LEE COUNTY COURT HOUSE


Contribututed by Tom Hess

Ogle County, which was organized in 1836, included the territory occupied by the present Lee County with the county seat being located at Dixon's Ferry.

At the time of the first term of the Ogle County Circuit Court, there was no court house building, so court was convened on October 2, 1837, in the James Wilson blacksmith shop near John Dixon's home and business. This was satisfactory, for the time being, but when the court met in August, 1838, the County Commissioners of Ogle County ordered that the County Court session be held in the home of John Phelps in Oregon.

The territory necessary to form Lee County was detached from Ogle County in 1839 and commissioners appointed by the Illinois Legislature designated Dixon as the county seat. "Father" John Dixon was instrumental in the formation of both Lee County and the selection of Dixon as the county seat town.

The commissioners, D. G. Salsbury, C. H. Nichols and C. G. Butler, at once began to look for a site on which to construct a court house building and they soon reported that they "struck the stake at the place where public buildings shall be erected."

John Dixon donated 80 acres of land to be sold at auction to raise funds necessary to construct a building and had also deeded to the county the block square parcel of land on which the present Lee County Court House now stands.

Numerous public minded citizens of Dixon also signed bonds for money with which to build the building and soon enough financial support was on hand to begin construction. On the plat of the town of Dixon, dated in the month of April, l935, a block of land was marked as "reserved" for a public square.

In August, 1839, County Commissioners of Lee County were elected to include Nathan R. Whitney, Charles F. Ingals and James P. Dixon and in December of the same year they obtained plans and specifications for a court house building. It was to be a stone or brick structure and would include a separate jail built of stone and timber. Cyrus G. Miner was paid $3 for drawing a plan for the court house roof at the same time.

In January, 1840, bids were summarized and submitted with contracts being let for the construction of the building in the next month. Samuel M. Bowman was the successful low bidder with an original bid of $6,800 but added an additional $810 when it was decided by the County Commissioners to use brick construction instead of the first plan to make use of native stone.

Two gentlemen, Zenas Applington (from Buffalo Grove-Polo) and G. G. Holbrook, built the jail building which stood on the northeast corner of E. Third Street and on Ottawa Avenue. They constructed the jail of hewed logs on a stone foundation at a cost of $1,495. The total cost of the 1840 Lee County Court House building, including the jail facility, was $9,105.

Pending completion of the Court House, the April 1840 term of the Lee County Circuit Court was held in a school house located on the west side of Ottawa Avenue near the alley, north of E. Second Street. The main room of this building, one of the larger meeting places in town, was 20 by 34 feet.

The 1840 Court House, several times remodeled and enlarged, stood and was used until March, 1900, when it was demolished to make way for construction of the present structure. The newer court house building cost $103,394.94 for the general construction. Additional costs for metal and wooden furniture, grading, street retaining walls and sidewalks added another $20,808.84 to the building, making a total of $123,203.78 for the entire fully equipped building.

Historical Reminiscences of George Lamb


Old Courthouse from the History of Lee County Illinois by Frank E. Stevens Vol 1 published 1914.
Next to it is the 2nd Courthouse from same source
Contributed by Karen Holt

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