A bit of history
Mason County was created on January 22, 1858, and organized on August 2, 1858. The first sheriff, Fritz Kothmann, was appointed and served about 6 months until an election could be held. The first elected sheriff of Mason County was Thomas Milligan who served until his murder in 1860 by Indians. Mason County had no courthouse or jail until 1869. Because of the Civil War, the growth of the county was greatly retarded during the early war years. Soldiers were moved from Ft. Mason and most of the able-bodied men were mustered into the army.
During this period, court was held under the large live oak tree that stood on the northeast corner of the square. Prisoners were kept in the guard house at the fort. About 1869 the first jail was built. The second jail was built in 1882 and was a rock building that stood near the location of the first jail building. This jail was used until the present jail was built.
The first courthouse, begun in 1872, was a two-story sandstone structure built by local stonemason August Brockman, his son Theo, and son-in-law, Fritz Leifeste. The structure was built on the northeast corner of the square near the landmark oak tree and the old jail (which was torn down in 1884). This first courthouse held Mason County post-Civil War, Reconstruction, and Mason County War (Hoo Doo War) records. It is speculated that the building was burned on January 1, 1877, to destroy legal records that may have led to prosecution of area residents involved in the Hoo Doo War. Many of the deed records survived because they were stored out of the building.
In 1878 the Commissioners’ Court let a contract for a new courthouse to stonemasons Dose & Mullins, for $4500.00. Placed in the center of the square, the second courthouse was in the Italianate Revival Style with a square configuration made of cut and coursed red sandstone. The entry had a one-story gallery with a balcony entered from a central second story window. This building cost the county $4500.00 and the upper story was often used for church services, concerts and entertainments. It was used until 1909 when it was demolished as it became too small.
The third and present courthouse was constructed in 1909. E.C. Hosford & Co. from Dallas was the architect, and Mutual Construction Co., Inc. of Louisville, Kentucky, contracted the job as a cost of $39,786.00. The granite cornerstone was given by Nagel Bros. of Fredericksburg, and was laid by the Masonic Lodge. The county government moved into the building in 1910 with a picnic on the grounds and a big celebration. The grounds were re-landscaped with the present-day pecan trees soon after construction.
The courthouse, with its classical revival design, holds a dominant position on the courthouse square. It has been admired and maintained throughout the years for its beauty and simplicity. Changes have been made over the years in the interest of comfort and utility (central air/heat, elevator), but the character of the building has been well preserved. It has been on many calendars and in many magazines, and is one of the most photographed courthouses in Texas.
The Mason County Commissioners, in conjunction with the Mason County Historical Commission, invite everyone to the courthouse’s 100th birthday celebration on Saturday, October 30, 2010 from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. There will be many activities happening at the courthouse, including a visit by Congressman Mike Conaway who will speak on the north side steps at 2:00 that afternoon. Be sure and watch the paper for more information on the activities that will be going on. The annual Starving Artists Show will also be held all around the square on the same day from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. And, don’t forget to look for the Courthouse Trivia Quiz in the newspaper. You might be the lucky winner of the $100 prize!!