GREENE COUNTY COURTHOUSES


BACKGROUND

When Missouri was admitted to the Union as the 24th state on August 10, 1821, the area now comprising Greene County was in what was known as Wayne County. On January 23, 1829, Crawford County was formed out of Wayne, and the present limits of Greene County were within Crawford County.

Greene County was created by a special act of the State Legislature on January 2, 1833. It extended to the western and southern boundaries of the State to the Gasconade River on the east, and to the Osage River on the north. Greene County at that time comprised what is now all of the Counties of McDonald, Newton, Jasper, Barton, Dade, Lawrence, Barry, Stone, Christian, Greene and Webster; portions of Taney, Dallas, Polk, Cedar, Vernon, Laclede, Wright and Douglas counties.

FIRST COURTHOUSE

The first meeting of the Greene County Court was held on March 11, 1833, ". . . at the house of John P. Campbell, within and for the County Green (sic) it being the place appointed by law for holding said Court, . . . "

On June 10, 1833, "On motion it is ordered by the Court here that the house of John P. Campbell, agreeable to the determination of the Court some time previous, be the place of holding Courts until otherwise provided for by law."

The following quotes from Record Book A indicates that Campbell was paid rent from the March term 1833 to the June term of 1834 of the Court, but does not provide any clues as to whether his home was large enough to house the Court or if a separate room or building for the Court was erected.

On June 11, 1833, the Court ordered ". . . that Daniel B. Miller be appointed commissioner to superintend the erection of a bar in the Court house, . . . " and on June 29, 1833, the Court ordered ". . . that the account of Martin B. Brau for a Table and pigeon holes, of Five dollars be allowed.' The Court approved on September 10, 1833 the payment of four dollars and fifty cents to Martin B. Green (sic) . . . for building Judges Bench in the Court house in the County of Green (sic)."

"On motion (June 11, 1834) it is ordered by the Court here that John P. Campbell, Clerk of the Greene County Court, be and is hereby allowed the sum of Fifty-Nine dollars and Forty-eight cents for fees in transacting County business, paper, ink, quills, &c and from December term 1833 to June term 1834 and for office rent from March term 1833 to June term 1834,. . . "

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The Court ordered on July 19, 1834 ". . . that the General Election to be held on the first Monday in August 1834 at the Court house in Springfield. . . ," without giving the location of the Courthouse. Additional furnishings for the Courthouse were ordered on July 19, 1834,". . . that there be a bar built in the Court house in the Town of Spf'ld . . . , . . . 14 ft long, 3 ½ ft high. . . A Short bar to extend from the corner of the 14 ft bar, to within 2 ½ feet of the Judges bench. Also eight benches, two of them to be 9 ¼ feet long, to be made of 12 inch plank, nicely dressed on the upper side, . . . Four of them to be 7 feet long. . . Two to be 10 ft long. . . Ordered by the Court that John Campbell be appointed Commissioner to superintend the erection of the bar and building of benches, . . . "

It seems impossible that. the house of John P. Campbell was the place where the bar and benches were installed. Yet I can find nothing in the records of any other place the Court met.

On June 22, 1836, we find the Court paying $43.75 to ". . . C. D. Terrell, Clerk of the Green (sic) County Circuit Court, for stationary, office rent. to the April term of said Circuit Court 1836. . . " And on October 31, 1836, the Court "Ordered that the South of lot 18 in block 5 whereon the Court house now stands, be and is hereby reserved from sale at present." Again, the question of was there another building besides John P. Campbell's house used for a Courthouse?

John K. Hulston, in his article, "Campbell Cabin Served as First County Courthouse" seems to think that a new room was built on to Campbell's Cabin for the county court and circuit court to use. He believes the Campbell's log home was close to the corner of Olive Street and Boonville and if there was another room or building used for a courthouse it was near the southeast corner of Olive and Patton.

SECOND COURTHOUSE

Sidney S. Ingram was appointed by the Court on November 10, 1836,".to superintend the erection of public buildings. and to furnish the court with a place of a court house, to be built in the town of Springfield."

The Court ordered on November 28 1836, " that the court house in the town of Springfield . . .shall be erected in the public square" -- "Ordered by the court that there be erected. A court house in the Town of Springfield in Greene County the permanent seat of justice in said County as located by the Commissioner for that purpose by an Act of the General Assembly, and the sum of Three Thousand Two Hundred and Fifty dollars is hereby appropriated by the Court for the Purpose of building said Court house..."

