Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Washington County's Temple of Justice Stands a Vane

Sunday Morning Observer, December 2, 1917

The first court held in the County was that of the Court of Common Pleas at Campus Martius, September 2, 1788. A procession was formed at the Point, where most of the settlers resided, in the following order:

The high sheriff, with drawn sword; the citizens, the officers of the garrison at Fort Harmar, the members of the bar, the supreme judges, the Governor and clergymen, and the newly appointed judges of the court, General Rufus Putnam and Benjamin Tupper. Rev. Dr. Manasseh Cutler, one of the directors of the Ohio Company, opened the court with prayer; and Colonel Ebenezer Sproat, the sheriff, made official proclamation that "a court is opened for the administration of even-handed justice, to the poor and the sick, to the guilty and the innocent, without respect of person."

There was no suit, either civil or criminal, brought before this, the first court.

The northwest blockhouse of Campus Martius was used for a court house for a number of years. In 1792 the Court of Quarter Sessions submitted estimates for a court house and jail, $1,000 each.

In 1793 Thomas Lord was directed to take a log house near Campus Martius and fit it up for a jail. At this time a log building at the Point was being used as a court house. In December 1797, repairs were made on it.

In 1799, Griffin Greene and Timothy Buell were appointed Commissioners to build a jail and court house. They estimated the cost to be $3,001.81. Contracts were made with Joshua Wells to frame and raise the building. With Joshua Shipman to weatherboard and shingle the house, make the doors, lay the floors, etc. With James Lawton to do the mason work and with Gilbert Devol, Jr., to furnish 3,000 weight of good iron, manufactured into spikes, bolts, grates, etc., for which he was to receive sixteen cents a pound.

The building was located on the corner of Second and Putnam where the German Bank and Turner-Ebinger now are. It was completed in 1800.

The court room was in the second story, being forty feet by twenty broad. The walls of the jail on the first floor were three feet thick, and the whole was built in the most substantial manner and was known as one of the strongest prisons in the state.

The subject of a new court house was agitated in 1819. At a meeting of citizens held September 13, that year, a committee consisting of Governor R. J. Meigs, Hon. Levi Barber and D. H. Buell, Esq., reported in favor of a new building to be located at the corner of Second and Putnam streets, the present site. The next day the County Commissioners passed a resolution to the same effect.

The matter seemed to rest for two years, when the Commissioners appointed Joseph Holden, the County Treasurer, to superintend the delivery of the materials.

In November, 1821, they advertised for a plan, the building to be 48 feet square, with a fireproof office 16 feet square in each corner.

In the Winter of 1822 there was no little excitement as to the site of the new Court House. Many were opposed to the corner of Second and Putnam as too low, and favored a higher location. Some advocated the elevated square on Washington street. Others wanted it on Fifth street near the Mound. Petitions and counter-petitions were sent to the Commissioners.

On March 6, 1822, they decided to locate it on Fifth street, south of Mound Cemetery, provided a better subscription could be obtained than for any other location. Three weeks later a public meeting was held and a majority voted for the Thierry lots, the old Ewart home were Ed. Flanders now lives.

At a meeting in April the Commissioners resolved upon that location, but in the same month they reconsidered their action, and again and finally, decided in favor of the corner of Second and Putnam streets.

The edifice was completed in 1823. In 1854 an addition on the north side was built in which was located the office of the Probate Court. In 1876 another addition was built and more was added to the front of the building on Putnam and as well to the height of the structure.

A new brick jail to take the place of the old log jail on the southeast corner of Second and Putnam was built in 1848, according to plans furnished by Hon. R. E. Harte. It was proposed to place the jail on the same lot with the Court House, but in consideration of $500 paid by Dr. S. P. Hildreth and Mrs. Martha B. Wilson, who lived on adjoining lots, the Commissioners agreed to erect it on the old site.

The land on which the old jail stood was given the county by Dudley Woodbridge. That on which the present Court House stands was given by Col. Ebenezer Sproat.

This Court House served till long in the late 1800's when the subject of a new Temple of Justice became a leading topic. The question of location again caused friction. The old "Ice Harbor Lot," Fifth street near Putnam, the elevation where now stands the public library, and Camp Tupper were discussed.The Commissioners finally decided on the old site and after much discussion as to plans, the contract was let for the present building.

The old jail and lot were sold and the jail provided for in the third floor of the new Court House.

The present building was erected in 1901 and is one of the most beautiful and substantial stone county Court Houses in Ohio. It is three stories and a basement high, with huge cupola and town clock.

Marietta had the first Court House and jail in Ohio and today boasts the "last word" in such a building.

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