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Places : Roane County's First Courthouse
Posted by Webmaster on 2006/8/26 0:00:00 (2921 reads)

A look at the early history of the courthouse of Roane County.

On October 3, 1856, Alexander West and his wife, Susanna, deeded to William Pool, and David Sergent, William Gandee, John W. Cain, and Aquilla Ward, Gent. Justices in and for the County of Roane, approximately two acres in the town of California (later Spencer) for a sum if $5.00. This site was to be used for the first courthouse. This deed was recorded in Deed Book No. 1, page 62.

The contract to construct the building was awarded to two local men, John W. Cain and Albert G. Ingraham in August in August 1858. The brick for it was burnt in a kiln on the grounds, and the lumber was sawed at McKown's Mill. The contract price was $9,487.00. Work was started in 1858 and the building was completed in 1859, thus giving the new County of Roane its first government building.

The building was made of stone and brick. The first story was cut sandstone of the poorest quality in the county and the second story was made of brick. The first story was divided into several rooms, one the county clerk's office, one for the jail, the others for living quarters for the jailer, and some other offices. The second story was devoted entirely to the courtroom and jury rooms. The second story of the courthouse was reached by a huge flight of steps on the outside, with a portico shielding the doors from the weather.

Anthony Coon, a well known character of that day, on an occasion when he had imbibed too freely, rode his horse up that flight of steps into the courthouse, and from his saddle addressed an astonished County Court then in session. This building was also the scene of a siege during the Civil War.

The first courthouse was destroyed by fire, October 21, 1887, when the town burned. The fire caught in a high slatted belfry built of wood, and also, the heat from the burning square shattered the window glass. All the record books of the circuit clerk's office and of the county court were carried out by some thoughtful citizens lead by John A. A. Vandale, the prosecuting attorney. However, much of the order books of the county courts first twenty years were destroyed and the papers of suits on file in the circuit clerk's office were not saved.

Destruction of Roane County's courthouse in the disastrous fire of 1887 forced a temporary halt in the functioning of the county government, but only for a short time. Temporary offices from which to operate the county business were soon established in churches, business houses, and in homes.

Early in 1888, plans were inaugurated for construction of a new courthouse which was completed in late 1889.

This story was written by Donna J. Walbrown for the "Roane County West Virginia Family History 1989" and reprinted in the society newsletter The Roane County Journal, Vol. 1 No. 3, Spring 1994.

A picture of the current Roane County Courthouse can be found here.

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