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Texas | Architecture | Courthouses

MONTAGUE COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Montague County
County Seat - Montague, Texas

Montague County has had four courthouses:
1858, 1879, 1885 and 1912
See Courthouse History

Montague Area Hotels > Bowie Hotels
Montague County Courthouse, Montague, Texas
Montague County Courthouse
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark

TE photo 2003

The Present County Courthouse
- Montague, Texas

Date - 1912
Architect - George Burnett
Style - Classical Revival
Material - Brick, steel and concrete

The courthouse is surprisingly massive for a town with such a small population.

THE COURTHOUSES OF MONTAGUE COUNTY

By Terry Jeanson

Cut from the western part of Cooke County, Montague County was officially organized in 1858. None of the three existing small settlements within the county were near the center of the county, so the state donated land for the creation of a county seat which was named Montague. The county and county seat were named for Daniel Montague, a surveyor and state senator during the Civil War. Montague was involved in the Great Hanging in Gainesville in 1862, in which many Union sympathizers were killed. He fled to Mexico after the war and returned to Texas in September of 1876, dying three months later.

The first courthouse for Montague County was a log cabin built in 1858 with local materials. It was only meant to be a temporary structure but was in use until after the Civil War. An old frame store on the north side of the square was used as a courthouse before a new wood-frame two story building was built and used as the courthouse until it burned down on February 25, 1873. All of the county records were lost in the fire, so information on the early courthouses is scarce.

A rented house and a former saloon were used until a new courthouse was built in 1879. It was constructed of sandstone with a tin roof and a dome and was built by John S. Thomas of Fort Worth for $22,000. This courthouse burned down on March 31, 1884. The fire was blamed on three men who had been indicted for cattle rustling and were trying to get rid of the evidence. The destruction of the courthouse led residents of Bowie to try and steal the county seat away from Montague, but they failed to get the 2/3 majority of votes that they needed.

Other buildings in town were used for court proceedings until the next courthouse was completed in 1885. It was built by T. J. Jarrell for $35, 500 and designed by Fort Worth architect James J. Kane, the architect of the 1886 Bosque County courthouse. It originally had a clock tower that had to be removed after it was damaged by a tornado on July 5, 1905. Another storm on April 30, 1912 broke many windows and damaged the roof so badly that it was decided to demolish this courthouse for the construction of a new one.

Court proceedings were held in the opera house until the construction of the current courthouse was completed in 1913. The brick, Classical Revival style building was designed by Waco architect George L. Burnett and built by A. H. Rodgers of Henrietta. The cost of the courthouse was originally to be $90,000, but structural changes raised the cost to $100,000. A county jail was located on the fourth floor until the construction of a new jail on the square was completed in 1927.

A 1939 wind storm damaged the courthouse’s original dome and it was removed and replaced with what has been referred to as a “penthouse,” “a doghouse,” or a “chicken coop.” The interior was renovated as well, covering most of the historic finishes, especially in the courtroom. An exterior wheelchair ramp and a glass elevator were installed in 1985. Despite the changes, the building still retains many of its original architectural features. In 2013, a new county courthouse annex opened on the north side of the square and the 1912 courthouse received a new tile roof. The replacement of the courthouse’s windows was completed in 2014 and efforts still continue to have the dome replaced and the courthouse historically restored.

- Terry Jeanson, February 3, 2015

Sources: The Handbook of Texas Online; The Texas Historical Commission’s County Atlas at http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/shell-county.htm; Montague County History at www.montaguecountyhistory.com, “History of the Montague County Courthouses” written by Vicki Jones and Martha Romine; “Montague County Buys Work on Courthouse” by Barbara Green, Bowie News for the Times Record News in Wichita Falls, TX, April 15, 2013; “Courthouse Across a Century” by Barbara Green, Bowie News for the Times Record News in Wichita Falls, TX, October 8, 2013.

Historical Marker:

Montague County Courthouse

Montague County was created in Dec. 1857 and organized in Aug. 1858. A log cabin and a frame store served as temporary courthouses. Fires destroyed a two-story frame building (1873) and a two-story stone courthouse (1884). In that same year, construction began on a second stone courthouse, which lasted until a 1912 storm severely damaged it. County commissioners selected Waco architect George Burnett to design the present classical revival style temple of Justice. A. H. Rodgers of Henrietta was the contractor. The three-story brick and stone courthouse with raised basement has staircases at all four entrances, porticos, pilasters and dentils. Completed in May 1913, it has been the center of government and activity in the county for more than a century.

Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 2013

TX - Montague County 1912 Courthouse  ca1915
Montague County Courthouse
Photo ca1915 courtesy THC
TX - Montague County Courthouse
The courthouse from the northwest corner. The "chicken coop" can be seen on the roof and the fire escape slide on the northeast corner (left side of the picture.)
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April 2006
TX - Montague County Courthouse portico
Detail of the south side portico
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April 2006
TX - Montague County Courthouse interior
Courthouse Interior
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April 2006

The 1885 Montague County Courthouse
- Montague, Texas

Style - Second Empire
Demolished in 1912
See History
TX - Montague County 1885 Courthouse
Montague County 1885 Courthouse
Photo ca1905 courtesy THC
Montague County Jail
Montague County
- Montague, Texas
Montague County jail, Texas
Montague County Jail
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark

Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, April 2003
More Texas Jails
1927 Montague County Jail
The third structure to serve as Montague County Jail, this building was erected by the Southern Prison Company of San Antonio in 1927. The first floor contained living quarters for the jailer and his family, and six prison cells were maintained on the second floor. Used as a jail until a new facility was built in 1980, the building's architectural features include its entry portico, stone cornice, cast stone window sills, and simple tile detailing.
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1991
Montague County Courthouse & jail, Montague, Texas
Montague County Courthouse and Jail
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, April 2003
See Montague, Texas
Montague County
More Texas Courthouses

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