Weatherford Democrat

October 4, 2012

Historic court records return home

Christin Coyne

PARKER COUNTY — Parker County district clerk records dating back to the 1870s should soon be returning to the courthouse.

Thirty-seven books of indexes and minutes for civil cases between the late 1800s to about 1980 are expected to be handed back to the care of the district clerk, who hopes to eventually have them professionally preserved.

The county commissioners court and Lana Tibbitts, who served as district clerk for 18 years until 1999 and digitized the court records, gave the records to the Parker County Historical Commission after they were transferred to microfilm, according to officials.

The books have significant wear on the outside but hold a treasure inside.

The cases and parties are listed in the records, along with the final judgement recorded in the minutes.

“There’s a lot of history in there,” District Clerk Sharena Gilliland said.

She was called to come take a look at the records last week when the county was contacted about the volumes.

Some of the older records appear to be recorded in script writing with an old fountain pen, Gilliland said.

Virginia Cotten Scott, then a member of the commission, had been storing the books in the Cotten-Bratton Funeral Home building for several years prior to her death in March 2011.

The commission knew the records were in the building and when they heard it was going to be renovated, sought access to them, current commission chairman Harold Lawrence said.

It makes sense for the district clerk to have the records, according to Lawrence.

“The hard copy is still of some real great advantage,” Lawrence said.

If there is any question on the digitized copies, the original versions can be referenced, he said.

The records also contain some sealed records that should be kept by the district clerk, according to Lawrence.

A ceremonial hand over of the records is expected to be placed on an upcoming commissioners’ court agenda, according to county spokesman Joel Kertok.

The books will again be housed at the district clerk’s office and officials hope to give them a little love after their return.

Some of the fees the office charges go to a records management fund.

They’ve been letting that fund grow with the goal of having the office’s records properly preserved at some point, Gilliland said.

The Parker County Historical Commission is composed of members appointed by the county commissioners’ court to two-year term and gets no funding, Lawrence said.

The state mandates that each county have a commission.

Some of their primary responsibilities include encouraging the state historical marker program and recognition of historic cemeteries, according to Lawrence.

Currently they have a considerable number of historical records in storage, including records from the county assessor’s office and a justice of the peace office, Lawrence said.

The group doesn’t just need to find storage for the records but needs to find a permanent location for the commission to meet and interact with the public, according to Lawrence.

Currently the commission meets at the 20th Century Club on the first Thursday of every odd month.

The commission can be contacted at 817-341-8668.