Shelby is at the junction of Farm roads 389 and 1457, twenty-four miles northwest of Bellville in extreme northwestern Austin County. It was settled in the early 1840s and was named for David Shelby, reportedly the first settler in the area. Most of the early residents were members of the German Adelsverein, and the actual founder of the town was Otto von Röder, who constructed a grain mill at the site around 1841. In the mid-1840s a small community began to develop and was known as Rödersmühl, or Röders Mill. In 1845 August Vogelsang bought the mill from Röder, and that year a number of German families, including the Vanderwerths, the Rothermels, and the Ohlendorfs, moved into the area. A post office opened in 1846 under the name Shelby. Most of the German settlers were from well-educated middle-class families and were interested in the promotion of the arts and sciences. Among these Germans the knowledge of Latin indicated a high level of education, and for a time the community was called a Latin settlement (see LATIN SETTLEMENTS OF TEXAS). A singing society was founded there in 1852, and the first school was built in 1854. In 1867 the town was the site of large singing festival (in honor of the Prussian soldiers who had died in the Seven Weeks War) that attracted German singing groups from around the state. By 1884 Shelby had some seventy-five residents, served by three saloons, three general stores, two cotton gins, two schools, a blacksmith, and a saddlemaker. A Lutheran church was built in the 1880s, and a hotel was operating by 1896. The community continued to grow, and in 1904 it reported a population of 248. Its post office was closed in 1912, but the population remained at about 200 through the end of World War II. Thereafter the number of residents gradually declined and most of the businesses closed. In 1992 Shelby reported 175 residents. The population remained the same in 2000.
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