The Building and Dedication of the Chattooga County Courthouse
The Chattooga County Courthouse
On March 23, 1839 the Justices of the Interior Court, were given authority by an act of theGeneral Assembly to select a place for the county seat, buy land, divide it into lots, and sell the lots to raise money for the construction of a county courthouse and a jail. They purchased ninety acres of land from John F. Beavers for the sum of $1800. Until this was done, the legislation directed that take place at the home of John Pickens Henry (Georgia Laws 1838, page 77). Subsequently, the interior court may have designated Summerville as county seat. In any event, the General Assembly on December 21, 1839 incorporated Summerville and made it the permanent county seat (Georgia Laws 1839, page 210).
It was on this land the courthouse would be constructed. The main reason the site would be selected other than its central location was the fact a big spring was located there. This spring known as Big Spring, Beavers Spring, Cleghorn Spring, and finally Willow Spring was capable of furnishing water to the town’s residents for some time to come. There was some controversy as to the title of the spring, which remained with Col. Beavers but there was an informal agreement that the town’s people could use the water.
The county seat of Chattooga County was originally named Selma and later changed to Summerville to advertise the pleasant weather in the area, and probably at the behest of David Taylor, prominent settler from Augusta. The first sale of lots went very slowly, and it was not until 1842 that a log courthouse was built at the corner of Washington and Jackson Street (now Commerce Street), which is the location of the courthouse today.
The contract for building the courthouse for Chattooga County was given to O. & J.F. Hitchcock in 1840. The amount of the cost is not mentioned in the minutes. Evidently it cost enough to cause the Inferior Court to order an increase in the tax rate in 1842. According to the minutes of that year, the rate was raised and extra “fifty per centum”.
The first courthouse was a log building, built in 1842 by the Hitchcock brothers. Sometime later, a two-story brick courthouse was constructed that served until the current courthouse was built in 1909.
On July 30 of 1908 the Board of Roads & Revenue called a bond referendum December 19, 1908 for the purpose of voting on a $55,000 bond issue to build a new courthouse. The bond issue was passed and the Board began making plans for the construction of the new courthouse. Appling County had built a new courthouse in Baxley,Georgia.
The board went to Baxley to see their new courthouse and likedwhat they saw. When they returnedthey ordered the identical plans for Chattooga County. The court validated the $55,000 bond issue and the bonds were sold to the Robinson-Humphrey Company of Atlanta in January of 1909. Construction of the new courthouse began with R.L. Rolland supervising the construction.The current courthouse was built in the Neoclassical Revival style. It was designed by Bryan Architectural Firm. The $60,000 structure was built by Falls City Construction Company of Louisville, Kentucky. F.L. McGinnis was the superintendent of the project. One of the unique features of the Courthouse is the stained glass window, featuring the Great Seal of Georgia.
This window is said to have broughtmore fame to the courtroom than some of the typically “sensational” trials which bring temporary attention.
The dedication was held with the laying of the cornerstone, at the new magnificent courthouse. This service was organized by the county Masons. It was held on July 15, 1909. The articles placed in the cornerstone were History of Summerville Lodge No. 109 F&A.M., a copy of the July edition of The Summerville News, a history of the bond election for the courthouse bonds, various Masonic documents,and various business cards of local businessmen.
The following articles taken from The Summerville News are to give a time-line to the process that had to be taken to build this magnificent structure.
