Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy



County Buildings


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 260


Court Houses — Dr. Ludlow in his valuable paper says: "For more than four years after the county was formed in 1818, the court held regular sessions at the tavern of John Hunt, on Main street." It appears that, in March, 1819, the Commissioners began to seriously consider the work of locating and building a court house, and, in April, they were met by a proposition from sundry citizens to locate it on the "common," or square, which Demint had reserved for the public use of the lot owners of his "plat."

The parties pledged themselves to pay the sum of $2,215 toward the erection of the court house, provided the above-named site was chosen. The names and amounts were, in part, as follows:

Madox Fisher, $300; John Ambler, $200; Joseph Perrin, $100; Jonah Baldwin, $100; Jacob Lingle, $100; Richard Hunt, $2; Pierson Spining, $200; Samson Mason, $18; Griffith Foos, $25; William McIntire, $75; Samuel Simonton, $100; Thomas Fisher, $25; Andrew McBeth, $25; William McCartney, $100; Charles Cavalier, $25; William A. Needham, $15.

"Whereupon the Commissioners ordered Col. John Daugherty to find the true lines of intersections of what is now Limestone and Columbia streets, in order that the new building might be located there; soon after, the Commissioners adopted a plan, furnished by Madox Fisher, and, on the 24th of May, 1819, the contract was given to Madox Fisher and John Ambler for the erection of the building (walls and roof), for the sum of $3,972, the work to be done by January 1, 1820. Mr. Ludlow says: 'From the peculiar shape of the house, and the manner of building its walls, one would suppose Mr. Fisher expected it to stand for all coming time;' after the walls and roof were completed, no more work was done on the building for two years."

"On the 17th of April, 1821, the Commissioners met to consider the subject of the further prosecution of the work upon the court house," and a contract was made with John Dallis to lay the floors, and make the windows and some other wood work, for the sum of $1,498, but Dallis' job seems to have "hung fire," for it was in progress for several years, after which the matters rested until 1827, when a change of administration in the Board of Commissioners revived the subject, and one Nathan Adamson was employed to make a drawing of the cupola, or steeple, for which he received $4.50; and Charles Stewart agreed to build the said cupola for $480, which was completed during the following summer. Stewart and James S. Christie engaged to put in the rest of the woodwork for the sum of $598; in October, 1827, the plastering was let to Baker W. Peck, and the same accepted as complete in the following month of July.

"When the carpenter work was completed, and before the plastering was done, the Commissioners passed this: "Resolved, That, in view of injury being done to the court house, in its present condition, that John Ambler be authorized to take possession of the same, and that he shall provide a lock and key to the front door, and, in consideration of the services of Mr. Ambler, in his care of the house, he is allowed the privilege of letting the Presbyterian Society, and such other societies as he thinks proper, to have the use of the said court house, as a place of worship, for a period of one year from this date, reserving the right of the Commissioners to plaster said court house."

The Commissioners seem to have concluded that they had "given away" the court house, and themselves too, by the above resolution, for at the next meeting it was "Resolved, That in our action with John Ambler, it was not intended to exclude the Court of Common Pleas, or the Supreme Court, from their regular sittings in the court house."

In the summer of 1828, the building was completed; in October, the Commissioners contracted with William Fisher and Nathan Adamson to "hang the new bell in the cupola of the court house, bought for that purpose." And on Saturday, the 25th of October, 1828, this bell sounded its first notes upon the ears of the people of the town, and the first court house of Clark County was completed.

For nearly sixty years it sheltered the "gentlemen of the wig and gown," and many a sinner has left it for a stronger abode at Columbus; in early times it was used for local purposes to a great extent; lectures, conventions, as a place of worship, "magic-lantern" exhibitions, etc., were at home in the "old court house." It was struck by lightning once, which knocked a hole in the wall, and tore up some of the flooring. The cupola or spire was rather the worse for the half-century of storms that had whistled through it, and the shutters used to squeak and bang, on a rough night, as though the "house was haunted," and for that matter it was haunted, by waifs of the street, and by others who wanted to be out of sight of the passer by; to be sure the doors were sometimes locked, but the windows never.

The building was a high, square, hip-roofed structure, with the cupola thrust up through the center of the roof, the east and south fronts were broken by plenty of windows, and main entrances, which were capped by bold, full, arches, which, with the heavy, wide span of the arches under the entablature gave the building an appearance not unpleasant to the beholder, as the lines of these arches were models of architectural symmetry, not often found in the compositions of to-day.

The building was sold to Judge J. H. Littler for $50, and taken down in the summer of 1878, the doing of which disproved the ancient tradition that it was extra strong, as the mortar clove from the bricks with unusual ease. The bell was included in the purchase by Judge Littler, but was given by him to the Commissioners, to preserve as a relic — it is now in the yard of the "west county building;" it bears the inscription: "CAST BY JOHN WILLBANK, PHILADA., 1828."

