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Matthew D. Friend © 2012

About the County Courthouse<

The decision of Judge Joseph Custer to condemn the old courthouse of 1841 that was made of a wooden "log" structure ended on January 19, 1893 to begin a new era for a new courthouse, which stands today in Blackford County. The old courthouse had been deemed as unhealthy for its citizens, inadequate in size, and unsafe for its county's records. Accordingly, the old structure was sold to Mike Capper for $20. Some interesting facts about the old courthouse written in the history of Blackford County. One early settler, Henry Secrest, a local mechanic and millwright, had assisted in drafting the original plans of the "log" structure as well as the first schoolhouse. Another early setter, Joseph P. VanCleve, a successful local merchant had served as one of the first county commissioners in "little log courthouse." The first circuit court proceedings in Blackford County "were held in the cabin of Andrew Boggs. A log served as a bench. The courts were held in this way until 1843, when the court house was completed."

Blackford County Courthouse (ca. 2011)

After extensive discussion in July 1893, the county's commissioners decision to erect a suitable structure at a practical cost to be enjoyed by Blackford County's present and future generations. The new courthouse could not be built for much less than some cheap structure that could not "withstand the ravages of time." The commissioners accepted the proposals of architects LaBelle and French of Marion to design, and contractors Christian Boseker & Sons of Fort Wayne to build this new courthouse as it stands today and had been appreciated by its local citizens.

Blackford County Courthouse (ca. 1910)    

The courthouse began its construction in August 1893. Its foundation of stone were extracted from the Montpelier quarries. Soon the cornstones were ready to be laid, a ceremony had been held on November 2, 1893 by the local Blackford Lodge No. 106 F. & A. M. As each cornerstone were laid and dedicated, and the remainder of the structure was ready to be erected. The building was made of Amherst Blue stone. Once it was completed, its grandeur size of 71 by 120 feet with an erected square tower of 165 feet in height stood on the southwest corner of the building. Two main entrances had been created on the north and south side that opened into a main entry hallway of 22 feet wide. The floors laid in regal tiles and the walls paneled with marble giving each room an majestic characteristic. Each floors were made of steel structural beams and fire proof tile arches. The following floor plans had been created beginning in the basement which housed the surveyors, sheriff and other unassigned offices; the main floor from the two entrances with a grand staircase has the following offices for treasurers, recorders, auditors and clerks that had a private staircase to the judge's chamber adjunct to the courtroom; and the second floor consisting of 63 by 67 feet and 30 feet in height ceilig courtroom had two large bays and illumining windows on each side of the courtroom.

The architects had once described its grandiose structure in their original plans:

The style of architecture will be Romanesque. Its massive walls rise before you in dignity and strength. The great tower can be seen for miles around, while the richly carved entrances add beauty to the entire effect.

Approximately 50 men were employed at one time as stone cutters, builders, and other trades to complete this new courthouse. These men worked for thirty cents an hour on a nine hours a day work shift over the next two years to near completion in February 1895 before county officials were given notices to take possession of their new offices and courtroom.

Upon completion of the new courthouse, it cost Blackford County $129,337.83. At the time, the county's commissioners believed the courthouse was a "model of its kind and a bargain at the price." In today's standard, it certainly is a bargain for its budget. Since its original construction, the circuit court underwent the most changes and lowered ceilings and arches removed along with the courtroom smaller in size by adding a law library for research purposes. The Blackford County courthouse is surely one of "its kind" had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 11, 1980.

Cited Works

Benjamin G.Shinn, Blackford and Grant Counties: a Chronicle of Their Past and Present with Family Lineage and Personal Memoirs. Chicago: Lewis Pubishing Co., 1914. Archives.org, http://www.archive.org/stream/blackfordgrantco01shin/blackfordgrantco01shin_djvu.txt (accessed: September 15, 2012).

"A History of the Blackford County Courthouse: Presented by the Blackford County Historical Society." (Online) Blackford County Historical Society, http://www.bchs-in.org/courthousehistory.html (accessed: September 15, 2012).

Biographical and Historical Record of Jay and Blackford Counties, Indiana: Containing ... Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Prominent Men of the State: Engravings of Prominent Citizens in Jay and Blackford Counties, with Personal Histories of Many of the Leading Families and a Concise History of Jay and Blackford Counties and Their Cities and Villages. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1887. Archives.org, http://archive.org/stream/biographicalhistjay00chic/biographicalhistjay00chic_djvu.txt (accessed: September 15, 2012).


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