creek, a tributary of Mill Creek. The settlement was originally referred to as “Roedersmuehle,” and many Germans in the area used the mill.
The name Shelby came from David Shelby who acquired land here in March 1831. Shelby had various property holdings in Texas and did not yet live on this land. Speculation is that after the Texas Revolution, Shelby’s other property was ravaged, causing him to relocate here, although his exact arrival date is not known. Soon after, a store was established, and within the store was a post
office as was the common practice at the time.
Shelby was made postmaster in 1846 when Texas became a state, and gradually the place began being called Shelby as the name “Roedersmuehle” faded out of existence.
Germans at Shelby brought their cultural practices with them including a “Gesangverein” (German singing society) organized in 1852, then reorganized in 1853.
Harmonie Hall was built in 1883 for the local German singing society, “Harmonie Verein,” established in 1875. This group performed German singing traditions until the language faded after 1945. Harmonie Hall is now as a center of community activity, hosting celebrations and events throughout the year.
The historic Shelby Lutheran Church dates to 1903 and was recently converted into a community museum. In 1876, a Lutheran church formed and was served by the same pastor for 20 years. When he retired, a new preacher came and developed “Die Friedens Gemeinde” (Peace congregation).
Soon the church split, forming Peace congregations; eventually Peace dissolved, and St. Paul remained. St. Paul built this building in 1903. In 1965, the congregation outgrew the church and the moved across the road.
Witte-Schmid Haus, midway between Industry and Shelby (one mile east of FM 1457) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The house was built in 1857 by the German Ernst Witte Family and is somewhat rare for Austin County as an example of German Fachwerk architecture. In the 1980s the property was given to the Texas German Society by Witte Family descendants and is operated as a house museum.