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[WS6] Skip Navigation LinksHome > About Us > Historical Document Room Houston, TX | December 07, 2019
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Historical Document Room:

Civil Courthouse
201 Caroline, Room 200
Houston, TX 77002
Map of Downtown

Hours: Tues. & Thur., 12 - 4 p.m.
  Wed., 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Phone: 832-927-5729
Fax: 832-927-0145

Mailing Address:

Harris County District Clerk
P.O. Box 4651
Houston, Texas 77210

For additional information regarding Historical Documents, please see our Frequently Asked Questions, call 832-927-5860 or e-mail us.

Historical Documents

The Historical Document Room was opened to the public on October 24, 2006. The room is available for viewing historical documents from 1837—1925. These court records are not just paper, they are valuable sources of Texas' and Houston’s history. Some of the most badly deteriorated records have been restored and preserved by the Harris County District Clerk's Office. Those efforts have been honored with a 2004 Good Brick Award from the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance.

What Can I do to Help Save Harris County’s History?

The Harris County District Clerk’s Office has teamed with the Houston Bar Foundation to raise the funds needed to continue restoring and preserving Harris County’s past. The Houston Bar Foundation is accepting tax-deductible donations to preserve records. We do not suggest an amount for your donation as any amount is greatly helpful and appreciated.

Checks can be made payable to: Houston Bar Foundation Records Preservation and mailed to P.O. Box 4651, Houston, TX 77210. For a contribution form to include with your check, please click here.

In addition to preserving case files, bound volumes such as criminal case indexes, minute books, fee docket books and accounting books from as early as the Republic of Texas days are being saved. Costs for preserving these invaluable historical documents range from $10 for a file to as much as $2,500 for a civil index book. Donors who contribute an amount necessary to preserve one entire book may, if they wish, be recognized on the spine or outside cover of the book. Standard wording for such recognition will be, “In memory of _________,” “Graciously donated by ________,” etc. Other wording desired by the donor will be taken into consideration.

The process for preservation requires experts trained in handling historical documents, as the documents must be handled with extreme care. They are unfolded, pacified, then encapsulated in special Mylar plastic sheets to protect them from further damage caused by exposure to air and moisture. The process being used will preserve these records for up to 300 years and prevent further deterioration of our historical records.

Services Available in the Historical Document Room

  • Public viewing of original documents
  • Requested copies for $1.00 per page

Historical Documents Available Online

As a public service, the documents that are made available over the Web are provided at no charge. Please note, while the clarity of some of the documents is exceptional, the quality of others is poor. This is directly related to the quality of the original document as well as the penmanship of the scribe in some instances. Click below to begin viewing these priceless historical documents.
 

View Online

Historical Case Of The Month

The Honorable Judge Mark Davidson has been instrumental in the development of the Harris County District Court Historical Document Project. An avid legal history buff, Judge Davidson continues to write and serve as a special advisor to the ongoing Case Of the Month articles.

Case of the Month: The Gun Tragedy Case Cause no 83,144- W. F. Tobias v. Richard Rogers

What was happening at the Harris County Courthouse one hundred years ago this month? Here is the case that everyone was following: Most of us have seen Western movies in which cowboys twirled a gun around their finger to show their dexterity at handling weapons. Rare is the Western in which a gun went off while it was being twirled. A case was tried in the 55th District Court before Judge Ewing Boyd in November of 1919 in which just such an accident occurred. It resulted in the death of a ten year old child – a tragedy by any definition.

Charles Tobias was a newsboy for the Houston Post Dispatch. He regularly went into in Wood’s Hotel in Downtown Houston and was shot there on March 12, 1919. The hotel was on Travis Street at its intersection with Preston, and was two blocks from the Houston Post Building. The young man would bring “special editions” of the paper into hotel to sell to the patrons of the hotel. Testimony at the trial was that he made between ten and fifteen dollars a month from selling newspapers. Robert Richter was a permanent resident of the hotel. He asked the desk clerk, Mr. A. C. Lowery, to watch his gun, a Colt 34 double action, for him for ten minutes.

After the owner of the gun left, Lowery decided to show his gun skills by twirling the gun around his finger. Unknown to him the gun was loaded, but not locked. It went off, killing the newsboy. The lawsuit was filed in April of 1919 by A. B. Wilson, the attorney for W. F. Tobias - the boy's father. The hotel was defended by John Mobley of the firm of Andrews, Streetman, Logue, and Mobley.

The principal issue at trial was only secondarily whether Mr. Lowery was negligent in rotating a loaded gun in a hotel reception room. The case tried to the jury was whether Lowery was acting in the course and scope of the hotel’s business. The hotel argued that they never told him to play with the customer’s guns, and that he was therefore acting outside of his authority. To the hotel, this made a big difference, since a judgment against a twenty-year-old itinerant desk clerk would have been of no value. The key witness was a jewelry salesman and former actor known as Professor Oofty Goofty, who testified that neither the owner of the hotel - Richard Rogers - nor the manager of the hotel - James Wooldridge - was on the premises at the time of the shooting.

The jury ruled that Lowery was acting in the course and scope of his employment and the hotel was responsible for the damages caused by the desk clerk.The jury determined damages next, and awarded $4000.00, or about $55,000.00 in 2019 dollars. Today, that number seems shockingly low until you realize that the law at the time prohibited parents from recovering mental pain or anguish for the death of their child. Recovery was limited to a dead child’s economic contribution to the family, less the cost of raising the child.

Recognizing this,Wilson had only plead for $15,000.00 of damages. A notice of appeal was given, but there is no record that it was ever perfected to the Galveston Court of Appeals. A final observation about this case: The death took place in March. The case was filed in April. The parties did all of their discovery in May and July. The case was tried in November. That is a monument to the judicial system of a century ago, and to Judge Ewing Boyd, who was new to the bench in 1919. He would serve until 1958.

Click here to view the historic case documents for The Gun Tragedy


Saving Texas History

Saving Texas History Image Read more about the preservation process of the Historical Documents.

Public Viewing Rules and Regulations

Public Viewing Rules and Regulations image View information regarding public access and the regulations that safe guard the Historical Documents.

Online Historical Documents

Online Historical Documents image These court records are valuable sources of Texas' and Houston's history. View these priceless historical documents.