County Seat and Court House, Butler County, Kansas
From: History of Butler County, Kansas
BY: Vol. P. Mooney
Standard Publishing Company
Lawrence, Kansas 1916


El Dorado, on its original site south of the present El Dorado, was first the county seat of Hunter county and later, upon its organization, of Irving county. The county, as it were, having slipped from under it, the location of the town remaining the same At this time Butler county extended only so far south as the fifth standard parallel. Chelsea was named as the county seat of Butler county by common consent of the settlers. This was upon the organization of the county in 1859, Chelsea remaining the county seat until 1864, after the county had been changed to its present boundaries.

On May 21, 1864, an election was held, and El Dorado was selected as the county seat - (this was the old town on the Clarence King farm). There being, however, no buildings available, the commissioners refused to move. July 2, 1867, occurred the second county seat election. Whitewater Junction reecived 2 votes, County Center received 6 votes, northwest quarter of section 9, township 25, range 6, received 29 votes, and El Dorado, on section 2, township 26, range 5, received 5o votes. El Dorado was declared the county seat and the offices were moved there. The county seats of the early days were considerably on wheels, but as the principal business was the voting on county seat locations, the difference was not material. The next election was called April 4, 1870, for the removal of the county seat from El Dorado to Chelsea. This election was held May 9, 1870, Chelsea receiving 256 votes and El Dorado 524 votes. On May 21, of the same year, an election was called for June 27, 1870, for the purpose of voting $82,500 for bonds for the erection of county buildings. This proposition was defeated by a vote of 239 for to 550 against, and no county bonds have ever been voted.

The first real court house was built of stone on the corner lot facing Central avenue and extending south along Gordy street, this being the northeast corner of the block on which the present court house stands. July 19, 1870, Henry and C. C. Martin deeded the original site of the court house to the county. A number of citizens offered subscription to the amount of $2,455 to assist in building a court house, provided the commissioners would proceed at once to erect a suitable building and pay the rest of the cost. On September 5, 1870, the commissioners accepted the proposition of the citizens. The original document showing the offer of one half the cost of construction by the El Dorado business men of the early day is of a great deal of interest. The reading of the old document, with the names of those signing and the amount of donations made, art as follows: In consideration of the board of county commissioners of Butler county, Kansas, proceeding at once to award a contract for building a court house and jail at El Dorado and appropriating from the revenues of said county such sum of money as they may lawfully do, said revenues to be increases by the maximum levy of taxes provided by law, we do individually bind ourselves to pay to said county commissioners the sums set opposite our respective names to enable them, with the revenue aforesaid, that may be appropriated for that purpose and the money received by this obligation, to build and complete said building as soon as possible. And we do bind ourselves to pay one half of said sums of money when said commissioners shall award said contract and the remaining one half when the walls of said building are erected and the floors laid in the same. Witness our hands and seals this twenty fourth day of August, 1870:

Allen White, $150; J. C. Lambdin & Son, $200; Alfred W. Ellet, $100; T. G. Boswell, $200; H. T. Summer, $100; J. P. Gordon, $100; Knowlton & Ellett, $100; T. R. Pittock, $150; D. M. Bronson, $100; E. L. Lower, $200; B. F. Gordy, $100; S. P. Barnes, $100; John S. Friend, $100; Henry Martin, $200; James Gordon, $100; Henry Small, $100; L. S. Friend, $100; James R. Mead, $100; A. M. Burdett, $50; Betts & Frazier, $50; J. C. Fraker, $50; Meyer & Bolte, $15; J. S. Danford, $40; total, $2,455. Bonds, etc., follow subscription list. Commissioners signing contract, M. A. Palmer and Martin Vaught.

October to, 1870, a contract was entered into with Isaac N. Branson to build a temporary county building, court house and jail at a cost of $6,000, the building to be 25x50 feet and two stories high. The total amount paid by the city was $2,500 and the amount to be paid by the commissioners was $3,750. This was the east third of the old court house used before the present new building. S. C. Fulton, M. A. Palmer and M. Vaught were the commissioners at that time. November it, 1870, it was ordered that A. Ellis, county treasurer, sell the old log court house.

