Skip to main content

William Harrison Hamman papers

Identifier: MS 0006
Finding aid note: Stored off-site at the Library Service Center and requires 24-hour notice for retrieval. Please contact the Woodson Research Center at 713-348-2586 or for more information.

Scope and Contents

Consists of twelve boxes as well as some oversize material. A collection of documents, letters, Civil War materials, newspapers, and other miscellaneous material, connected with Brigadier General William Harrison Hamman (1830-1890), who lived in Texas during the Secession, Civil War, Reconstruction, and Bourbon period.

The collection includes contemporary accounts of early Texas historical events and political opinions, as well as Hamman's legal and business papers (regarding oil land, gas, and minerals, etc.). Also included are the papers of Mrs. Ella Hamman; John Hamman (1879-1966), founder of the Hamman Exploration Company, which later became Hamman Oil and Refining Company, and a pioneer in the development of mineral resources in Texas, as well as a lawyer specializing in land and corporation law; and other Hamman family members.

Materials in the collection are foldered in paper and some oversize material has been encapsulated.


  • Creation: 1828-1966, bulk dates 1861-1889
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1861 - 1889


Access Restrictions

This material is open for research.

Conditions Governing Access

Stored off-site at the Library Service Center and requires 24-hour notice for retrieval. Please contact the Woodson Research Center at 713-348-2586 or for more information.

Use Restriction

Permission to publish material from William Harrison Hamman - Papers must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

Biographical Note

William Harrison Hamman, soldier, farmer, lawyer, and entrepreneur, was born at Woodstock, VA on January 17, 1830, the son of George and Catherine Schmucker Hamman. His father, a carpenter, died when William was ten years old, and William worked various numerous jobs to help support his family. He attended the University of Virginia in 1850 and 1851, studying mathematics, German and chemistry. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Virginia militia on April 13, 1850, and promoted to captain on November 8, 1856. In January 1858 he moved to Owensville in Robertson County, TX, and on September 21 was licensed to practice law there.

Through the 1850s he had been an ardent Unionist and strongly opposed Virginia's secession. On December 15, 1860, he was a leader in Robertson County calling for the immediate secession of Texas. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Hamman enlisted on July 15, 1861, as a private in the "Robertson Five Shooters", which soon became Company C, Fourth Texas Infantry of the famed Hood's Texas Brigade. Hamman was first elected to corporal and then, on October 16, 1861, to regimental color sergeant. He was appointed acting regimental commissary sergeant in July 1862 and served as regimental commissary officer from August 6, 1862, until the Confederate government in August 1863 abolished the position. That month he applied for a mission to return to Texas, and was dispatched as a messenger to the Trans-Mississippi Department. He remained in Texas and was appointed on December 25, 1863, aide-de-camp to the commander of the First Brigade, Second Division, Texas State Troops. On March 12, 1864, he was promoted to captain of the Texas State Troops and appointed adjutant general of the Fifth Brigade District. He rose to the rank of brigadier general on December 26, 1864.

Although his means were reduced by the war, in 1866 Hamman became the first oil prospector in Texas; he drilled his first oil well at Saratoga in Hardin County. Ironically, he owned options and leases at the Sour Lake and Spindletop oilfields, but did not drill on them. In August 1870 Hamman helped to incorporate three business enterprises - the Calvert Bridge Company, to build a safe and substantial bridge over the Brazos River at Calvert; the Pacific and Great Eastern Railway Company of Texas, to build a rail link between the Red River and the Rio Grande; and the Texas Timber and Prairie Railroad Company, to build a railroad between Beaumont and Bremond. In May of that year he also helped charter the Calvert and Belton Railroad. In 1871 Hamman moved to Calvert when the Houston and Texas Central Railroad reached town. There he established a successful legal practice. On July 26, 1871, he married Ella Virginia Laudermilk. The couple had five children.

In 1878 Hamman, theretofore a Democrat, became interested in monetary reform and ran as the Greenback party's candidate for governor, finishing second; he ran again in 1880 and finished third. In 1889 he became interested in the development of the coal and iron deposits at New Birmingham in Rusk County and helped organize the Cherokee Coal and Iron Company. Hamman died at New Birmingham on July 14, 1890, and was buried in the Owensville Cemetery, Calvert, Texas.

Excerpted from The New Handbook of Texas, 1996


6 Linear Feet (12 boxes plus oversize items)

Language of Materials



Correspondence, documents, Civil War materials, clippings, and other papers of Hamman including accounts of early Texas historical events and political opinions as well as his legal and business papers regarding oil land, gas, and minerals; together with papers of his wife, Ella Hamman; papers of John Hamman (1879-1966), founder of Hamman Exploration Col, later Hamman Oil and Refining Co., pioneer in the development of mineral resources in Texas, and lawyer specializing in land and corporation law; and papers of other family members. Includes material relating to Hamman's service with 4th Texas Infantry. Persons represented include Sam Houston and Robert E. Lee.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Hamman, Jr., received in April, 1967.

Guide to the William Harrison Hamman Papers, 1828-1966
Nancy Boothe
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA