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Ellis County Courthouse among state’s most ornate, expensive

A new book spotlighting the state’s courthouses puts Ellis County on the map as one of the most ornate and expensive ever constructed.
The book, “Texas Historic Courthouses,” claims the county’s leadership in the cotton industry during the late 19th and early 20th centuries is reflected in the size and expense of its courthouse, built in Waxahachie in 1896 at the then exorbitant cost of $175,000. It may also have received the most extensive and expensive renovation. In 2002 refurbishment was completed at a cost of $10 million.

Interesting tidbits about other Texas courthouses include the following:
• Coryell County, Gatesville, 1897: A copper box placed inside the 1,825-pound cornerstone contains, among a number of items, a Bible and a bottle of whiskey.
• McLennan County, Waco, 1902: Similar to the Arizona state capital, which also was designed by architect James Riely Gordon.
• Hartley County, Channing, 1906: This building replaced a wooden frame courthouse that had been loaded on a wagon and moved from Hartley to Channing by cowboys from the XIT Ranch and armed lawmen following a bitter election to decide the county seat.
• Hays County, San Marcos, 1908, and Fort Bend County, Richmond, 1908, are nearly identical, both designed by Charles Henry Page and his brother, Louis.
• Gillespie County, Fredericksburg, 1881: Architect Alfred Giles won a $50 prize when his design was selected. He asked the prize be given to F.E. Ruffini, whose design county commissioners rejected.
• Maverick County, Eagle Pass, 1885: Dan Duncan became the only convicted killer hanged in the county in 1891, condemned at a trial in the second-story courtroom for killing three women and a young boy whose bodies weighted with rocks were found in the Rio Grande. The tip that led to his arrest came from a cowboy, Picnic Jones.
• Fayette County, La Grange, 1891, and Victoria County, Victoria, 1892, are virtual twins, both designed by James Riely Gordon.
• Colorado County, Columbus, 1891: A grand ball to mark the building’s completion was held in the courtroom, with dinner served by the ladies cemetery association.
• Milam County, Cameron,1892: When the Statue of Justice was removed from the top of the tower in the 1930s, it was discovered the statue had been used for years for target practice.
• Caldwell County, Lockhart, 1894: Plans for this building were sold to Goliad County for its courthouse, and both were completed the same year.
• Somervell County, Glen Rose, 1894: Total cost was $13,500. In 1902, a tornado blew down the clocks on the tower and 36 buildings in town, but did no damage to the white limestone rocks quarried from nearby bottom lands of the Paluxy River and used in construction.
• Hopkins County, Sulphur Springs, 1894: Facing a bill of $75,000 for the new building, county commissioners decided to cut costs by refusing to put clocks in the 100-foot-high tower. Commissioners said if people wanted a clock, they should raise the money themselves. There is no clock, even today.

The Associated Press provided information for this story.

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Posted by on Nov 27 2006. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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