Our Several Court Houses


Now that we are to have a new court house, it may not be uninteresting to turn a few leaves of the county’s history and read up the record concerning the several court houses which the county has owned.  The new one will be the fourth that has been built in Carrollton. 

We have no record convenient from which we can learn when the first one was built.  

It is probably, though, that it was built in 1799 or 1800. It is a historical fact that the first county court for the county (Gallatin, at that time) was held at the house of Richard Masterson, in Port William (now Carrollton) on May 14th, 1799, at which time Hugh Gatewood, John Grimes, M. Hawkins, H. Lee, William Thomas, and Ben Craig presented their commissions as magistrates.  The first business transacted was the elected of Percival Butler as clerk.  The new magistrates probably took immediate steps to build a court house.  We know that it was built of logs and stood on the bank of the river just back of the National hotel.  The site on which it stood is now in the river.  It was located there because of all of the houses in Port William, which had been laid out in 1792, were at that time on the first bank of the river, and for the further reason that it was desirable to have the court house near the block house to protect the workmen from assault by the Indians, who were still troublesome, as well as to save the building from destruction.  Imagine Carroll county with a little log court house. It satisfied the demands of the age, however. 

The second court house was built about the year 1810 on a spot just south of our present court house and almost identical with the site chosen for the new one.  Traces of the foundation may as yet be seen in the summer time.  It was a building of very modest appearance, longer one way than the other, standing cross-wise on the lot, and had a shingle roof and a gable end.  It was the theatre of a number of important trials and its walls frequently resounded with the eloquence of able lawyers and noted politicians, for in those days speech-making was more prevalent than now when the newspaper has, to a large extent, superseded the oration. 

In 1837 a severe storm came and did great damage to the court house.  The next year, 1838, Carroll county was formed out of a portion of Gallatin and the county seat of the latter county was moved to Warsaw.  Among the first things undertaken by the new county was a new court house.  So the present temple of justice was erected.  It was finished in 1839 and its cost was between nine and ten thousand dollars.  And now this building, by stern requirement, must pass out of existence and give place to one which shall better subserve the convenience of the people and harmonize better with the spirit of the age.  Yet there are not a few who will see the present building go, with more or less regret, on account of pleasant recollections of historic incidents that cluster about the walls which have echoed the eloquences of Gen. Wm. O. Butler and Gen. John C. Breckinridge, of Southgate and Crittenden, of W. B. Winslow and many others who live now only in the record of their good deeds and achievements.  But old things must pass away, and with them the old court house.  Requiescat en pace. 

Work on the new house will begin in a short time.  The ground on which it will stand will be raised sufficiently to bring the floor about six feet higher than the present surface of the earth.  The new building will be a well proportioned, well designed, and beautiful edifice.  It will supply a long felt want and be a credit to the county.  When finished it will be an institution of which every citizens will be proud.


From the Carrollton Democrat, April 5, 1884.