A sampling of some of the letters and documents from the late 1800s recently found in the attic of a house on Dooley Street in Houston formerly owned by Lawrence Hamrick.

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.”

A receipt from 1883 showing a payment of $3.80 made by Thomas Hamrick for taxes on an 84-acre parcel of land in Jefferson County.

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.”

Lawrence Hamrick at age 90.

“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.

A letter written in elegant cursive by Thomas Hamrick to his son Lawrence Hamrick in 1888.
A real estate abstract of title for a parcel of land in Texas County in 1867 bears the signature of President Andrew Johnson in two locations.
A document from 1899 on letterhead bearing the name of Texas County circuit clerk T.W. Rackley shows receipt of a payment from Thomas Hamrick with regard to a lawsuit.
A receipt from 1893 showing a payment of $2.70 for real estate tax on an 80-acre parcel of land in Texas County.
Lawrence Hamrick’s former residence on Dooley Street as it appears today.
The family of Thomas and Alice Hamrick.
The children of Thomas and Alice Hamrick in order of birth.
Thomas Hamrick and his wife Alice.
Thomas Hamrick and his first wife Amanda.
Thomas Hamrick age 45, Alice Hamrick age 25, and their children Lutie (17), Benton (4) and Legola (16 months).
Thomas Hamrick’s former house as it looked in 2014. It’s near the Mount Pisgah Cemetery and was built in 1914.
A 1974 painting of Thomas Hamrick’s house in Texas County.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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  1. Great article, great story! One correction- presidents stopped personally signing land patents when the number became too large to individually handle (a law passed in 1833 to allow the president to appoint someone on his behalf to sign them), so a secretary’s signature is on the patent shown here.

  2. I need to set the record straight regarding several discrepancies in this article. I am Annette Duncan Howell. Great-niece of Lawrence Hamrick and daughter of Oneta Bolding Duncan who is daughter of Legola Hamrick Bolding. Legola is sister to Lawrence. Lawrence was never married and never had a daughter or a granddaughter as this article originally stated when published and printed.

  3. Secondly, none of these letters were written to Lawrence Hamrick nor were they written by his father Thomas as this article states. They were written to Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Hamrick by Thomas’s father Willis Peter (WP) Hamrick and another letter was to Thomas by Thomas’s brother Peter Willis (PW) Hamrick. So the letter written on the letter head from the hotel was from Lawrence’s Uncle Peter to Lawrences father Thomas. The other letter was from Lawrence’s grandfather to Lawrence’s father. These letters were written in the 1880’s, quite some time before Lawrence was born in 1912.
    Regarding the “links to her “daddy” and “granddaddy.” Referring to what the article says about my mother Oneta. The links she is ‘delighted to have’ are getting to see the scanned property documents and read the scanned images of letters to her grandfather Thomas from her great-uncle Peter Willis and great grandfather Willis Peter Hamrick.
    Lastly, in the picture titled ‘Thomas Hamrick age 45, Alice Hamrick age 25, and their children Lutie (17), Benton (4) and Legola (16 months).’ Lutie was Thomas’s daughter from his first marriage to Amanda before he married my great-grandmother Alice. Amanda died in childbirth. Little Legola in the picture is my grandmother.
    I want to thank Chance Drake for protecting our family history all these years and bringing it to light. I hope to one day see the original letters and documents.

  4. And sorry, one more correction to mention. My Great Uncle Lawrence was still living in his home up until his death in 2010, at which time his home was sold to Mr. Drake. That puts the letter discovery in 2010 or later, instead of 2008.

    1. Oh yes it has been such a blessing to us. My mother had the photos from her mothers things (Lawrences Sister. We submitted these photos for the article. The discovery of these letters and documents really puts personally to the faces in the pictures.

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