Back in 2008, Houston resident Chance Drake purchased a house on Dooley Street that was formerly owned by Lawrence Hamrick.
As he was preparing the residence to be offered as a rental, Drake discovered something of interest inside its modest attic space: A small wooden box with no top that contained numerous letters and documents from the late 1800s, most of which were in remarkably good condition.
“We were cleaning out the little half-attic,” Drake said, “and we found this little box. It looked old, so we decided to see what was in it.
“It blew my mind.”
The box’s contents included several letters to Lawrence written in elegant cursive by his father, Thomas, as well as receipts for real estate tax payments, a property abstract, and even a list of favorite Bible verses. Drake kept the box, intending to publicly share it and its contents.
“I took it home and stuck it in my old desk,” Drake said. “But it’s one of those things you kind of forget about.”
A couple of weeks ago, Drake was rearranging some things in his own home to create a new office space. A drawer in the old desk was subsequently opened and the box was rediscovered.
“It’s amazing what you sometimes find in these old houses,” Drake said.
One of the letters written by Thomas to Lawrence was penned on letterhead from the International Hotel in San Francisco, which at the top bore the declaration, “the best dollar per day house on the coast.”
“I love history,” Drake said, “especially when it has to do with where you’re from.”
Hamrick was a sewing machine mechanic by trade who became renowned for making clocks as a hobby after retirement (especially “school clocks”). A feature article about his clock-making appeared in the Herald in October of 1981.
Lawrence’s niece, Oneta, and her daughter, Annette, live on a ranch in Avenal, Calif. Oneta, 97, grew up on a farm in Texas County near Plato. She was delighted when informed of the discovery and rediscovery of the links to her uncle.
“This is so wonderful,” she said. “I have a lot of great memories of those days.”
Drake plans to donate the paperwork to a museum.
“I just think it’s something people should be able to see,” he said.