The Summerville News
NOTICE OF BONDED ELECTION
November 19, 1908
Notice is hereby given that a election precincts in Chattooga County, on Saturday, the 19 day of December 1908. Submitting to the qualified voters of said county determine the question whether Fifty FiveThousand Dollars, five per cent interest, bearing gold Coupon Bonds to run from one to thirty years, shall be issued by the county of Chattooga for the purpose of building a Courthouse for said Chattooga county, and be issued in the denomination of One Thousand Dollars each and bearing interest at the rate of five per cent per annum, said interest to be paid annually, said bonds to be consecutively numbered from one to fifty five inclusive, and payable principal and interest at Hanover National Bank, N.Y., and the Bank of Commerce,Summerville Ga. and to bear date of February 1st, 1909. And that One Thousand dollars of the principal of said bonds are to be paid annually until February 1, 1914, then annually from that date to 1939 on the first day of February, Two Thousand Dollars of said principal shall be paid until said year 1939, when all of said bonds will be matured and due. The interest on all of said bonds is to be paid annually on the first day of February beginning February 1st 1910, then annually thereafter until feb 1, 1939. That all the qualified voters in said county who favor the issuance of said bonds shall have the words written or printed on the ballot “For Bonds to Build Court House.” and those opposed to the issuance of the bonds shall have written or printed on their ballots the words, “Against Bonds to Build Court House.” That said election shall be governed under the same rules and regulations as now provided by law for the election of county officers. That the managers of said election of each of the voting or election precincts in said county of Chattooga shall make returns to the Board of Commissioners of Roads and Revenues of said county and bring up the said returns to the County Site at the Court House, in the city of Summerville, by twelve o’clock noon on the 21st , Monday following , and the said Board of Commissioners of Roads and Revenue, in the presence and together with several managers who bring uptake returns and declare results.
November 16,1908 T.J. Simmons, Chm. and E.N. Martin, Clerk
The Summerville News
County Commissioners, Meet
The regular January meeting of the board of commissioners of roads and revenues was held Monday. Col. J.T. Jolly, who was recently elected a member of the board to succeed Mr. T.J. Simmons, was elected chairman.The board had a very busy session and besides the usual routine business, several other matters came up for consideration.An order was passed requesting the people in each militia district to hold mass meetings next Saturday, January 23rd, for the purpose of selecting members of the auxiliary committee to advise with assist the Board in selling the courthouse bonds, and to look after the proceeds of the sale of the bonds.This committee will meet with the Board next Tuesday to receive bids for the courthouse bonds.
The Summerville News
January 23, 1909
Notice to Voters
On motion of R.A. McWhorter, the voters of each district of the county are requested to hold mass meetings on Saturday, January 23rd, to select members of an auxiliary committee, to advise with and assist the Board of Commissioners of Roads and Revenues in selling the $55,000 worth of courthouse bonds, and also to look after the paying out the proceeds of the sale of said bonds.This committee is requested to meet with the Board on Tuesday January 26, to receive sealed bids for said bonds.
J.T. Jolly, Chm.
E.N. Martin, Clerk
The Summerville News
January 28, 1909
Courthouse Bonds Sold
On last Tuesday the $55,000 Chattooga County courthouse bonds were sold. More than usual interest was manifested in the sale of the bonds, especially on account of the good financial showing of the county, these being the only bonds outstanding against the county. There were twelve bids-four being in the form of sealed bids and eight oral or auction bids. After a series of bids the bonds were sold to the Robinson-Humphreys Co. of Atlanta, Georgia, at a premium of $3355 and also the furnishing of the bonds which will easily mean a premium of $3500.
This is by all acquainted with such matters to be a splendid sale. In fact one of the bidders stated that it was the best sale of bonds that had ever taken place in the state. All our people should feel encouraged over this sale as it means that our $55,000 bond issue will bring us $58,500 together with accrued interest to date of delivery of bonds.
The Summerville News
June 20, 1909
Masons to Meet Here July 14 & 15
Cornerstone of Courthouse Will Be Laid By Officers of Lodge on the 15th.The eighth annual meeting of the Chattooga Masonic Convention will be held here Wednesday and Thursday, July 14 and 15.On the second day of the convention the cornerstone of Chattooga’s new courthouse will be laid by the officers of the Grand Lodge. Worshipful Master J.M. Rose, who is at the head of the convention, is now arranging a program for the big gathering. A number of distinguished Masons will be invited to attend the convention, among them Grand Master Jeffries, of Atlanta, the leader of Georgia Masonry. The local lodge will meet on the third Friday night and appoint committees to make arrangements for entertaining the visitors and delegates to the convention.Mr. Rose sends the following notice in regard to the convention.The Chattooga County Masonic convention, will meet with Summerville Lodge No. 109, F. & A.M. the second Wednesday and Thursday in July which is the 14 and 15. The first day will be for transacting the business of the convention. The second day the cornerstone of the new courthouse will be laid by the officers of the Grand Lodge. They will also confer the third degree in the afternoon. Let each lodge in the county have a good representation on the first day and we want every Mason in the country to be present the second day, as this convention promises to be one of the best we have ever had.Report blanks will be sent to each lodge in a few days. Please fill them out and send them Bro. S.C. Martin, Summerville, Georgia, together with dues and subscriptions for the expenses of the dinner on the second day.“Brethren, this is your convention and not Summerville’s alone. It is ours in laying the cornerstone of the courthouse. We put in this magnificent building, which every man, woman and child in Chattooga County should be proud of a cornerstone for future generations to look at and say, ‘my father and brother helped to lay this stone.’ So brethren, be present the first day and remain to the end.”