When the building was nearing completion a petition was presented to the commissioners asking for another election for the removal of the county seat to Augusta. This was entered in the records as follows: "March 6, 1871, special meeting. Petition presented by Judge Lauck for the removal of the county seat from El Dorado to Augusta. Election ordered for April, 1871." (No further record of this election). In April, 1871, the building was completed and occupied. The petition for the next election and the election are shown in the records as given below: February 16, 1872 - "A petition asking for the re-location of the county seat was presented and laid over until the next session." April 1, 1872 - The board at its last meeting submitted the construction of section 4, chapter 26, general statutes of 1868, to the attorney general, and, in order to get his opinion before they acted, laid the petition presented by the citizens of Augusta, asking for an election to locate the county seat, over until their next (present) meeting. The attorney general declined to give an opinion for the reason that the question was then pending in the supreme court of the State, and the petition is now laid over until after said court has rendered its decision. April 23, 1872 - "The petition for the removal and re-location of the county seat, presented on the fifteenth day of February, 1872, and laid over, was again presented and an election ordered to be held June 1, 1872."

June 9, 1872 - "The board met for the purpose of canvassing the votes cast at the county seat election, held on the first day of June, 1872. The board being restrained by an order of the disfrict court, of this county, in a suit against the board of county commissioners by W. P. Gossard and L. B. Snow, from canvassing said votes and declaring the result thereof, and by reason thereof the canvassing of said votes was postponed until the court should dissolve said order." The records of the district court show on a hearing on motion filed by the defendants, that the injunction was by the court dissolved. Whereupon the plaintiffs appealed to the supreme court, entering into bonds in the sums of $10,000. The injunction was held until after the hearing in the supreme court. The supreme court held, tenth Kansas report, page 163, that an election for the re-location of a county seat must be held within fifty days after the presentation of the petition therefor, or it is void, and ordered the district court to reverse its order refusing a temporary injunction.

July 20, 1875 - "Ordered that the county clerk advertise for bids for repairing the court house."

Second wing built: On July 20, 1875. E. B. Brainerd, F. W. Clifford and J. A. McGinnis, county commissioners, were presented with a petition asking them to repair and enlarge the court house. The commissioners, having several thousand dollars surplus in the treasury, decided to appropriate the amount of money necessary to make repairs and build a new wing on the west, said wing to contain a jail. The contract was let to L. B. Snow, September 13. 1875. for $8,000, and the building was completed early in 1876. Thus the second one third of the old building was built. In 1890, the board of county commissioners decided that the court house was dangerous to the officers and citizens, was insecure for the safety of the records, and, by permission of the city council, all of the offices were moved to the city building, except the clerk of the court, which was located in the I. C. Thomas building, and the Court room, which was located in the old Methodist church. The third story of the city building was finished in 1891, when the clerk of the court and court room were moved thereto. January 30, 1895 - "County clerk Was ordered to advertise for bids for repairing court house." February 22, 1895 - "Board met to consider bids for repairing court house. Contract entered into with Sharp Bros., of Marion, to do the work at a price of $4,840." John Ellis, Lafe Stone and Thomas Ohlsen were the county commissioners at this time. The lease with the city expiring in March, 1895, they decided to repair the old court house and build an addition on the west. Thus the west third was added to the old building. A petition was filed with Judge Shinn, asking him to grant an injunction against the commissioners, restraining them from using the county's funds. but it was denied. It was then taken to the supreme court. and that court sustained the decision of Judge Shinn.

The new court house: May 17, 1907, a petition was presented to the board of county commissioners, signed by 2,060 resident tax payers, asking that said board construct and erect a court house and jail at El Dorado, the county seat of said county, the cost to be not less than $50,000 and not to exceed $60,000. Petition granted.

History of the new building: The legislature of 1907-08 passed a new court house law, the conditions of which were complied with, and the county commissioners took the initiatory steps to build a new court house. The question was carried to the district and supreme courts, the law was sustained and the commissioners proceeded with the work. George P. Washburn & Sons, of Ottawa, were employed as architects, and plans were adopted in July, 1908. Bids were then asked for and Mathein & Walter, of St. Joseph, Mo., were awarded the contract for the building for $60,000 on August 5, 1908. Work was commenced early in September and the building completed and accepted September To, 1909. Possession was taken in October, 1909. Contracts for heating, lighting, etc., were awarded separately and work accepted later.

Ideal location: In the center of a whole block in the business district. facing Central avenue, surrounded on the other sides with beautiful maple and elm trees, within a short distance of the new Santa Fe depot. and some nice residences, the court house certainly has an ideal location. The fact that the site of the first court house built by the county is a part of the present location makes it all the more valuable. The corner stone was laid December 3, 1908, by a Masonic service. Deputy Grand Master Fred Washburn, of Anthony, F. J. Stinson and J. B. Adams spoke. A box containing copies of the city newspapers, names of county commissioners, architects, builders and superintendent and many other articles were deposited in a metal box in the corner stone. On the left of the main entrance is an entablature two by four feet, of Bedford (Ind.) stone, inscribed: "This stone was laid by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, A. F. and A. M. of Kansas, A. D. 1908, A. L. 5908. Henry F. Mason, Grand Master." On the corresponding stone, to the right of the door way; are these words: "County commissioners, S. R. Anderson, Peder Paulson, M. T. Minor; George Washburn & Sons, architects; Mathein & Walker, contractors; J. R. Switzer, superintendent."