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On the same day November 28, 1836, Sidney Ingram, the superintendent of the building of the Courthouse submitted his plans to the Court as required by the November 10, 1836, court order. His plans called for a two story brick building to be built on a stone foundation in the middle of the square. It was to be 40 feet in length and 34 feet wide. The specification for this building can be found on pages 269-271 of County Court Record Book A. The building was occupied in 1838, but was not completed until 1840. No known picture or illustration exists of the building. However, a sketch of the public square with the remains of the building still standing after the fire of October 21, 1861, appeared in Harper Weekly. This sketch has been published in several newspapers.

THIRD COURTHOUSE

It was not long before the need for a larger Courthouse became evident. The Court on August 21, 1858 ". . . appointed a Board of Commissioners on public buildings. . . to view all locations in the City of Springfield. . . suitable for the erection of a Court House and County Jail." On October 4, 1858, $3,000 was ". . . appropriated to C. Sheppard and A. J. B. Kimbrough to pay for lot for Court House. . . The site selected for the new courthouse was on the northwest corner of the Square and College Street where Heer's now stands. The Court on the same day ". . . appropriated the sum of Forty Thousand Dollars for the purpose of erecting a Courthouse and County Jail in Greene County." The Court appropriated $163.23 on October 4, 1858, ". . . to pay bill of and, expensive (sic) of J. Leedy for procuring drawing & detail of plan of Jail and Court House." On October 5, 1858, Wm B. Farmer was ". . . appointed Superintendent to attend the erection of Court House and Jail."

Events soon forced the County to seek help for money to build the Courthouse. On December 19,1859, the Court Record states, " . . . whereas the Superintendent for building a new Courthouse on the 25th of December 1858 contracted for the building. . . agreeing to pay as the work progressed the last payment to be made on the last of Dec1861 and whereas the organization of Christian County has decreased the revenue of this County. . . it is found that the Court cannot meet the liabilities for erecting of the Court House. "The Court then sought authorization from the Missouri Legislature to borrow $16,000 to complete the Court House.

The Court ordered on June 16, 1860, ". . . that a loan of Ten Thousand Dollars be negotiated under the provisions and in the terms provided and authorized in Act of the Legislatur (sic) of Missouri approved Jany 10th 1860, Authorizing the County of Greene to borrow money for the purpose of building a Court House" On August 21, 1860, Benjamin Kite, Superintendent of Public Buildings reported: ". . . the second story of the Court House and Jail 'Up' according to contract." On November 10, 1860, he reported the contractor had

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". . . erected the third story of the Court House. . ." and on November 24, 1860, Kite reported ". . . the roof of the Court House and Jail is 'ON'." There are several pictures existing of the three story Courthouse and the two story jail that extended west on College street from the Courthouse. Henry Mattock was appointed on January 8, 1861, to sell the old Courthouse building ". . . on the Second Saturday in March . . the purchaser to remove the said building, and every part thereof from off the Square, to a level with the surface of the ground, by the 1st of August 1861. ." Apparently the order was never carried out for the building was destroyed by fire on October 28, 1861.

The Clerks of the Circuit Court, County Court, and Probate Court moved their offices to the new Courthouse on April 1, 1861. No documentation was found in the County Court Record Books for the period indicating the loss of county records in the fire. Based on this fact, it is doubtful if any records were destroyed.

During the Civil War, troops from both the Union and Confederate Armies used the new Courthouse. It was used as a hospital, prison, and barrack. No doubt much damage was done to the building. Commissioners were appointed by the Court on July 18, 1863, "... to examine the Court House and Jail and that they report to this Court at the earliest practical moment, what work on the Court House and Jail not reported by the Superintendent 'executed according to the Contract' has been executed according to contract since last report of said superintendent. Said commissioners will further report the condition and progress of the work on the Court House and Jail at the time the Government took possession of it and what it lacked at that time of being completed. . . "

On August 7, 1863, the Court ordered the sheriff to take possession of the Courthouse and Jail. The contractor was discharged and on that same day the Court appointed a Commissioner " . . for the purpose of taking charge of and renting the rooms in the Court House. Thus, the new three-story Court House was back under the control of the County. Apparently the building was not fully completed for an item in the March 23, 1867, TRI-WEEKLY PATRIOT, had these comments to make about the first two Greene County Courthouses.

"The first courthouse, which was a modest two story brick edifice, stood in the middle of the plaza or square. It was built in '39, and was burned down in 1861, by accident. The new and more pretentious Court House stands on the west side of the square, the ne plus ultra of ugliness and inconvenience. It (sic) construction was stopped by the out breaking of the war and it is not yet finished."

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FOURTH COURTHOUSE. 1912

In less than forty years the need for a new and larger Courthouse arose. The county offices were crowded and an enlarged court system dictated the need for a new building. Where to locate the new Courthouse was a problem. Many wanted it near the square while most of the people from North Springfield (united with Springfield in 1887) wanted it nearer the center of town.