J.M. Rose, W.M.
The Summerville News
July 1, 1909
Program for the Masonic Convention
The Eight Annual Communication of the Chattooga County Masonic Convention will convene with Summerville lodge No. 109, F. & A.M. on July the 14th and 15th.The following program has been arranged by Worshiped Master J. M. Rose.
FIRST DAY Meet at the hall at 10 o’clock a.m. sharp and open by singing “Near My God to Thee”, led by Mr. Jas. Wootten of Trion; prayer by Rev. A.F. Mahan.Reading reports of the lodges and appointing committees.Adjourn for dinner. In the afternoon there will be heard the reports of the committees and transact any other business that may come before the convention, for the good of the order.At night the third degree will be conferred by convention.
Meet at the hall at 9 o’clock a.m. sharp and receive the grand officers and other distinguished Masons that will be in attendance. After a few short talks the Grand Master, Hon., Thomas H. Jeffries, with assistance, will open the grand lodge of Georgia. Then forming a procession, march to the courthouse, where he will lay the cornerstone of the new courthouse, assisted by Past Grand Master Max Meyerhardt, and other officers. After laying the cornerstone we will march into the courthouse. After a song we will have the welcome address by the Hon. Wesley Shropshire, of Summerville.Response by Judge John W. Maddox, of Rome, Georgia.Address by Grand Master Jeffries, of Atlanta, Georgia.Address by Judge Moses Wright, of Rome, Georgia.Dismiss for dinner.Meet at the hall at 2 p.m. where the third degree will be conferred by the grand officers, which will end one of the grandest Masonic rallies that Chattooga County has ever had.
The Summerville News
July 15, 1909
Chattooga County Masonic Convention in Session
Officers of Grand Lodge to Lay Cornerstone for New Courthouse Today.
The eighth annual meeting of the Chattooga County Masonic Convention convened with Summerville Lodge No. 109 yesterday.The convention was called to order promptly at ten o’clock by Worshipful Master J.M. Rose, with the following delegates in attendance:Alpine Lodge – John Hall, G.A. Kling, S.M. Baker, H.C. Gilbert.Mt. Hickory – C.P. GainesLyerly Lodge – J.M. Rose, E.A. Harrison, W.M. Bagley, J.G. King, A.L. Worsham, E. Montgomery, Lige Smith, J.T. Eaton, J.A. Mosteller.Trion Lodge – A.F. Mahan, S.E. Strange, J.H. Thomas, J.A. League.Summerville Lodge – N.K. Bitting, J.T. Jolly, A.L. Murphy, Paul Maloney, W.S. Wright, R.D. Jones, L.B. McGinnis.The following visitors were made honorary members of the convention: W.L. Selman, D.M. Williams, W. A. Donald, and F.G. Willbanks.Reports from the seven lodges in the county were read and showed good progress for the past year.The memorial committee made its report by recording the death of the following brethren since the last convention: J.P. Moore and Robt. Ramy, of Trion Lodge No. 160; B.F. Vaughn, of Lyerly Lodge No. 338; H.B. Erwin of Summerville Lodge 109; T.K. Purcell, of Lookout Lodge 198.Officers for the ensuring year were elected as follows:J.M. Rose, Worshipful Master.G.A. Kling, Senior Warden.C.P. Gaines, Junior Warden.S.C. Martin, Sec. & Treas.A.F. Mahan, Chaplin.The following officers were appointed: J.W.A. Justice, Senior Deacon. B.F. Vaughn J.H.Thomas H.C. GilbertJ.T. Jolly, Junior Deacon.J.A. League, Senior Steward.Geo. Morton, Junior Steward.