The building: The new structure is 70x100 feet, three stories high, and a ground floor, or basement, is 100 feet from grade line to top of tower; has octagon corners which add much to the looks of the building; is built of brick, faced with pressed brick, trimmed with Bedford (Ind.) buff oolitic limestone, and has a roof of red tile. The structure is surmounted by a tower in which is located one of the best Seth Thomas clocks made, having illuminated dials, and was secured through J. W. Kirkpatrick, the jeweler. From this tower a good view of the town and county for miles around can be had. In front of the tower, in a conspicuous place, is the Goddess of Justice, and there is a flag pole on either end of the building.

At the main entrance of the building is a stone portico twelve feet wide and thirty six feet long, having six massive stone colonial columns extending the full length of the building, with a balcony the same size leading from the court room to the second story. The portico floor is of Mosaic tile and has "Butler County Court House, 1909," inlaid therein. Stone steps, twenty four feet wide at the base and fourteen feet wide at the top, lead to the portico. The steps, as well as the buttresses on either side and the railing around the portico, are of Bedford (Ind.) stone. On either side of the approach is an electric light fixture.

The corridors are twelve feet wide, run the entire length of the building, the floors are of Mosaic tile and the wainscoting is of white glazed tile. There is a stairway at either end of each floor of the building, with iron frames and marble steps, making the building practically fireproof. All vaults are large, fireproof and are supplied with steel furniture, most of which came from the old building.

The floors are of hard wood, ceilings are cement and pressed metal, the finishing of the interior is quarter oak from cellar to garret, and the furniture, mostly made to fit the different offices, is of modern design in quarter oak. The walls and ceilings are the popular rough, rustic finish, painted with lead and oil. The interior decorations are all hand and stencil work, done by H. H. Mitchell, an artist in his line. The building has plumbing throughout for water and gas, is fitted with electricity and telephones and is heated with steam. Each room and hallway has a brass chandelier supplied with both gas and electricity, as well as side lights, while the porticos are fitted with nice lighting fixtures. All windows are supplied with Venetian blinds, and there are nice nickel plated drinking fountains in the offices. The ground floor is a foot above the grade of the building, making it a good story. It is built of native stone and veneered with Bedford (Ind.) blue oolitic limestone - the same stone the government is using on its public buildings. It is well lighted and ventilated and has three entrances, one under the main entrance to the building and one on either end, with a handsome portico. On the ground floor is located a farmers' rest room, nicely furnished with chairs, settees, tables and other things for the convenience of the farmers, their wives and children, with a toilet room attached. A room for the Grand Army of the Republic is handsomely decorated with the national colors, cannons, swords, etc., the work of H. H. Mitchell, is free for the comrades. This room is nicely fitted up by the Grand Army of the Republic and Woman's Relief Corps. The cell room and sheriff's office, boiler and fuel room, janitor's office, two large storage vaults and public toilet rooms are also in the basement. As you ascend to the first floor from the portico, you enter a vestibule fourteen feet square, cut off from the main corridor by folding doors. To the right as you enter is the register of deeds office and his vault; to the left is the office of the probate judge and his vault. About the center of this floor is a fine porcelain drinking fountain. On the south side of the corridor are located the offices of county commissioners, county clerk and treasurer, each office having a large vault. The offices on the south side of the corridor are connected by communicating doors. You ascend to the second floor from either end of the corridor by a handsome and durable marble stairway. In the center of the building, on the second floor, extending across from north to south, is the court room, 48x70 feet, with a 21 foot ceiling, splendidly ventilated. In the upper portion of court room to the south are six stained art glass transoms, giving a very pleasing effect. The room is handsomely decorated with heavy ornamental cornice and panel ceiling in relief, finished in colors and gold, and the wainscoting is of white glazed tile. The judge's bench, jury box and bar are located in the south end of the room. A railing separates these from the public. The court room has an elevated floor and is seated with opera chairs. There is a balcony on the north extending the full width of the court room, sixteen feet wide, entered from the third floor and seated with opera chairs, making the seating capacity over 300. The court room is lighted with two elaborate brass chandeliers, with twenty five lights each, in addition to several wall lights. Connecting with the court room on the east is the offices of district clerk, sheriff and county attorney and their vaults. On the west side of the building on this floor are located the district judge's room and private office, court stenographer, witness room, attorneys' consultation room and toilet.

