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Second Court House and Jail

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa", Pages 406-407, published by the Western Historical Company of Chicago in 1879.



At the January session (1848), the Commissioners directed the Clerk to "insert a notice in the Iowa Sentinel, offering a premium of $25 for the best plan and specifications for a Court House, to be 40x70 feet, to be built of brick, with good stone foundations, to be received until the 22d instant, at which time they will be opened."

From some cause, not explained on the journal, the Commissioners did not "open and examine the plans and specifications," but under date of the 22d of January, the Clerk was ordered to advertise in the Iowa Sentinel and Burlington Gazette for proposals for the "erection of a Court House on the public Square, in the town of Fairfield, according to the plans and specifications on file in the Commissioners' office, to be let to the lowest and most responsible bidder."

SATURDAY, March 26.--This being the day appointed for the opening of proposals for building a Court House in the town of Fairfield, in the county of Jefferson, when, upon opening and examining the said bids, it was decided by the Board that the same be let to --

Right there the entry stops, and no further mention is made of the contract or the building until October, 1849. It is stated, however, by George Craine, that the lowest bid was made by a man named Seman, but that James Thompson and Joseph Knott entered into an arrangement with Seman, by which, for a consideration, he withdrew or released his bid to Thompson and Knott, and that they became the recognized contractors. When several months had passed, Thompson and Knott sublet the contract to John Shields, Thompson retaining an interest. Shields and Thompson got some of the material on the ground, and the foundation walls nearly completed, but they finally relinquished the contract to the Commissioners. Daniel Mendenhall, one of the County Commissioners, on behalf of the Board, entered into a verbal agreement with George Craine to complete the building and take in part payment the old Court House and the lot of ground on which it stood, at $600. Craine was making arrangements to commence operations, when Mendenhall advised him that he could not have the contract, but that he himself had determined to build the Court House. Mendenhall then advertised (but not according to law, so it is said) the old Court House and grounds for sale, and did sell it for about $300 -- one-half less than Craine had agreed to give for it and take it in part payment for building a new Court House. Mendenhall soon found, however, that he could not go on with the erection of the building, and tendered the contract to Craine, which the latter gentleman, through the intercession of a Whig friend, finally accepted at an advance of $100 over his first "bid," and, on the 27th of October, 1849, a contract was entered into between the Commissioners, on the part of the county, and George Craine, by which the latter gentleman agreed to complete the Court House for $7,500. The contract specified that he was to take the materials on the ground, and the work already done at the prices paid, and deduct the same from the contract price; "also, the amount to be paid for hauling the brick from Shelton's, and for stone furnished and to be furnished by John G. Lembarger, and also to pay D. Mendenhall $25 for his services a Building Superintendent up to date," etc.

Under these conditions, Mr. Craine perfected his arrangements, and, in the spring of 1850, commenced work. The stone used in the foundation was hauled from the Cedar and Walnut Township quarries; the cut-stone was all taken from the Walnut Creek quarry, near Pheasant's Ford; the brick were made, in part, at John Shuffleton's yards, and, in part, at Medley Shelton's, and were laid in the wall by the Hoffmans -- father and two sons; the carpenter work was done under the immediate direction and supervision of Craine, who is a practical carpenter. The building was completed in January, 1851. The first term of court held in the new building came on in March following.

The present Jail was built in the fall of 1858, at a cost of $7,300 -- George Craine, contractor and builder. The stone used in this building were from the two quarries of Clinton & Baldwin and Elliott & Clinton. The dressed stone were reduced to the desired facings by John Turney. The brick were made at Shuffleton's yard.

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