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Texas | Architecture | Courthouses

County Seat - Meridian, Texas
Bosque County

Bosque County has had four courthouses:

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Meridian TX Bosque County Courthouse Restored
The restored Bosque County Courthouse, Meridian, Texas
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher, July 2007

Meridian, Texas

by Lou Ann Herda, Ed. D

The first thing that some folks might have a hard time with is the name "Bosque." Some might think, "It looks like 'mosque.' So it must be pronounced 'bosk.'" Or they might think, "bo-skay." Well, it's neither (or is it ni-ther?). Those from around this county know it's pronounced "bos-kee."

Bosque (did I say it right?) County is not named for a "who;" it's named for a "what." In 1721, Spanish explorer the Marques de San Miguel de Aguayo was ambling his way to an East Texas mission from San Antonio de Bexar. Being an explorer, he wandered north off of the Old San Antonio Road and, well, went exploring.

De Aguayo camped near the Brazos River and another tributary and looked around. He saw lots of trees. Since explorers are known for naming things, he hailed the tributary "Bosque," which is Spanish for "trees." When it came time to name the county, folks looked at the Bosque River and figured Bosque County was as good as any other name. So it stuck.

About 1830, George Erath was hired to survey the land for colonization. Although he didn't have the title of explorer, he liked naming things, too. While he was surveying near the ninety-eighth meridian, he named two tributaries the Meridian Creek and the Meridian Knobs. The name "Meridian" stuck, too, because when it came time to name the county seat, folks decided to call it just that.

Bosque County is known for its Norwegian influence. After settling kinsmen in seven other states, Norwegian Cleng Peerson set his eyes on Texas. Once here, he urged fellow Norwegians in East Texas to go west, but not too far. In 1854, he and other Norwegians took advantage of the land give-away from the state and settled Clifton, Norse, and Cranfills Gap.

The year 1854 was also when Bosque County was established. By that fall, a one-room log courthouse was erected with Lowry Scrutchfield elected as county judge. Scrutchfield, one of the original settlers in the county, had assisted Erath in laying out the town of Waco. Scrutchfield was county judge for four years, although much of his time was spent warding off Indian attacks. The Comanches were keeping the settlers busy by stealing whatever they could get their hands on, from livestock to scalps.

Meridian Texas - 1875 Bosque County Courthouse
The 1875 Bosque County Courthouse
Postcard courtesy THC

A second courthouse was erected in 1860 but was destroyed by fire in 1871. Then for about five years, court was held off and on in a tent until a two-storied stone courthouse was erected in 1875. That seat of justice lasted for a decade. Then, in 1886, a fight broke out over the possibility of building a new courthouse.

It was the Courthouse Party vs. the Anti-Courthouse Party, verbally duking it out. The New Courthouse advocates sited the deteriorating building and insufficient space. The Old Courthouse defenders spat that a new courthouse, costing 60K, would break the county and raise taxes. These rumblings culminated the day the courthouse was to be demolished. Commissioner Tom Poole feared for his life as he rode into town that day, having heard he'd be ambushed for voting for the new courthouse. He found an angry mob gathered around the Courthouse Square, armed with pistols and fury. Yet a shot was not fired, and the courthouse was demolished.

Anti-Courthouse Party commissioners A. J. Walton and E. J. W. Odgen refused to allow their names to be placed on the cornerstone of the building, so only the names of Courthouse Party County Judge R. G. Childress and commissioners Poole and John Goodman appear there. These three men were subsequently voted out of office in the election of 1886 before the courthouse was completed.

The 1886 Bosque County Courthouse vintage photo
The 1886 Bosque County Courthouse with tower and mansard roofs
Courtesy THC

The present Bosque County courthouse, completed the end of 1886, is a Renaissance Revival courthouse designed originally by J. J. Cane of Ft. Worth. However, when he designed it, he had a Gothic tower with small turrets on the corners above the east entrance.

The building is made from limestone quarried nearby. Roman arches and heavy rusticated pilasters reflect the Renaissance Revival style. Stone-carved fancy rosettes adorn the pilasters. The hipped roofs over the corner pavilions, connected with mansard roofs, were originally covered with metallic shingles in a diamond pattern.

Meridian Texas - 1886 Bosque County Courthouse with clock tower
The 1886 courthouse with clock tower
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/

Meridian Texas - 1886 Bosque County Courthouse in 1940
The 1886 Bosque County Courthouse
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/

The Gothic tower and these roofs were replaced with walls in 1935, as a result of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (WPA). That renovation also resulted in an addition to the west side of the courthouse.

1886 Bosque County courthouse, Meridian, Texas  1939 old photo
The 1886 Bosque County Courthouse as it appeared in 1939
Photo courtesy TXDoT

Bosque County Courthouse Clock Tower,  Meridian TX

Bosque County Courthouse Clock Tower Restored
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher, July 2007

Bosque County Courthouse cornerstone,  Meridian TX
The 1886 Bosque County Courthouse cornerstone
showing Architect and ornamental rosette.
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher, July 2007
More Texss Cornerstones

Bosque County Courthouse stairs
Cast-iron stairs, made in Detroit, Michigan
Photo by Lou Ann Herda

Copyright Lou Ann Herda, Ed. D
September 2001
Much thanks to Tab Ferguson and Debbie Kibler at the Bosque County Courthouse, and to Elizabeth Torrence with the Bosque County Historical Commission.
Bosque County Courthouse, by Elizabeth Torrence, Chr. Bosque Co. Historical Commission (From the Bosque County Collection)
References and Additional Reading

Oil painting of the 1886 Bosque County courthouse, Meridian, Texas
Oil painting of the 1886 courthouse displayed in the Bosque County Bank across from the courthouse. The artist is George Hallmark, a local artist with a studio just outside of town.
- Terry Jeanson, July 16, 2009
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, October 2005

Bosque County Courthouse Restoration

Clock tower being fabricated on the ground.
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher, March 17, 2007

The courthouse less the clock tower.
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher, March 17, 2007

Meridian, Texas
Bosque County
More Texas Courthouses

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