Often, we mention the old concrete ship Selma in the Reel Report, as it is popular fishing spot. Many readers ask about the old ship and its history.
For more than 85 years, the USS Selma has attracted the attention of sailors and tourists entering Galveston Bay from the Gulf of Mexico.
The ship was built in Mobile, Ala., and launched June 29, 1919. It plowed the seas for only a few months before foundering off Tampico, Mexico, on May 31, 1920.
When the Selma arrived in Galveston on Aug. 15, 1920, inspection revealed it had a cracked hull and was in serious trouble.
The Galveston County Daily News’ files show the wounded concrete ship arrived here in tow by tugs.
The repairs were for naught and the concrete-hulled vessel never would ply the waters of the Gulf again.
Instead, after two years of attempting to find a shipyard to make it seaworthy again, the U.S. Shipping Board ordered the Selma to a watery grave off Pelican Island.
The ship is named after the town of Selma, Ala., and was chosen as a result of a bond drive during World War I where the town with the highest sale of war bonds would be honored by having a ship christened with the town’s name.
Records show the government chose concrete instead of steel during World War I.
Fabricators could not produce enough steel for ship bottoms during the conflict.
Instead, the Shipping Board turned out 12 vessels of heavily reinforced concrete.
The ship is privately owned and has had an interesting history of ownership.
One of the more interesting owners was a gentleman named Clemsey N. LeBlanc. Deed records show Leblanc paid $100 for the Selma in May 1946.
LeBlanc made the Selma his home for several years, during which time he paid no taxes on the sunken ship.
In 1948, “French,” as he was called, told a Houston newsman he enjoyed living on the Selma because “automobiles could not run him down, the cool breezes always blow” and he catches all of the food he eats.
The estate of the late Pat Daniels, once a reporter for The Daily News, is the current owner of the ship and was successful in having it placed on the rolls of state and national historic sites.