In 1903 one of the County Judges told a northside real estate dealer that if he could get options on the land needed for a Courthouse at Center (now Central) and Boonville he thought he could get another Judge to agree to purchase it. This was done, and on June 24. 1904, the County entered into a contract with Benjamin U. Massey, an attorney". . . to aid by Counsel and advice, this court in the matter of purchasing property upon which to build a Court House, and in the event there is presented a petition for an election to vote upon a proposition to vote bonds of this County, to erect a Court House, to give this Court advice as to said petition. . . if a vote to issue such bonds is carried, . . .said Massey is to prepare form of said bonds. . . prepare contract or contracts for the erection of said Court House, . . ."

On July 5, 1904, an "Order to purchase lot" for a new Courthouse was issued. In the Order reasons why a new Courthouse was needed were cited. "Whereas, the building now occupied as a Court House in this County is in a dilapidated condition and is wholly inadequate in size and internal arrangements for the uses and purposes for which it was designed and for which it is now used. The said building is not large enough to furnish room for the various offices needed for the proper conduct of the business of the County. Every room in the building is now crowded, and rooms for some of the County offices are obtained and used in an adjoining building. The Records in the present Court House building are not safe, this is especially so of the offices of Recorder of Deeds, the Clerk of the Circuit Court and the records in the Probate Court, the destruction of those records would inflict an irreparable loss upon the real estate owners of this County, and a loss almost as serious and severe upon citizens of the County generally. A more commodious and a safer Court House has long been an urgent and pressing need of this Community."

"To longer neglect action, on the part of the offices of the County to whom is entrusted the charge, care and management of County affairs, in presenting to the citizens of this County an opportunity to build a new Court House, seems almost inexcusable."

"Not only has the County no fit or suitable building for a Court House, but it has no fit lot or parcel of ground upon which to erect a suitable Court House. The lot upon which the present Court House stands is not large enough to hold a structure suitable and adequate for the present and growing needs of the County. The continuous and

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noisy travel on the adjacent street and on the public square, renders it impossible at times to conduct business in the Circuit and Criminal Court rooms of said Court House. In view of the fact that the County already owns the lot upon which the present County Jail is erected at the North West Corner of Robberson Avenue and Center Streets, in the City of Springfield, and in as much as it now is and at all times would be very inconvenient and unnecessarily hazardous to bring prisoners awaiting trial back and forth from said Jail to the place of the present Court House, or to any other place as distant from said Jail or the present Court House, and as the property West of this Jail lot and fronting West on Boonville Street and South on Center Street, when that street is properly widened, is very near the geographical center of the City of Springfield, the County seat of this County, and very near the center of population of said city as well, and as such locality is as accessible to citizens of said city of Springfield and to the citizens of the entire County as any locality that can be readily acquired for a Court House,. . ."

"It is therefore ordered by the Court that Benj. U. Massey be, and is hereby appointed as Commissioner for the County to negotiate for and purchase the said property. . ."

The Greene County Circuit Court ruled on July 5, 1904, "In the matter of the title to property proposed to be purchased by the Greene County Court for site upon which to erect a new Court House." The titles and abstracts were " . . . good and valid" and the deed to Greene County,

"will when delivered vest in the said county a good and perfect title to said property. . ." This did not end the controversy. An injunction was sought by supporters of other locations which delayed the project for some time.

A petition was filed on November27, 1906, ". . . to incur an indebtedness of One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($150,000) for the purpose of building a Courthouse in excess of the total income and revenue. . . it is desired to pay such indebtedness by a direct levy of taxes for that purpose during four years, by a direct levy of twenty-five (25 cents) . . ., and praying that an election be held to authorize the incurring of such indebtedness and levying of such taxes; . . .that the question of selection of the site upon which to build the said new Courthouse be submitted to the qualified voter . . .the Court does hereby order a special election . . . said election shall be held on Thursday, the 27th day of December, 1906."

After several delays caused by legal actions the election was not held. However, another petition to build the Courthouse was made and an election was held on March 26, 1907. The proposal was defeated.

The Court then took a different approach on February 4, 1909. "In the matter of building a new Courthouse for Greene County, Mo."

