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[WS4] Skip Navigation LinksHome > About Us > Historical Document Room Houston, TX | April 20, 2019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Historical Document Room: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For additional information regarding Historical Documents, please see our Frequently Asked Questions, call 832-927-5860 or e-mail us.

Historical Documents

The Historical Document Room was opened to the public on October 24, 2006. The room is available for viewing historical documents from 1837—1925.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 Costs for preserving these invaluable historical documents range from $10 for a file to as much as $2,500 for a civil index book.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The process for preservation requires experts trained in handling historical documents, as the documents must be handled with extreme care.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

John Burgess v. Nathaniel Peck and W. B. Goodman; Case No. 339

Cases in our Historical Documents Room can be looked at with interest because of the stories they tell, but sometimes they make subtle statements about the times in which the cases were filed. Such is the case in the file of Burgess v. Peck and Goodman

The case involved a partnership gone sour. Mr. Burgess apparently sued his former business partners over their refusal to give him his share of the proceeds of a mercantile establishment they had created. The City of Houston in 1838 was very much a work in progress. The far south end of the city was about where Rusk Street and Main intersect today. As befitted the capital of a nation, which the City of Houston was, there were homes, hotels, and stores being built. The purpose of the partnership was to sell land and building supplies to those who moved here.

A lawsuit was filed and Judge Benjamin Cromwell Franklin (who was named after his great uncle of Revolutionary War fame) ruled for the Plaintiff. The file is interesting in that it sets out the assets of the business, including 540 acres of what is now the Heights valued at $1704.00, furniture valued at $15.00, and a half a block of tobacco said to be worth $5.00.

Then, as now, the laws of the Court required certain pleadings to be sworn to in the presence of an officer of the Court. The Congress of the Republic had not yet authorized the system of notary publics we enjoy today. This required each person filing a sworn pleading to go to the District Clerk’s Office and take an oath in writing before the Clerk – the one and only person authorized to administer sworn pleadings in a county. The problem is that the County fathers had not purchased a notary seal for the Clerk. The Harris County District Clerk, Francis Lubbock, overcame that problem by drawing a “seal” on the pleading. Lubbock was a clever person. He would serve as Harris County District Clerk until he ran for, and was elected to, the office of Lieutenant Governor of Texas. During the Civil War, he would serve as the ninth Governor of Texas.

Click here to view the historic case documents for John Burgess v. Nathaniel Peck and W. B. Goodman; Case No. 339


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.