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    Greene County Courthouse History
    The Building Of A Court House
    By Maxine Ramsey, Greene County Recorder
    - 1993

    In May, 1884, the citizens of Bloomfield read an article in the Bloomfield paper that they were to have a new railroad this year and a new county court house and street cars in the near future.

                At the end of that year, they still didn't have their street cars, but on January 23, 1885, the commissioners staked off the ground for the new court house. Citizens of the area thought this was a wise step in the right time, for there certainly never would be a time when as favourable a contract could be made for the building of a new court house as now, and they hoped there never would be another time when as many idle labourers were needing and seeking work as now. They thought that the beginning or public improvements would give employment to idle labour and bread to hungry children.

    Now that this first step was taken, the air seemed to be charged with excitement over the question of building the new court house. The commissioners contemplated building a new one which, in the minds of some, would be a great crime. It was felt that they should act and talk on this as on all other matters, with all the wisdom they possessed. Several Important questions came to their minds for consideration of all citizens of the County. No.1: Does Greene County need a new Court House? No. 2: If so, why so? No. 3: Is the present a good time to build cheaply No.4: Is It wise to contract a debt for this purpose?

    In answer to the first question, the volume of records was increasing and they said many could remember back when "Old Col. Cavins" could have moved all the records of the county in a wheel barrow. In that day, we had a superb court house.

    As to the third question, "Is this a good time to build?" Labour had not been cheaper for 20 years and it would give employment to many needy persons, all kinds of material were cheap now, especially Iron, and a building to suit the needs of the hour should be composed entirely of iron, stone, and brick and should be as near fireproof as possible.

    The fourth question covered the entire ground, "Is it wise to contract a debt for this purpose?" They thought on general principles it was not wise to run in debt at any time, yet there were exceptions to all general rules. "Money saved is money made."

    Much thought was given on the matter and April 23, 1885 was set for the deadline for aII citizens who were opposed to the building of a new court house to protest against the letting of the contract.

    The last of April, 1885, the contract for the new court house was awarded to McKay and Bushaw, since their’s was the lowest bid for the amount of $68,994.00. On May 1, Mr. McKay announced that he intended to make his own brick for the court house and he had a brick yard near the depot for that purpose, in which he would employ about 60 men in his brickyard.

    Work began to get underway and the prominent citizens of Bloomfield began holding meetings for the purpose of raising money and perfecting arrangement necessary for vacating the old court house, so it could be torn down, to give place for the new one which was to be placed in the center of the yard. They had given the commissioners a good bond guaranteeing the County against office expenses and agreeing to fill the street south of the square. It was contracted for immediate building of a temporary office for the Treasurer and Recorder and they rented Jones' Hall for a court room and rooms upstairs in the Jones Building for the Clerk.

    The old castle was being deserted and ready to be pulverized immediately. The tearing down of the old court house progressed rapidly. That following Saturday was a busy day about the court house. The Clerk was moving out and carpenters were building offices for the Treasurer and Recorder and a number of hands were engaged in tearing down the old temple of justice. Anxious laborers were coming from all parts of the county seeking work in the brick yard and on the new court house.

    One week later, the rubbish of the old court house was all cleared away and work on the foundation on the new one began. Workmen began chiselling the stone for the foundation and on June 3, 1885, the first foundation stone was put in place with all the stone being used in the new court house coming from the Hoosier and Oolitic stone quarries near Bedford.

    Increased activity and excitement was created around the square as the days went by.  Work had now begun of making the fill across the hollow on South Street and was pushed forward with commendable energy. A first-class job was being done. When it was completed it was sure to add materially to the appearance of the town, besides being a great convenience. About two weeks later, work on Spring Street had been suspended until after harvest.

    On July 9, 1885, the brick laying began on the court house and July 15, the old court house material was sold to Mr. McKay for $396.00. By September, there were 65 men employed in and around the new court house. On October 9, the slating and trimmings arrived and were stacked in the court yard.

    On that same day, there nearly was a terrible accident on the north of the court house. While the laborers were raising the large stone which sits over the north front door of the court house, a cog broke in one of the wheels and the stone fell about 4 feet, but luckily, it fell on scaffold prepared for such an event, and did no damage.

    By November 6, 1885, the wall of the court house was nearly up and the building was becoming a "fine” appearance. By this time, most of the sidewalks were a disgrace to the town. "Mud, Mud, Mud: Let us get out of the mud and let us grade and gravel the streets, and gravel the sidewalks!" was the cry of the town.

    By November 27, the iron rafters were being placed in position on the court house and roofing was soon to begin. A peek from the top of the court house enabled one to see three railroads now running in the county! By December of that year, the court house was under roof.

    By January 22, 1886, a part of the steam heating apparatus had arrived and work progressed nicely, and by the middle of March, it was all installed. Construction continued to fall in place and by April 23, 1886, the gas pipes had all been put in. On May 12, 1886, the last brick on the main tower to the building was laid and all the brick work was near completion. This was also the month the new bell arrived. It weighed 3,500 pounds and had a ringing hammer, a tolling hammer and a striking hammer. It had cast upon it the names of the commissioners, auditor, supt. and contractors and on May 27, 1886, it was installed. It is a good long jump from the big bell in the tower to the first floor or the court house but some of the boys had to make it or stay up there all night. (Somebody had stolen their ladder.)

    McKay and Bushaw were now allowed $4297.50 for labor and materials they had already used on the construction of the new building. By this time the court house plastering had been completed and the plasterers were gone.

    In June, the commissioners were to let the contract for filling in and grading the yard. Also, this month was to be the last week of Circuit Court. There would be no more until September, when the weather was cooler, and they hoped to be in the new court house by then.

    The court house clock was put in the tower on the week of July 9th and one week later the gas machine was placed into position. At this time the work of grading the court yard went on with considerable dispatch. Mr. Kessler, the contractor, had a good force and was moving over 300 yards of dirt per day. There were 5,270 yards in the grade and at fourteen and three-fourth cents per yard, the contract price amounted to the grand sum of $777.32.

    Progress seemingly was being made but it was announced that the carpenter work on the court house was progressing so slowing that at the present rate; Circuit Court in September wouldn't be held in the new building.

    By August 20, all the material for completing the court house had arrived and it was announced the woodwork would be completed in about ten days. The great day of dedication for the new court house was set for September 1, 1886. By September 6, 1886, the carpenters finished their work and as soon as the new furniture arrived the house would be ready to receive.

    Mr. Kessler was again at work on the court yard. On October 1, the commissioners received the court house, retaining $500.00 to make good some little defects and repairs and four days later, Mr. McKay, the court house contractor, left for Rockville.

    By now, the county officials had moved their records and equipment into the new building and the Bloomfield News office moved into the northwest corner of the basement of this new structure. Property owners around the square were asked to put in the gutters at once in order that the streets could be graded and graveled before bad weather set in.

    Steadily, the streets were improving and within another week the little houses, that were the temporary County offices, were removed from the court yard and the yard graded nicely. It was suggested that there should be a fence put up now so as to get a nicer sod started and to keep the yard from washing.

    So on October 15, 1886 the court house was finally received and the contractor, Messrs. McKay and Bushaw in turn, paid in full all the workmen, as well as the stores with which they had done business. No one would say that the building was not worth the money it cost.

    Citizens agreed that this house is an imposing structure of stone, brick and iron, beautiful in design and durable in construction. The house is fireproof, affording a safe depository for public documents. The contractors left with the good will of the people here. They thought if any word or recommendation were necessary, they should not hesitate to give it, believing that with few exceptions, the work had been well done.

    Taken From Greene County Plat Book - 1993


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