Historical Documents

The Historical Document Room was opened to the public on October 24, 2006. The room is available for viewing historical documents from 1837—1925.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 Costs for preserving these invaluable historical documents range from $10 for a file to as much as $2,500 for a civil index book.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The process for preservation requires experts trained in handling historical documents, as the documents must be handled with extreme care.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Services Available in the Historical Document Room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Historical Documents Available Online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.
 

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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.

The Case of the Long Home Run

Cause No.492, 696; Don Griffin and Rissie Griffin v. Houston Baseball Club

Judge Mark Davidson

April is a month in which hope springs eternal in the hearts of baseball fans everywhere. Whether it is rational or not, every fan hopes, at least at the beginning of the year that their team will be playing well into October. Another hope that is statistically improbable for most that that when fandom includes a visit to the ballpark to see a game, that you will get a free souvenir in the form of a baseball hit into the stands – a foul ball hit by an opponent or, preferably, a home run hit by a member of your team.

This is the story of a fan that caught a home run – right on the head. On October 5, 1956, Mrs. Rissie Griffin was walking into Buffalo Stadium with her husband Don. They were residents of Pasadena whose favorite team, the Houston Buffs, was playing for the Texas League Championship against the Corpus Christi Giants.(i) They had been delayed leaving for the game. Their tardiness was, no doubt, caused by the initial construction on the Gulf Freeway. Buffalo Stadium was on the corner of the new freeway and Cullen Blvd. The parking lot for the fans was behind the left field wall, but the wall was only twelve feet high at the left field foul pole. The Griffins almost certainly heard the roar of the crowd from inside the park, and then, without notice, a ball came and struck Rissie on the head, causing a concussion. Charlie James, the left fielder for the Buffs, had hit one of his nineteen home runs of the year.(ii) By an incredible accident, it not only left the field, but injured Mrs. Griffin.

Litigation ensued. Her lawyer, Warner Brock, claimed that the fence was too low,(1) that a protective net should have been placed over the fence, and that the Buffs should have placed attendants in the parking lot to protect the public from home runs. Mr. Griffin was named as a plaintiff to sue for his wife’s “loss of services.” The Buffs attorney, James G. Sargent filed a general denial. Shortly thereafter, the case settled for an undisclosed amount. Judge Ewing Boyd of the 55th District Court dismissed the case on an agreed motion.

Out of the park home runs have been impossible in Houston since 1965. Both the Astrodome and its successor, Minute Maid Park, have a cover on most game nights. In San Francisco, the right field fence opens to San Francisco Bay, and boats wait for home runs to be hit in an area called McCovey Cove.(iii) Similarly, Pittsburgh Pirate players have hit several home runs into the Allegheny River just outside of their right field fence. Darrell Ward, a member of the Houston Astros National League team, hit a grand slam home run into the Allegheny in 2000! The left field fence has proven to be surmountable in both Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park.(iv) Those parks need security outside their fences only to stop the fans from fighting over the home run balls!

Injuries have taken place and ball parks, and professional baseball has enhanced their fan protection in recent years after some serious accidents. Our enjoyment of the game carries with it the price of being vigilant to beware of hard hit balls. Mrs. Griffin’s tragic accident is a lesson to all baseball fans.

1 Had the Buffs been a farm team of the Boston Red Sox instead of the St. Louis Cardinal, a high left field fence would have been good training in the minors to prepare them for the “Green Monster” at Fenway Park

i The Buffs would lose the series to the Giants, four games to one.
ii Mr., James would play for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1960-1964, and for the Cincinnati Reds in 1965. He then got a degree in electrical engineering and ran a business until his retirement in 1998.
iii Home runs into the bay are less common since Barry Bonds retired.
iv Buffalo Field’s left field fence was 344 feet from home plate. Fenway Park’s field is only 310 feet but is much, much higher.

Click here to view the historic case documents for The Case of the Long Home Run