Laclede County Courthouse
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Marian M. Ohman
Department of Community Development
Organized: Feb. 24, 1849
Named after: Pierre Laclede, founder of St. Louis
County seat: Lebanon
When Laclede County was organized in 1849, first courts met in private homes, but the following year the court decided to build a courthouse and appointed John J. Thrailkill superintendent of buildings. In May 1850 the court let the contract for building a 1-1/2-story, frame courthouse to A. S. Cherry. Construction was completed in 1851. The courtroom occupied the first floor; the clerk's office was on the second. Laclede County used this courthouse for almost 20 years.
In the 1870s a controversy over an attempt to move the county seat led to a disruptive period that left Laclede County without a courthouse for over 20 years. The controversy began when the railroad came to Lebanon in 1868, stopping about a mile from the courthouse in the county seat at Lebanon. A new business district developed, and the county moved its records to new town and sold the old courthouse for $50. Opponents of the move claimed that the new location was not legally a part of the county seat. It was not until the 1890s that a courthouse was built in New Lebanon.
William F. Schrage was architect of this courthouse, built by S. J. Hyde and Co., Kansas City, for about $20,000 (Figure 1). Cornerstone ceremonies took place June 23, 1894. The two-story building with basement had four entrances and wide transverse halls. The first floor had 16 rooms; the courtroom was on the second floor with jury, witness and consulting rooms. This building burned Feb. 28, 1920. Schrage did other Missouri courthouses similar to this: Howard County, 1887, Morgan County, 1889, and Ripley County, 1898.
Laclede County Courthouse, 1894-1920. Architect: William F. Schrage (From: postcard, Trenton Boyd Collection)
In a June 1920 election, voters defeated a $100,000 bond issue to finance a new courthouse. Many considered $100,000 too much to pay. Considerable enthusiasm was generated for the $80,000 bond issue that came later, however, and voters responded with a resounding yes in May 1924. Three architects were considered: H. H. Hohenschild, W. E. Hulse, and the one the court chose, Earl Hawkins of Springfield. Hawkins' plan was for a 100-by-63-foot, three-story, brick structure with Carthage stone trim. The tall courtroom spanned the second and third stories, with a third-story balcony.
The contract was let to M. E. Gillioz of Monett for $72,428. Cornerstone day was Oct. 2, 1924. The Court accepted the completed building in June 1925 (Figure 2).
Laclede County Courthouse. 1924-. Architect: Earl Hawkins
- Gleason, Frances Ethel. The First Hundred Years. Lebanon: Laclede County Centennial, Inc. 1949.
- History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster, Wright, Texas, Pulaski, Phelps, and Dent Counties. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1889.
- Nyberg, Leo. A History of Laclede County, Missouri, from 1820 to 1926. Lebanon, Missouri, 1926.
- Fuller, Michael J. and Doris W. Ewing. "Community History of the Old Town District of Lebanon, Missouri." Missouri Geographer, Spring 1976.
- (Lebanon) Laclede Republican, April 18, 25, May 9, 23, June 13, July 4, 25, Sept. 26, Oct. 3, 1924; June 5, 26, 1925.
- Work Projects Administration, Historical Records Survey, Missouri, 1935-1942, Laclede County. Located in Joint Collection: MU, Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia and State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscripts.
- Plat Book of Laclede County, Missouri. Chicago: Western Publishing Company, 1912.