Harris County Historical Society: A Century of Preserving and Sharing Local History 

By Charlie Becker 

The HCHS serves all Harris County residents, including La Porte, Texas, founded on August 10, 1892. La Porte residents have a long-standing tradition of loving parades. Photo courtesy of Dan Becker.

The time has surely come when the people of Texas should take more care more in preserving the evidences of their own history. Every day old landmarks are destroyed; every day valuable papers which record the deeds and manner of living of early Texans are swept into the rubbish pile and burned; and every day the newspapers record the passing away of pioneer Texans in whose memory was recorded certain valuable information of the days of our fathers and grandfathers. So much is already irretrievably lost that we should bestir ourselves to collect and preserve as much as possible of what is left before it is too late.

Adele Lubbock Briscoe Looscan spearheaded the founding of the HCHS in 1923.

This call to action begins “A Plea for County Historical Societies,” published by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) in the July 1923 issue of The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. The people of Harris County were the first to answer, founding the Harris County Historical Society (HCHS) in the fall of 1923. HCHS exemplifies how the study of history becomes historically significant. In a region valuing innovation over tradition, these citizen scholars have celebrated and preserved history for over a century.

Historical societies and clubs have played a crucial role in the nation’s civic fabric for much of its history. HCHS is the oldest historical, non-genealogical, public history organization in Harris County. Many popular ones are known as genealogical societies because their inclusion is based on ancestry. By contrast, HCHS membership is open to anyone interested in furthering its purpose. 

HCHS leaves no detail unspared in its official purpose: “to encourage, advocate and administer the discovery, collection, preservation and publication of historical information, records, oral histories, visuals and other materials relating to the history of Harris County, and to educate the public about the important history of Harris County, Texas.”

In 2023, HCHS marked its 100th anniversary with a large centennial celebration and establishment of an endowed scholarship – the Harris County Historical Society Award of Excellence – at the University of Houston Center for Public History.  The award recognizes a student for excellence in public history work related to Houston or Harris County history. Throwing a party and starting a scholarship were the perfect emblems of HCHS’s recipe for longevity in balancing celebration and preservation.

HCHS cofouner and son of Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson Houston served in the U.S. Senate from April 21, 1941, until his death on June 26, 1941, at age 87.

When the original call for historical societies went out in 1923, someone born in the year of Texas independence would have been about eighty-seven years old. Nearly the entire history of Harris County was in living memory, and people felt the urgency to preserve it. Plus, they wanted to take part in that effort.

In answer to TSHA’s notice, the Houston Post ran the following story on Friday, September 7, 1923. The headline read, “Historical Association Being Organized Here.” It went on to say that Mrs. Adele B. Looscan, president of the state association was urging counties to form historical societies, and “those interested in the patriotic movement” should send a postcard to A. J. Houston. The Harris County chapter would begin its meetings once twenty-five people had returned their postcards indicating their intent to join. Less than a month later, on October 2, the HCHS was officially established.

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Visit the Harris County Historical Society for more information about joining, attending a meeting, or dupporting the organization.

Ann and Dan Becker have each served as president of HCHS, demonstrating their dedication to preserving the county’s history.

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