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Title: County Buildings
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The history of the various court houses in Warren county, briefly stated, is as follow: If not too dignified a term, the first court house in this county was a hewed-log house, standing at Warrenton (the first seat of justice) and it was owned by Enoch Farmer. In fact, it was Mr. Farmer's residence, and in it the county court was held and general business transacted. This served its purpose until the county seat went to Williamsport, and then the officials assembled in a log house owned by William Harrison, the proprietor of the town of Williamsport. This building was first used by the county in July, 1829, and served as a county building until the autumn of 1830, when the building owned jointly by Samuel Ullery, J. C. Irvin, Malinda Beard and Eliza C. Finch was rented for county purposes, but owing to some unforeseen circumstances, it was not occupied until the following March. About one year later, the first steps were taken for the providing of a real court house. John Mercial was engaged to clear the timber from the public square, receiving ten dollars for such labor. For reasons now lost sight of, and not particular, the county did not use the Ullery building much, but preferred the Harrison house for the holding of the offices. 1831 came, and still the commissioners felt the county was too poor to try to erect a building, hence the matter was postponed. The county had been doing business on "paper" since 1827, and that had usually brought about ninety-five cents on a dollar. There was no real money in the hands of the citizens of Warren county. What came in, for a time, was soon spent in entering lands at the government land office. Three-fourths of the people were unable to pay their taxes. The assessments, though very low, were fraught with many "delinquent" items on the treasurer's books. However, the wonderful immigration to the county in 1831-32 served to redeem the county orders, replenish the treasury and inspire the county commissioners to take measures to build a long-needed county building. In May, 1832, specifications were prepared and placed on exhibition, and bids solicited. It was to be a brick building, forty feet square and twenty-three feet high. In July, 1832, the contract was let to E. W. Jones and Seth Flowers to construct the court house. They were to receive three hundred dollars September 1st, the balance to be paid in installments as the work progressed, and the court house was to be ready for occupancy by August, 1833.

Thomas Gilbert, who had donated fifty thousand bricks for a court house, should the county seat be located at Williamsport, failed to comply with his agreement and the county had to look elsewhere for such building material. The county agent then brought suit against Mr. Gilbert, a judgment was obtained, but subsequently a compromise was effected, he paying a part of the value of the promised bricks. All this delayed the completion of the court house, and it was not until June, 1834, that the structure was ready for occupancy. The building cost in round figures about two thousand dollars. Only a year after it was finished, it was found defective and had to be strengthened, and other floors and stairways were then added. It was not long before the county officers had to look elsewhere for quarters. Among the buildings selected as a makeshift was that of James Cunningham. In June, 1845, the commissioners contracted with Richard Treadway for the erection of two office rooms, for the use of the officials. These were built on the south side of the square, and the cost was eight hundred sixty-eight dollars and fifty cents; three years later the same man received six hundred twenty-seven dollars for building fire-proof safes for the county records. In 1853 a second building was provided for the clerk and recorder. James Jones erected that building for one thousand and fifty dollars. These various substitutes for a real court house served until the building of the 1870 structure, which was the one just before the present fine edifice.

In 1870 a committee appointed to examine into the condition of the old court house reported in unsafe, and about that time B. F. Gregory and others made tenders of land and other property, provided the county commissioners would immediately erect a new court house. Much opposition was encountered at the time, although specifications were prepared and bids called for. Sessions of court were held in various buildings, including old store rooms. The county was in need of a good home of its own. Still a majority of the commissioners defeated any further progress in the work of court house building. Early in 1871, however, with B. F. Gregory at the head, things started again, and bids were a second time solicited from contractors. Finally, Hays & Evans, of Bloomington, Illinois, were awarded the contract, at forty-eight thousand four hundred dollars, and G. R. Randall, architect, of Chicago, was given the position of superintendent on the work. He was to receive two and one-half per cent. of the price of the building for his services. While the county treasury had already quite a sum of cash on hand, the county saw fit to bond itself in the sum of ten thousand dollars. The old court house was sold to Cyrus Romine for three hundred and twenty-five dollars. The court house that was erected as above mentioned, early in the seventies, was accepted in December, 1872, and the contractors paid in full. It was trimmed with native stone, and in its day was an excellent building. In 1886, however, the new site for the county building was chosen and a new edifice was soon completed. on the site of the present handsome building. That building stood until destroyed (almost totally) by the fire of January 20, 1907. A part of the walls were used in the new building, the history of which appears in paragraphs following this.

[Page 226-228.]

Date: 1/1/1913
Origin: Past and Present of Warren and Fountain Counties Indiana
Author: Thomas A. Clifton, Editor
Record ID: 00001455
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Collection: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Entered By: Leslie J. Rice

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