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Historic Lovett House to be honored

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    Lovett House on Webster Street
  • Article Image Alt Text
    John Augustus Lovett, M.D.

The Liberty County Historical Commission announces the Lovett House at 1723 Webster Street, Liberty, will be honored with a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark marker designation on Saturday, April 29, at 10 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend.

John Augustus Lovett, M. D. was prominent among the practitioners of medicine and surgery in Liberty County beginning around 1898. Although held in great esteem in his profession where he devoted most of his energy, he was equally well known in business circles, being particularly interested in the development of oil fields. Dr. Lovett was born on January 14th, 1852, in Holmes County, Florida, the son of Dr. Thomas Jefferson R. Lovett. His grandfather, Joshua Lovett, was the son of a Welshman who emigrated to America with several brothers.

John Augustus Lovett was three years of age when his parents moved to Vernon Parish, Louisiana. He received his early education at Pennington Academy, a private Christian school in Pennington, Texas and afterward began his independent life as a teacher in the public schools of Louisiana. As a youth of seventeen years, he commenced the study and training of medicine under the guidance of his father and subsequently continued his medical education at the University of Alabama at Mobile, graduating there on March 17th, 1876. On September 14th, 1876, Dr. Lovett married Miss Berrilla Word, daughter of James H. Word. They were the parents of five (5) children, two of which died at birth, three living to adulthood: Stella Lovett (1879-1962), Thomas Word Lovett (1880-1938), Wert Lovett (1883-1883), Della Lovett (1885-1885) and Berilla Beatrice Lovett (1894-1961).

After marriage, Lovett immediately entered practice in his home community in Louisiana, but in 1888 came to Hill County, Texas and opened an office at Abbott for the next ten years. In 1898, he moved to Liberty, Texas where he continued to practice medicine. The June 17th, 1898, edition of the Liberty Vindicator included the following community news: “We have omitted, unintentionally, to mention the location in our town of Dr. Lovett, late of Louisiana, who with his wife and one child, are now of our citizenship. The doctor has opened a nice drugstore in the Guertin building. He is a most agreeable gentleman, and we are glad to welcome him and his estimable family to our midst.” The 1910 census in Precinct 1, Liberty, Texas indicates that pharmacist Henry O. Ager, age 47, was living with the Lovett family in their new home. He no doubt operated the pharmacy in the Guertin building for Dr. Lovett. Henry Ager later either bought the pharmacy from Dr. Lovett or opened his own establishment since there are many records indicating he owned and operated an early pharmacy carrying his name. Dr. Lovett was a studious man and through extensive reading and investigation kept in touch with the modern trend of thought, experiment and advancement in the medical profession and was recognized as one of the most capable and learned physicians in Liberty County. He served as county health officer in Liberty County and surgeon for the Southern Pacific Railway Company in Liberty. Dr. Lovett was a Mason and belonged to the lodge in Dayton and served on the Liberty City Council. He and his wife were faithful Methodists and were both raised in that faith.

Dr. Lovett was heavily involved in the development of the oil industry in Liberty and Liberty County. He was President of the West Liberty (Dayton) Oil Company, a director in the Quintet Oil Company and President of the Trinity Oil Company. He was instrumental in discovering the Batson Oil Field in Hardin County and the Dayton Field. He held interests in the Parafi ne Oil Company and had holdings in that field. He was an early promoter of the First State Bank of Liberty and the first bank to be established in Cleveland. He was also the establisher of the first bank at Smiley, Gonzales County where he served as President.

Oral history indicates the beautiful “ raised” Victorian cottage located at 1723 Webster Street in Liberty was built by Dr. Lovett’s son, Thomas Word Lovett, however, records do not exist to confirm. According to the Liberty County census for 1900, Thomas was still living at home with the youngest sister, Berilla B. (B.B.) and his parents. The older daughter, Stella, was attending the private Barnett School in Houston during this time with her mother chaperoning during the week. Records indicate the property at 1723 Webster was acquired in mid-1904 from the heirs of Sanders A. Hardin and Jane Hardin, deceased. Dr. Lovett purchasing their undivided interest in Lots 3 and 4 of Inner Block 3, town of Liberty. The house at 1723 Webster was probably built between June 1905 and October of 1907. According to the Liberty Vindicator published January 21, 1916, the lovely home almost met its demise. “Dr. Lovett requests us to extend his thanks to all those who so promptly responded to the alarm of fire from his home last Friday, and whose response saved his property from destruction. Liberty surely has a gallant bunch of fire-fighters. When the fire alarm is given the citizenship is ever ready to respond with all their efforts…….” Daughter Berilla B. married Hubert B. Sapp on October 25, 1919. Records indicate B.B. and her husband lived with her parents at 1723 Webster until after the death of her mother when she, her husband and siblings deeded the property to their brother, Thomas Word Lovett on the 20 June 1938. Dr. J. A. Lovett died December 28th, 1924, at the age of 72. His wife Berilla died May 15th, 1938. Their daughter, Berilla B. Lovett Sapp, was the Superintendent of Schools in Liberty during this period.

There were several eras of Victorian style with definite design differences, but it is the “ Queen Anne” period 1880-1910 from which the Lovett House emerged. Identifying features of the Queen Anne house included steeply pitched roofs of irregular shapes, usually with a dominant front- facing gable; patterned shingles, cutaway bay windows, and other devices used to avoid a smooth- walled appearance; asymmetrical façade with partial or full-width porch which is usually one-story high and extended along one or both side walls. The circa 1905 Lovett House features a wraparound porch and gabled front bay with fish-scale shingles. The cypress used in construction has been carefully restored. It is an uncommon and pristine example of turn of the century architecture in this part of Texas. The subsequent owners of the Lovett house have been careful stewards and preservationists of this lovely, historic home as well as the history of the Dr. J. A. Lovett family. The house is a reminder of the prosperity in turn of the century Liberty during the big oil boom. Dr. Lovett was not only a renowned physician but an active participant in the development of the oil industry in south Liberty County and an important civic leader serving in many capacities in his community and church. The Dr. J. A. Lovett House richly deserves a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation from the Texas Historical Commission which will properly honor this important house. The home is now owned by Elliott C. and Ann Clark of Liberty. For further information, please call 936- 334- 5813 or email: lchc318@ gmail. com.