Following is the program for today:
Meet at the hall at 9 o’clock a.m. and receive the grand officers and others distinguished Masons that will be in attendance. After a few short talks the Grand Master, Hon. Thomas H. Jeffries will open the grand lodge of Georgia. Then forming a procession, march to the courthouse, where he will lay the cornerstone of the new courthouse, assisted by Past Grand Master Max Meyerhadrt, and other grand officers.Welcome address by Hon. Wesley Shropshire.Response by Judge John W. Maddox, Rome, Georgia.Address by Grand Master Jeffries, of Atlanta, Georgia.Address by Judge Moses Wright, of Rome, Georgia.Dismiss for dinner.Meet at the hall at 2 p.m. where the third degree will be conferred by the grand officers.
John W. Maddox Wesley Shropshire Moses Wright
CORNER STONE LAID WITH
The eight annual meeting of the Chattooga County Masonic Convention which was held with Summerville lodge No. 109 last Wednesday and Thursday, was one of the best and most successful in the history of the convention.
The feature of Thursday’s session was the laying of the corner stone of Chattooga County’s magnificent new courthouse.
The convention was called to order by Worshipful Master J.M. Rose at 10 o’clock. The grand officers were introduced by Hon. Wesley Shropshire and were given the grand honors by the convention.
After a few short talks the convention was called off and the Grand Lodge of Georgia was opened for the purpose of laying the corner stone of Chattooga County’s new courthouse.
the courthouse where the corner stone was laid according to the rules of the ancient craft
A procession was formed by the grand marshal and marched to the northeast corner of
of Free and Accepted Masons. The following officers took part: Thos. H. Jeffries, Grand Master J.M. Rose, Deputy Grand Master: G.T. Myers, Senior Grand Warden W.L. Selman, Junior Grand Warden N.K. Bitting, Grand Treasurer: S.C. Martin, Grand Secretary: Jno. C. Print, Grand Marshal: B.F. Thurman, Grand Chaplain: T.J. Simmons, Senior Grand Deacon: Geo. D. Morton, Junior Grand Steward: F.L. McGinnis, Grand Architect: T.A. Powell, Grand Tyler: J.W. Bale, Bearer Three Great Lights. The ceremony was beautiful and impressive and was witnessed by a large crowd. The corner stone was tried and squared by the various tools of Masonry and found true. Corn, wine and oil were poured over it with appropriate words by the different Grand officers and a benediction by the Grand Master pronounced on the stone, building and the people. The exercise emphasized the beautiful tenets and rules of Masonry.
The following is a list of the articles deposited in the corner stone: History of Summerville Lodge No. 109 F. & A.M,Copy of the Summerville News, July 15, 1909,History of bond election for courthouse bonds,Business card of Murphy & Henderson,Business card of T. Hiles & Co,Copy of minutes of Chattooga County Masonic Convention, July 14 and 15, 1909,By-Laws of Trion Lodge No. 160 F. & A.M,By-Laws of Summerville Lodge No. 109 F. & A.M,Card of J.W. Johnson,Card F.L. McGinnis.Card of E.N. Martin. At the conclusion of the ceremony the crowd repaired to the auditorium of the courthouse where public speeches were made by the grand officers and other distinguished Masons.Hon. Wesley Shropshire made in a most happy manner, the welcome address in behalf of Summerville Lodge. The welcome address was eloquently responded to by Hon. Jno. W. Maddox, of Rome. Grand Master Jeffries was then introduced and spoke for about twenty minutes. He delivered an excellent address and was heartily applauded. Judge Moses Wright was the next speaker on the program. His address was forceful eloquent and highly entertaining. Short talks were also made by Jno. C. Printup, of Rome, B.F. Thurman and Jno. W. Bale, of Lafayette.At 12:30 a basket dinner was spread on tables near the courthouse. It was prepared by the ladies of Summerville and vicinity, and all did ample justice to the feast of good things.At two o’clock the convention was called to order by Worshipful Master Rose at the Masonic Hall, and the officers of the grand lodge, the grand officers of the lodge. The convention and all the exercise were a great success and calculated to do much for Masonry in this section.
The Summerville News
September 9, 1909
Chattooga Superior Court Convenes Next Week
Courthouse Will be Dedicated Monday With Exercises
The fall term of Chattooga Superior Court will convene next Monday with
Judge Moses Wright presiding.