From the judge's private corridor on the third floor, a stairway leads to two jury rooms located on this floor, making them entirely secluded from the general public. There is a toilet room connected with each jury room. On the east side of the building on this floor is a corridor extending to the entrance of the court room balcony. From this corridor you enter the office of county superintendent and surveyor. A toilet room and private stairway leading to attic and clock tower are also connected with this corridor. The attic above makes a splendid store room.

Cost of building: The cost of the building, furniture and everything, furnished by County Clerk Arnold is given: Mathein & Walker, builders, $62,540.30; R. R. Moore, plumbing and heating, $4,515; J. Beeler, electric wiring, $1,185; Topeka Steel Furniture Company, five omnibusses, $300; Bailey & Reynolds, gas and electric fixtures, $1,200; window screens, $629.25; G. P. Washburn & Sons, architects, $2,237.32; J. O. McAfee, furniture, $4,208; court house site, $12,500; J. A. Switzer, superintendent building, $76o; Millison Office Supply, furniture, $400; incidentals, $1,350; total, $91,714.87. When the grounds were completed. walks built and all work finished, the building cost about $100,000.

Commissioners builded well: It is, the general impression of the people of the county, as well as those connected with the erection of the court house, that Butler county has full value for every cent expended and has received far more for its money than several of the neighboring counties that have erected public buildings. The boards of county commissioners have been careful of the expenditures. always having in view the idea of building a structure that would best serve the interests of the county and be a credit to the people without being extravagant; had a few "extras" and everyone who visits the new edifice and looks' it over carefully, says the commissioners "have builded well" and are certainly to be congratulated on their success. It was no small duty to perform, but there is satisfaction to them in knowing the people are pleased to hear them say, "well done, good and faithful servants." When the work was commenced the county commissioners were Milton T. Minor, First district; Sol Anderson, Second district; Peder Paulson, Third district. This board started the work and made most of the contracts. In January the board changed to the following: Milton T. Minor, First district; William P. Bradley, Second district; William J. Houston, Third district. The new board took up the work with a vim that showed themselves to be business men, to be in a hearty accord with the movement and pushed it to a successful conclusion.


Extinct geographical locations: A list of "lost" towns, postoffices, settlements and trading posts in Butler county since 1857:

Arizona or Arizonia, 1857, near present site of Augusta; town site laid out by a party of prospectors. Aral, Pleasant township. Amador, Clifford township. Ayr, Plum Grove township. Britton, Southern Rock Creek township. Buffalo Town Company; not located by sections; incorporated February 12, 1858, for the purpose of laying out towns in Butler county BryantĄ Logan township, was located on Whitewater. A saw mill was located there at one time, operated by Dan Elder. Cariboo, Murdock township. Cave Springs, Spring township. Clear Ford, southern part of Rock Creek township. Chelsea Town Company, February 11, 1858; J. C. Lambdin, P. G. D. Morton, L. M. Pratt and G. F. Donaldson. Cleveland Town Company, all non residents; no town located. Cornhill, north boundary Augusta township. Crettenden, founded in 1861, abandoned in 1865. Dixon, near Degraffe. Edgecomb, discontinued in 1882; Murdock township. El Dorado Town Company, in Hunter county at that tihe, afterward Irving county. Incorporated February 6, 1858, by J. Cracklin, Sam Stewart, David Uphen and others; located west, of the Connor farm, on what is now the Jamison, Royce and White farms. Freedom, Bloomington township. Fontanelle, 1854, near Augusta; this town site infringed on the Arizona territory; a number of town lots were sold to eastern parties. Glen, location lost. Holden, Plum Grove township. Indianola, Benton township. Kossuth, chartered 1858, by J. Cracklin and others, who were non residents; location lost. Lawrence, location lost. Little Walnut, established 1870, now Leon. Meade's Ranch, now Towanda. Minneha, now in Sedgwick county. Modena; Pleasant township. Mulburry Grove, location lost. Nellans, Fairmount township. New Excelsior, Glencoe township. New Milwaukee, founded 1870, abandoned 1880. Minnesk, location lost. Oil City, El Dorado township; first prospect for oil in Butler county. Ora, location lost. Overton, location lost. Providence, Richland township. Pendell, Benton township. Pine Grove, Rock Creek township. Plum Grove, near Potwin. Quito, on Little Walnut, on the Peter Johnson farm. Redden, Fairmount township. Smithfield, see Lorena. Schonholm, Lincoln township. Spring Branch, see Cariboo. Sycamore Spring, Sycamore township. Sunnyside, Logan township. Tolle, vacated in 19o1; Union township. Walnut, Walnut township. Webster City, established in 1873; Bloomington township. Whitewater City, located in 1858; name changed to Ovo in 1882, extreme north of Clifford township.

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