The original courthouse and county seat was at Leona.
It was organized July 13, 1846. The first court was held at the
home of Moses Campbell and then a log courthouse was built. After
a heated battle, which included the killing of one man and the wounding
of another, the County seat was moved to Centerville in October, 1850.
Taken from the Texas Bar Journal, Vol. 34,
Number 11, December 22, 1971
by Frances Jane Leathers of San Antonio
The present Leon County Courthouse was completed in 1887 at a
cost of $20,000. It was designed by the architect
A. L. Noyes, and the contract for it's construction was awarded to P. G.
Gillen of Lauderdale Co., MS.
Handmade brick were used throughout the building, many
having been salvaged from the fire which destroyed the former courthouse
on the night of November 9, 1885. After the ashes and debris were
cleared away, it was found that the brick remained in good condition and
that the brick and two large safes left standing could be refurbished,
so the entire new structure was designed around and over these safes.
Finally, when the building was finished, it stood two stories in height
with a wide staircase leading to the second floor, where the courtroom
was located. Ten fireplaces with mantel, heated the large rooms.
Shutters, both inside and outside, protected the glass windows and
helped to insulate the interior against the cold winter days.
Beaded boards were used to cover the plain plaster ceilings, but the
chief adornment was the iron railing which edged the roof of the veranda
at the entrance to the hall.
This new courthouse was built by citizens who were
native Southerners, chiefly of Scotch, Irish, and English descent, and
their architecture bears a strong resemblance to that seen in Virginia
and the Carolinas. Although their new building was Victorian in
style, it was unlike so many of the other early courthouses found in
areas where the population was of Germanic origin. Its lines were
simple and clean, and it lacked the heaviness found in much of the
Victorian period. For erection of a second brick courthouse for
Leon County took place during a period when times were hard and money
was scarce, so this public house was built strictly for the operation of
the county business, and its used for balls, dances, parties, and Magic
Lantern performances was specifically forbidden.
During the days of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846),
the area now know as Leon County was a part of the Old Robertson Colony,
and it's affairs were managed from Fort Franklin, the seat of
government. It was a sparsely settled region bounded on the east
by the Trinity River and on the south by the San Antonio Road.
During the Runaway Scrape many of the pioneers had fled along this
corridor, some remaining even after the hostilities had subsided.
With a more stable government, settlements pushed westward and, by 1844,
newcomers were clearing the lands around Leon Prairie, the name given it
because of the yellow wolves abounding there.
In the same year that Texas was admitted as a state
into the Union, Leon County came into existence as an act of the first
State Legislature, Leona was then the center of population and it was
chosen as the county seat of the newly-created county. It was here
in October 1846, that the first district court was held, the eminent
Judge R. E. Baylor presiding, and it was also here that the first
charge, one of manslaughter arising from a fight over the county seat,
was tried before the first jury.
By 1850 the people around fort Boggy area were
clamoring for the county seat to be moved nearer the geographical center
of the county. They felt relatively secure in their location since
Captain greer and a contingent of soldiers stationed at the fort kept
watch over them as well as the marauding Indians to the north. It
was only by a close and hotly contested vote that the seat of government
was moved from Leona to a more central position, with Centerville
becoming the second county seat.
The year 1857 saw the county enjoying its first brick
courthouse, this building being the center for all community activities.
It was here that the "Leon Hunters", eighty six in number, organized on
July 17, 1864, and marched off to Richmond, VA., most of them never to
return. It was here at this courthouse during the following Days
of Reconstruction that all voting was done under the bayonet, the troops
of Federal soldiers having been stationed here for the purpose of
patroling the surrounding area. Voting was forbidden in the
precincts, and everyone had to make the long trip to Centerville to cast
Today the Courthouse of 1887 stands much as it did when
it was first erected. The fireplaces are closed. The
shutters are no longer hanging, and Venetian blinds hang in their stead.
The normal wear and tear has taken its toll, but basically the building
remains unaltered, as have adjacent structures which harmonize with the
original architecture and form an attractive background. On the
veranda hangs the Medallion of the State Historical Committee, and above
it the roof with the delicate iron railing sags a bit, held in place
only by the slender aging posts.