[Archive of Manuscript and Typed Letters, Documents, Maps, and Plans Retained by New York Attorney Thomas Hewitt, Pertaining to Various Texas Land Matters, Mainly in Galveston]

[Various locations in Texas, including Galveston, Houston, Brazoria, and others: Mainly 1884-1894]. Eighty-five letters, documents, invoices, memoranda, and other correspondence, totaling about 110 pages, written on a variety of plain paper, letterhead, and pre-printed forms, plus two maps, a printed sketch with manuscript additions, and an architectural blueprint. Minor losses and insect damage to a handful of letters and portions of the maps, one map with heavy losses. The great majority of letters and documents in generally very good or better condition. Very good. Item #3864

An informative collection of original letters and documents detailing real estate matters and management in Texas in the late-19th century. The material was retained by New York attorney Thomas Hewitt, who represented various land owners and agents in Galveston, Houston, and other locations in the Lone Star State at the time, and was himself a speculator in Texas real estate. The letters and documents cover matters relating to land sales, offers, and acquisitions, land leases, surveying and plotting of properties, taxation, costs of titles and deeds, requests for documents, estate matters, requests for rent reductions, and more. About fifty of the documents emanate from 1884, another ten from 1892, and about twenty are dated in 1894; the few remaining documents are dated from 1900 to 1909. The documents were written to Hewitt from a variety of clients and colleagues, namely John G. McNeel, E.E. Bryan (who seems to be managing surveys and plotting for Hewitt in Velasco, Texas), Robert Harris (his surveyor), attorney C.R. Johns of Austin and other lawyers in various Texas towns such as Galveston, Waco, Athens, etc., and others.

Hewitt's principal correspondent here is Texas land agent H.M. Trueheart, who writes him numerous letters and is also accounted for on two of the printed maps which accompany the documents. On his stationery, Trueheart identifies his firm as "Real Estate and General Tax Agents." Trueheart's correspondence covers releases of deeds of trust for property in Burleson County (near College Station), the purchase of timber on the lands in Walker County, an offer on 3,349 acres of land belonging to A. de la Croix in Lavaca County, a proposal to divide the Milton Hicks league in Lampasas County into 100-160 acre tracts, and in many cases in regard to the lands owned by C.A. Sleight and the related estate. There are also a couple of letters involving unpaid wages owed to one of Trueheart's local agents, Matt Roach of Goldthwaite, Texas, for services rendered with regard to the Sleight estate. Trueheart is also occasionally mentioned in letters by other correspondents in relation to specific land sales.

In addition to lands matters, Hewitt also seems to have been involved in the cattle business, and represented others who participated in the cattle market. In his letter of July 18, 1884, John McNeel reports that cotton and cane crops are good, and that he wishes to dispense with about a hundred head of cattle, in part to a friend who employs some of McNeel's "old servants" and already "kills from one to two small ones a week & peddles out to the negroes around him." Another letter, from Marion Huntington discusses in great detail the state of the branding of Hewitt's cattle; Huntington appears to have managed a ranch for Hewitt in Brazoria. In a letter dated July 20, 1884, C.R. Cox of Houston writes to Hewitt to request his "lowest cash price" for "all your (Gulf Prairie) lands and cattle," which he believes he can sell "at one & the same time."

In a few cases, Hewitt retained correspondence sent to his clients or attorneys by others. For example, Hewitt retained a July 1, 1884 letter from an attorney in Gatesville, Texas sent to land agent James Coryell of Galveston regarding available lands in Coryell and Hamilton counties. He also retained a handful of personal correspondence sent by family members, such as his "Sister Lizzie." A few of the letters also indicate Hewitt handled some personal matters for his clients. For example, for John McNeel, at least twice, Hewitt handled the disbursement of fig preserves to his sister in New York City. Present here are also a handful of documents from 1900-1909; these include eight typed folio pages detailing yet more of Hewitt's work on "certain Texas land" for an estate on Galveston Island.

One interesting letter to Hewitt from 1894 was written to him by an engineer for the Board of Commissioners of Water Works of the city of Galveston. The engineer is requesting a right-of-way for a new water main through Galveston property owned by Hewitt, and notes that the letter is accompanied by a "tracing of part of Island property" through which the water main would run. The sketch is present here, and was forwarded to Hewitt by Trueheart, evidenced by three letters from Trueheart suggesting approval of the proposal also present here. The sketch shows a portion of Galveston Island represented by numbered plots, with a red line and notations added in manuscript indicating the path of the proposed water main, including where it would pass through Hewitt's property.

In addition to the water main sketch, the present collection also includes two maps and a blueprint plan of part of Galveston Island. The earlier of the two maps is an 1888 Rand McNally map of Texas with the title at top reading, "H.M. Trueheart & Co's Map of Texas." The bottom right includes printed text presenting the map "Compliments of H.M. Trueheart & Co., Texas Land Agents at Galveston, Texas. Established 1857." This map has, unfortunately, suffered some insect damage which affects some of the surface area. In better shape is the other map present here, a much rarer 1893 map titled, "Clarke & Courts Map of Galveston and Vicinity Embracing the Counties of Brazoria, Galveston, Chambers, Jefferson, Harris, Fort Bend and Liberty and Also Portions of Austin, Waller, Wharton and Matagorda." The map measures about 18.75 x 24 inches. Like the previous example, this map was folded long ago, but displays minor edge chipping, a few small areas of insect damage, a couple of closed tears, light soiling, and very minor separations at the crossfolds. This copy of the Clarke & Courts map of Galveston was also sponsored by H.M. Trueheart, with a red stamp in the upper portion of the map reading, "H.M. Trueheart & Co. Texas Land Agents, Galveston." OCLC records just five institutional holdings of this map. The final item of note here is a blueprint sketch of a portion of Galveston Island entitled, "Map of Wharf Front from Piers 23 to 27 Showing Location of Warehouses as Existing before the Fire July 2 1896 The New York & Texas Steam Ship Co." The blueprint measures 13.5 x 36 inches and was prepared by Galveston architectural firm N.J. Clayton & Company in June 1897. A mention of the New York and Texas Steam Ship Company is made in one of the letters, and Hewitt was likely somehow involved with the company, either as an investor or attorney. This blueprint sketch is likely a unique survival.

Altogether, the present collection of documents, maps, and plans provide an excellent source for the study of Texas land matters in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Price: $6,500.00