Leon Co. Courthouse


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 his ballot.
     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.