Historical Documents

The Historical Document Room was opened to the public on October 24, 2006. The room is available for viewing historical documents from 1837—1925.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 Costs for preserving these invaluable historical documents range from $10 for a file to as much as $2,500 for a civil index book.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The process for preservation requires experts trained in handling historical documents, as the documents must be handled with extreme care.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Services Available in the Historical Document Room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Historical Documents Available Online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

THE CASE OF THE BATTLING NEIGHBORS

Cause No. 184, 193 City of Houston v. City of West University Place

Judge Mark Davidson

The Biblical story of David v. Goliath is well known to most. Few people know of the history of the acrimonious relationship between two adjoining cities in Harris County. The large, cosmopolitan City of Houston and the much smaller, largely residential City of West University Place. They have gone to war in the Courthouse several times in their history, with varying results each time.

One case is cause No 184, 193, filed in the 113th District Court in 1930. The case arises out of a contract signed in 1934 by Houston Mayor Oscar Holcombe and West University Mayor H. B. Schlesinger. In it, Houston agreed to provide access to its sanitary sewer system for the sum of $1.00 per month per house to the city of West U. The city was fairly small, and had only begun to develop. While people started moving in in 1916, the city was not incorporated until 1924. Houston’s petition claimed that $4321.00 was due and owing. West U fired back with special exceptions asking that Houston be required to plead every single home in West U that had been hooked into the sewer system. Judge Allan P. Hannay granted the exceptions, and what followed was a list of the developed homes in West U.

West U counterclaimed that Houston’s sewer system was not up to standards. Presumably, they thought that a return to the septic tanks that had been used in the homes built before the contract were preferably. What is peculiar with this argument is that early residents of West U often claimed that their city was very swampy, which would make septic tanks particularly unattractive. Eventually, Houston agreed to upgrade their sewer system and West U agreed to pay the dollar a month. On November 1, 1932, the case was dismissed by agreement. Eventually, West U would build its own sewage system – within the City of Houston.(1) That did not end the disputes. In 1936, Houston, led by its pro-growth mayor Ocsar Holcombe annexed a 25 foot wide strip across the northern and southern boundary of West U. Since Houston had already extended its area up to Kirby Blvd on the east side of the city, it meant that West U. could never grow, since the City of Bellaire had already been incorporated on the west side of West U. West U. protested the annexation. They lost in district court, the Galveston Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court. Thus, due to the simmering feud between the cities, West U would remain a small, largely residential city, and Houston would become a metropolitan beheomoth. It has turned out well for everyone.

One last thing. To prove how forgiving the City of West University Place has been, when the City of Houston changed the name of Bellaire Blvd near the Medical Center to Holcombe Blvd in the early 1960’s, the City of West University Place followed suit. The Cities of Bellaire and Southside Place did not.

1 It is on Braes Bayou between Kirby and Buffalo Speedway.

Click here to view the historic case documents for The Case of the Battling Neighbors