The present court house was begun in 1878, and finished about the 1st of January, 1881; the new jail is situated on the same lot, and only a few feet from the court house. The whole establishment of court house, jail, real estate purchased, furniture and improvement of grounds, has cost, in round numbers, $115,000.

The first jail was a log and plank concern, on what is now known as Fisher street. It was on the east side, about half way between Main and Columbia streets; it was built by the citizens of the west end of town, then called "Old Virginia." These people petitioned the Board of Commissioners, and agreed to build a jail sixteen feet square, one story high, "of as many feet up as the Commissioners may direct," for such price as the board "may see fit to pay." this jail was finished in July, 1818, for which the county paid $80 to Walter Smallwood, James Norton, Henry Rogers and Waitsel Cary. They used to keep a black bear chained in the front of this prison, over which (both jail and bear) one Abram D. Mereness presided. There was a black man by the name of Johnson confined there once, who pried off the door, dumped it into the creek, and went about his business. This ancient bastile was sold to William Wilson for $24, after the building of jail No. 2, which was accomplished in November, 1824. This structure was situated on the northeast quarter of the public square, opposite the court house. It was built of oak timber, hewed square, and bolted together; the floor was of the same material, laid close together, and covered with another course laid across the first; the ceilings were built in the same manner, only not quite so thick; then over the outside of this were brick walls, inclosing the whole, and giving the building a respectable appearance. The building was two stories high, and the brick work was extended to the south of the jail proper, far enough to inclose sufficient space for one or two county officers. The Recorder was located there for many years.

There are many incidents related by the citizens of to-day, in regard to the old jail, but to its credit it is said that "no prisoner ever got out of it," except as he went through the door.

In 1869, this jail was torn down to make room for the soldiers' monument.

The third jail was on the lot on the corner of High and Spring Streets. The original plan was for a court house and jail combined, but the jail part was the only work completed; the building was begun about the year 1850, and discontinued in 1852, upon completion of the prison.

This work was built of stone and brick; the labor being largely done "by the day," and superintended by the Board of Commissioners. The records are not quite clear in regard to dates, of the rise and progress of this building. One entry shows that in September, 1851, the work had cost over $8,000, and was yet in progress.

In 1880, the building was pulled down, and large quantities of stone taken therefrom, for use in the building of the present court house and jail; there is yet a great amount of good material remaining on the grounds.

The fourth jail has been mentioned in a previous paragraph, and is of so recent a date that it has no history beyond the ample records in the books of the Auditor, Treasurer and Commissioners.

The "east" building contains the offices of the Treasurer, Recorder, Auditor, Commissioners and the Board of Agriculture. This building was erected in1868.

The "west" building contains the Probate Court room, Probate office, County Surveyor's office and a room for the County School Examiners, and was erected in 1869.

The offices of the Clerk and Sheriff are in the new court house.

The soldiers' monument is composed of a figure representing a soldier, clad in the uniform worn during the period of the late "war of the rebellion;" the dress includes the army overcoat, over which are the equipments; the cape of the overcoat is thrown carelessly back over the shoulder, while the "machine" fit of the trowsers and army shoes are faithfully portrayed. A Government musket, in the position of "rest on arms," is supported by both hands; the head is erect, and the position steady. The artist has grasped the situation, at the instant the soldier raises his head from the butt of his inverted musket, after having listened to the service over the grave of a fallen comrade. This figure rests upon a pedestal of Quincy granite, which weighs over thirty tons; the height of the figure is eight feet five inches; and the whole height of the monument is twenty-one feet and a few inches.

The statue was modeled by J. A. Bailey, and cast by Henry H. Lovie, of Philadelphia, Penn. It is made of genuine antique bronze.

The monument stands on the northeast quarter of the public square, and was furnished by contract with W.D. McKean, of Cincinnati, Ohio.

It was dedicated May 30, 1870. The Chairman of the occasion was Hon. J.K. Mower; Chaplain, Rev. A. Hastings Ross; Orator, Hon. Joseph Cox, of Cincinnati. As the speaker pronounced the words "we unveil to-day the granite monument, to the memory of the dead," the covering fell from the figure and the monument which was to stand forever as a reminder of the deeds of Clark County's brave sons was exposed to the gaze of 3,000 of her patriotic citizens.

A vocal quartet, composed of A.O. Huffman, T.W. Bean, Frederick A. Putnam and S.A. Ort, with J.P. Albin as organist, rendered the "Ship of State" and other selections, most effectively, during the ceremonies of hte day.

The statue was transported from the depot, and "raised," by William McIntyre & Sons, on the 19th of May, 1870.