The following program has been arranged for the dedication of the Chattooga County Courthouse. The exercise will be held at the courthouse Monday morning September 13, at 10 a.m.
- Invocation by Rev. J.O. Brand.
- Presentation of the courthouse by Col. J.T. Jolly, Chairman of the Board of Roads and Revenues.
- Response for the people of the county by Hon. Wesley Shropshire.
- Response for the Court and its officers by Judge Moses Wright.
There is a large number of cases set for trial at this session and the probabilities are that the term will be a lengthy one. The civil docket is especially heavy.
On the criminal docket there is one case for murder-that of Bob Lightsy, who will be tried for the third time for killing Alf Landrum at Taliaferro in February, 1907.
The following jurors have been drawn to serve at this term of court:
Grand Jury-W.D. Hawkins, Fletcher E. Hall, A.H. Lowe, T.A. Bailey, C.C. Strange, J.F. Grambling, J.D. Barbour, J.A. Strange, C.P. Thompson, J.L. Weaver, T.A. Hendrix, S.R. Wyatt, Lewis Thacker, Robt. H. Brison, Dayton Espy, W.D. Gilkeson, J.W. Pitts, J.E. Crawford, S.C. Martin, G.A. Kling, P.A. Brooks, E.P. Scott, G. R. Anderson, Wm. Crawford, G.D. Espy, T. A. Simmons, W.W. Scoggins, W.E. Dill, J.M. Chastain, M.M. Allen, R.C. Sanders, M.M. Hense.
Petit Jurors-G.T. Myers, Dan Bowan, W.B. Cox, Bruce Perry, Gilbert Holland, R.A. Trimble, Sr., W.D. Martin, J.H. Roberson, S.R. Rice, A.S. Hinton, H.P. Parham, Milton Tate, J.M. Stowe, John W. Wilson, L.J. Prickett, R.W. Ray, R.L. Holland, J.B. Hutchins, W.F. Strange, Hugh Echols, Geo. A. Cordle, Sam M. Baker, C.P. Gaines, W.M. Caldwell, Thos. J. New, H.M. Agnew, G.P. Mahan, G.W. Welch, J.R. Owens, J.N. Taliaferro, J.T. Kellett, Wm. M. Reece, W.A. Ford, A.M. Martin, R.L. Rich, James M. Weaver, W.R. Stephenson, Homer J. Barron, J.E. Drummons, J.C. Doster, Jno. M. Ray, A.W. Millican, S.B. Lancaster, Ed Lee, Wm. T. Farr, S.J. Jackson, Sol Alexander, Hugh M. Ponder.
The Summerville News
September 16, 1909
Dedication of Chattooga’s Courthouse
The dedication of our new courthouse was witnessed by a large and enthusiastic audience Monday morning at 10 o’clock.
Judge J.M. Bellah was master of ceremonies. The invocation was made by Rev. Jesse O. Brand, pastor of the Methodist church.
Col. Jesse T. Jolly, Chairman of Board of Roads and Revenues, in brief, impressive and appropriate words, presented the building.
Col. Wesley Shropshire responded for the people, in an eloquent, soul-thrilling speech.
Judge Moses Wright of Rome was at his best in response for the court and its officers.
The occasion was graced by the presence of a number of ladies, who were enthusiastic in praise of the magnificent structure.
The Summerville News
September 23, 1909
(By the Man From Town)
In my communication in last issue of the News you made me say “deadness” when it should have been “decadence would set in.”
Chattooga County’s new courthouse is a marvel of architectural beauty, and should be the pride of every patriotic citizen of the county.
I was present at the convening of Chattooga Superior Court last week. The ceremonies incidental to the presentation and acceptance of the courthouse were short but impressive. Judge J.M. Bellah acted in the capacity of Master of Ceremonies. A very impressive prayer was made by Rev. J.O. Brand. Col. J.T. Jolly in his usual happy vain made the presentation speech as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Hon. Wesley Shropshire responded in a ringing speech in behalf of the people. It was when Judge Moses Wright responded so eloquently in behalf of the court officials. He dwelt so feelingly upon the memories of the old courthouse; the enthusiastic audience then realized that in one respect. It was like the marriage at Cana of Galilee, the best was served at the last. The Man From Town.