Glen Rose – The Somervell County Clerk’s Office, as now required by the State of Texas, has recently sent its second batch of historical records and books ranging back to 1875 to be rebound and preserved – a period of time when it was not uncommon for a member of the community to be indicted for horse theft, said Somervell County and District Clerk Michelle Reynolds.
Reynolds has been tasked with the rather large endeavor of preserving over 141 years of Somervell County real property, probate, civil, criminal, chattel mortgages and commissioners’ court records. The records are kept in approximately 130 books and, while only 11 have been preserved thus far, Reynolds said she is eager to share the fruits of her labor with the community.
“It is fascinating to me that so much history is right here in our courthouse and that we have this opportunity to preserve it for future generations,” Reynolds said. Somervell County is such a small community that the information that lies in the clerk’s historical books leads back to our ancestors. The majority of the people living in the community have lived here most of their lives, so chances are that there is definitely a distant relative or close friend that we knew at some point in these records.”
The process began after the 82nd Legislature passed HB 1559, which mandated for any court records from 1951 and prior be maintained and preserved.
The majority of the funding for the project comes from filing fees as outlined by statute LGC 118.001 and 118.052, Reynolds explained. However, she also explained that the current $10.00 filing rate is to be slashed in half by 2019, which could prove a hindrance on the speed in which the records are preserved, according to Reynolds.
Simple math says that at the current rate the remaining 120-or-so books are being restored it could take up to 13 years for completion.
In Sept 2015, The Somervell County Commissioners Court approved the 2015-16 Somervell County and District Clerk Records Management and Archive Plan to begin the tedious process of preservation. According to Reynolds, the preservation of the first 11 books containing indictments made by various Somervell County grand juries was completed for $17,037.20.
“We don’t have the funds that larger counties bring in on a yearly basis so each year I have to go over the budget and allot an amount to be used for this purpose,” Reynolds said. “The preservation of historical books is very expensive. Fortunately the cost is offset by the collection of the archival fees each year.”
“It may seem expensive, but it is the law and the binding has a lifetime warranty,” Reynolds added.
The clerk’s office collected approximately $21,000 from filing fees in 2015, according to Reynolds.
The books are currently being preserved by Kofile Preservation – a company listed on the comptroller's website. Reynolds said Kofile does an excellent job and are very meticulous with their work. The records are sent to Kofile where they are handled by hand to remove acid damage, then put on acid free paper and set in protective sleeves, she explained. The sleeves are then encapsulated in Disaster Safe County Binders (DSB).
The Texas State Library, along with the new legislation, also recommends for paper documents to be kept between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit and between 50-60 percent humidity, while microfilm be maintained in between 20-30 percent humidity and in a temperature range of 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit
Reynolds said that her wish is to be in office long enough to see the entire process from beginning to end.
“I am a lifelong resident of this county and this project is my way of giving back and contributing, not only to the area but to preserving history itself,” Reynolds said. “I am very blessed to be in this position at this time.”
The public is welcome to view the books during normal business hours.