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"Whereas the Courthouse belonging to Greene County and now occupied by it for County purposes is old and dilapidated and is wholly inadequate in size and internal arrangement. . . Whereas no fire protection by means of vaults or otherwise for County records can be provided in said building, and the entire records of the County are exposed while kept therein to imminent danger of destruction by fire, the Court thinks it expedient to erect a new Courthouse; and whereas all obligations incurred for County purposes for the year 1908 and all prior years have been fully paid or provided for, and there remains no unpaid debt, debts, obligation or obligations of the County against the general welfare. . . . there now remains . . . a surplus of Fifty Thousand Dollars. . . available for the purpose of building a new courthouse; . . . and whereas the circumstances, as well as the best interest of the County will admit of a sale of the present Courthouse and the land or lot on which it is situated, which is worth. . . Fifty Thousand Dollars; and whereas the circumstances will therefore permit the County to erect a Courthouse to cost, together with the land. . ., the sum of One Hundred Thousand Dollars, it is therefore ordered by the Court that the said surplus of County, the sum of Fifty Thousand Dollars, is, hereby set aside and appropriated for the purpose of purchasing a site and building a new Courthouse."

"And it is further ordered that the present Courthouse and the lot or land on which it is located, be sold for the sum of not less than Fifty Thousand Dollars, . . . added to the aforesaid Fifty Thousand Dollars for the purpose aforesaid . . . T. K. Bowman. is hereby appointed to superintend the erection of said Courthouse."

"The Court further finds that there is no suitable ground for the purpose belonging to the County... the said superintendent is therefore ordered to select a proper piece of ground within the corporate limits of Springfield and purchase or receive the same by donation of a site for said Courthouse, and take a good and sufficient deed for the same. . . , and make report of his proceedings to the Circuit Court at its next setting, and to this Court for approval."

On February 11, 1909, the Court issued an "Order approving report and purchase by T. K. Bowman, Superintendent" . . . of a site for the new Courthouse. The area selected was between Robberson and Boonville facing on Center. The site cost $12,825. The Circuit Court approved the title, so the Court finally had a site for the new Courthouse.

Miller, Opel, and Torbitt of Springfield were selected as architects for the new Courthouse on April 17, 1909. However, the Order was not "entered of record" so it was passed again on September 8, 1909, and duly recorded.

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Once again, a suit was filed to stop the Court from entering into any contract to pay for the plans, sites, etc. for the new Courthouse. However, the Court went forward with its plans. On January 6, 1910, T.K. Bowman was " . . .appointed Commissioner to advertise and sell the old Courthouse and the land on which it stood . . . subject to the ratification and approval of the Court." With the proviso " . . . that the County shall be allowed to retain possession of and occupy said Courthouse . . . two years . . . " A.B. Crawford paid $50,000 for the old Courthouse. The sale was approved by the Court on January 26, 1910.

On February 17, 1910, the Court approved the plans for the new Courthouse submitted by Commissioner Bowman and directed him to advertise for bids.

The Court did not wait for bids to start work on the new Courthouse. County prisoners were used to break ground and pour foundations - a total of several thousand dollars was saved by this action.

On March 23, 1910, the commissioner reported bids for the construction of the new Courthouse. The low bid was $81,749.00 from J.E. Gibson Construction Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma. The building was to be constructed of Phoenix Stone from the quarries in northwest Greene county. On March 24, 1910, with the approval of the Court, J.E. Gibson Construction Company assigned his bid to Hiram Lloyd Building and Construction Company of St. Louis. The corner stone laying for the new Court House was held on July 16, 1910.

After work was started n the building, it soon became obvious that $100,000 was not nearly enough to pay for it. The law suit against the County Court to prevent the building of the Courthouse n the site selected was settled in favor of the Court. in fact the Missouri Supreme Court complimented the Court on the way it arranged for a new Courthouse without increasing the debt of the County.

On March 21, 1911, a petition was presented to the Court "That in order to build a Courthouse. . . it will be necessary to incur an indebtedness of One Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars . . . That in our opinion, it is the best interest and welfare of said County, and it is our preference and choice, that Bonds be issued by the County for the securing of such indebtedness . . . Wherefore we pray your honorable Body to order a Special Election. . . to authorize the incurring of such bonded indebtedness . . ." The election was held on April 18, 1911. The Bond issue passes 3,716 for and 755 against.

On March 13, 1912, the Court entered into a contract with tucker-Ferguson Warehouse and Transfer Company " . . .for the transfer of the goods and property of Greene County from the old Courthouse and the annexes to the new Courthouse . . . The work is to begin about the 20th

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of March or sooner . . . to have all of said property transferred to the new Courthouse by the morning of the 27th of March . . ."

The Court on June 10, 1912, rented the ". . .East end of the third floor consisting of nine rooms in the Greene County Court House. . . " to the City of Springfield for a City Hall. The City Hall was located in the Courthouse until 1938 or 1939 when it moved into its present location in the old Post Office Building.

Work on the Courthouse was completed in 1915. So at last, after a long and arduous struggle, Greene County had a new Courthouse which still serves the County today.

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