THE 1871 COURTHOUSE
In 1871 the County Commissioners were Washington Chapman, Chairman, with W. Pope, Irvin Allen and A. Wynn. John Q. Dickinson was the Clerk of the Court and Homer Bryan was the Tax Collector. The following information was taken from their minutes over a two month period.
On January 30, 1871, the bids were opened for a new Courthouse and the contract was awarded to E. L. Williams for $7,000. Two days later, Mr. Williams executed the required Faithful Performance Bond and the specifications were released by the Board.
“The building was to be 60x40 feet with two 13 foot stories. The sixty foot sides shall face North and South. There shall be an observatory on the center of the top and thereon a belfry and then a spire. There shall be two porticos, one at the center of the North and one at the center of the South side with a floor at each story.”
“Courthouse material base or formation to be of hard or surface rock. Main walls of sawed Jackson County rock laid in mortar, framework and finish to be of good merchantable pine, roof to be covered in iron, doors, sash and blinds to be of white pine, mortar to be of sand and lime, white paint to be of No. l lead.”
“In the lower story there shall be a passage 16 feet wide in the clear extending through the building from one portico to the other. The West section thus made shall be 20 feet wide. Both the East and West sections bisected by a partition running east and west. The upper story shall be divided by a North and South partition directly over the West passage wall of the lower story and the West section thus made shall be bisected by an East-West partition.”
“There shall be four chimneys of rock built on the inside of the walls, two at each end and with two fireplaces in the Courtroom and one in every other room, all the fireplaces to be lined and hearths made with brick. The chimneys shall extend higher than the highest point of the roof and be finished with a proper moulding at the top.
“The foundation shall be 20 inches in depth….with 8 inches above the surface of the ground at the ? corner. The outside walls shall be 20 inches thick to the height of thirteen feet and 16 inches thick for the remaining 13 feet above, and the sleepers of the upper floor shall rest on the jog thus made in the wall. The basement shall be ventilated by holes 2x8 inches in the wall at 3 feet intervals and on the top of the foundation.”
On February 6th, a delegation of citizens representing a majority of the citizens of the county asked that the new courthouse be built of brick instead of limestone. The fact that there were “glaring omissions” in the current specifications and that the current contractor declared he would be willing to withdraw if a suitable contract could be made with someone else, prompted the Board to rewrite the specifications. On February 24. 1871, the Board entered into a new contract with John B. Williams to build a brick Courthouse for $10,000 which should be paid in three installments.” It is later stated that the contract was with Williams and Jeffers who also did bridge work.
The revised specifications were greatly expanded and were completed February 11th. These appear to be hand written specifications which are equally interesting: “16 door frames for outer doors shall be same as windows frames only the sill shall be 12 inches wide. 17 windows shall have 18 lights glazed with 12x14 glass, and hung with cords and weights. The shutters to have stationary blinds, and properly hung and fastened.
The roof shall be self-supporting and covered with iron roofing 1/16 inch in thickness. The main roof, and that of the observatory, Belfry and portions shall be correspondingly hipped.
There shall be an observatory on the center of the roof 10x12 feet and 10 feet high built of wood, handsomely finished with corner posts, panels and blinds. Its roof shall be of iron. On the center of the Observatory, shall be a belfry, of wood with iron roof 6x8 feet and 8 feet high finished in style corresponding with the Observatory. On the center of the belfry shall be a Spire (vane) of wood 30 inches square above and running to a point of fifteen feet in height.”
The BOCC minutes later state that the new Courthouse was accepted and received by the Board and final payment was made September 4, 1872.
An interesting later development was: The photograph below was our only visual of the 1871 Courthouse and it was faded almost beyond use. After the specifications were found, Jane Pender, a local artist, took the specifications and used that information to reestablish the appearance of the building. We are forever indebted to her for the beautiful presentation of the 1871 Courthouse. Please note that the photograph, now a pen and ink drawing, shows the Confederate Monument which was erected in 1881, which still stands on the front of the present Courthouse. Therefore, the original photograph was taken sometime after 1881.
It appears that there was a fence around the Courthouse square which could be used as hitching posts for the horses which brought all visitors who were not Marianna residents to town to tend to their business at the Courthouse.
We will continue the Courthouse story next week with the building of the 1906 Courthouse after a long discourse was held about adding a much needed annex to the 1871 Courthouse.
Note: Information for this article was taken from Jerrell Shofner’s Jackson County, Florida – A History, and from J. Randall Stanley’s History of Jackson County. The excerpts from the Jackson County Commission minutes of various meetings, was painstakingly recovered by Sue Tindel, Jackson County Archivist, who has spent years organizing and researching the records found in the basement of the Jackson County Courthouse. We are deeply indebted to Sue for this tedious work. Researching, reading and typing the information from old hand-written records is exhausting!