Courthouse
Ann Arbor Michigan
Washtenaw County


The Old Court-House
Several years had passed after the organization of the county before steps were taken for the erection of a court-house. In the winter of 1833, the Legislative Council passed an act enabling the Board of Supervisors to issue the bonds of the county and levy tax for their payment at maturity. In 1834 the building was erected, and for forty-four years served as the temple of justice, when it became too small and unsuited to a wealthy and growing county, and so gave place to the elegant structure that now ornaments the public square. A lithographic view of the old court-house appears elsewhere in this work.


Ann Arbor Courthouse 1912 - Contributed by Paul Petosky>

The New Court-House.
The question of buildings new court-house was long considered by the people of the county, and especially those living in the city of Ann Arbor, before any definite action was taken by the Board of Supervisors. The old courthouse had for years been considered a disgrace by the people, but the fear of taxation had prevented any steps being taken for the erection of a new one.

In 1870, the Common Council of the city of Ann Arbor passed a resolution, offering to donate the sum of $20,000, in addition to her regular tax, upon condition that the county would vote $40,000, the whole to be used in the erection of a court-house. At the December meeting of the Board of Supervisors, in 1876, the Board passed a series of resolutions, setting forth that the court- house then in use had by reason of age and use become dilapidated, inconvenient, uncomfortable, unhealthy and unsafe for use; that the records and documents of the several county offices were exposed and liable to he destroyed by fire; that the Compiled Laws of the State (page 225,section 44G) explicitly declare that each organized county should provide a suitable court-house; that the city of Ann Arbor, having generously offered to donate a large amount of the necessary sum, it was the opinion of the Board that the public interest and safety, and permanent preservation of the important records and documents of the several county offices demand the early erection of a new court-house, with fire-proof vaults attached to the offices of county clerk, register of deeds, judge of probate and county treasurer.

The question of authorizing a loan of $40,000 was submitted to the people at the spring election in 1877, and carried. Plans and specifications were then advertised for, and one furnished by G. W. Bunting, of Indianapolis, was adopted. The committee, appointed by the Board of Supervisors for that purpose, then advertised for sealed proposals for building, and on the 28th day of June, 1877, met at the old court-house, in Ann Arbor, to consider the proposals. Ten contractors made bids ranging from $56,879 to $73,500. The committee adopted the bid on McCormick & Sweaney, of Columbus. Indiana, on account of representations as to their responsibility and character as builders, though not the lowest by $21. The work was immediately commenced and rapidly pushed forward to completion.

LAYING THE CORNER-STONE
The corner-stone was laid with imposing ceremonies at Ann Arbor, Thursday, Oct. 25,1877. The day was very pleasant, and soon after seven o'clock people commenced to arrive, and continued so till time for the procession to move. The city of Ann Arbor was decked out with streamers extending from roof to sidewalk, and the stars and stripes floated proudly over many of the buildings. About 11 o'clock a procession was formed, and the number swelled by several hundred of the University students, which, after marching through several of the principal streets, halted at the northeast corner of the court-house, where the stand from which the speakers delivered their addresses was located.

Judge E. Lawrence. President of the day, opened the exercises by stating the object of the meeting, and then called upon the Ann Arbor band for a piece of music, after which the Rev. Dr. Cocker delivered a most impressive prayer.

President Lawrence then arose and said, that as he had been connected with the new building, he would make a few remarks pertaining thereto. He said he had been connected with the old court-house for 41 years, and had come to Washtenaw county when it contained but five towns, and had been identified with it ever since; that he considered it, physically, as an old county, and second to none in the Northwest, for which he felt proud. He referred to the many criticisms he had been subject to, all being the overseer of the work, and said that housed to think grumblers and fault-finders the meanest, most contemptible men on God Almighty's earth, but had become older and changed his mind, and considered that it was the searching criticisms of these men that caused the progress in civilization. They constantly found fault with everything;, thus exposing the weak points when they are, from the pressure of such influences, constantly forced forward, he then alluded to the many trials he had been called upon to bear, and then said it was impossible to have made as solid a wall of stone as they did of brick, that where large boulders were placed, the tendency would he to crack the wall placed upon them; that the foundations of the ancient buildings, which had stood for 5.000 years, were of brick, and that this ought to be long enough to satisfy the most particular. In conclusion he said, that 40 years ago he had raised money by subscription to level the ground around the court-house, build a fence, and plant trees, but now was in favor of cutting them all down and having a smooth green with fountains at each corner of the building.

Col. Burleigh then read two letters, one from Governor Crosswell and one from Judge T. M. Cooley, regretting their inability to be present. He then read the contents of the box placed in the corner-stone, which is as follows:

The Ann Arbor Courier, Michigan Argus, Ann Arbor Register, Detroit Post and Tribune, the Detroit Free Press; Catalogue of Michigan University; Medical College announcement; Historical, sketch of Michigan University; The Chronicle # 1,1877; Medical and surgical announcement, 1877-78; University Palladium, 1876; Catalogue of Museum of the University; The Michigan Almanac, 1877; Circuit Court calendar, fall term, 1877; Catalogue of Michigan State Normal School; Proceedings of Hoard of Supervisors, 1876; Constitution, etc., of Ann Arbor Scientific Association; Catalogue of Ann Arbor public school; Proceedings of Michigan Publishers' Association; photographs of the old court-house; Program of the day; largo posters of the day; photographs of the workmen on the court-house; charter, etc., of Ann Arbor city; Constitution, etc., of Ann Arbor Schnetzenhuud; Constitution, etc., of Ann Arbor Arbeitor Verein; poetry on the old court-house, by Mrs. Pierce; copy of the report of the court-house building committee; blank bond for the city of Ann Arbor for court-house; Michigan State Gazetteer.

After some music, Chauncey Joslin, the orator of the day, arose, and said he had never, in a life of 64 years, delivered but one oration, and that was when he was 16 years old, on the subject of "Universal Education and Universal Taxation." and that the sentiment it contained was so universally condemned, that he promised himself never to repeat it; that ho had offered $5 to get out of the job, but his offer had been rejected. The many associations with which he was bound to the old court-house caused him to be sad instead of joyful upon this occasion. It was in the old court-house 40 years ago that he was legally born. He was admonished by the lapse of years that soon he would give place to younger men, which caused sober thoughts to pass through his mind. He contrasted the politicians of the early day with those then, much to the discredit of the latter. Formerly a man was elected to office because of his fitness, and he would commit political suicide did he solicit votes. He thought the jury box one of the best schools in which man could be placed to teach him human nature, and give him a knowledge of the world. Ex-Governor Kelch then laid the cornerstone and dedicated it to justice and posterity, and the ringing of the bells of the city and playing of the band.

The stone is located in the northeast corner of the building, and is inscribed with these words: "Erected in 1877"

Speeches were then made by Prof. Wells, of the law department, D. Cramer and J. Webster Childs, which concluded the ceremonies of the day.

DESCRIPTION OF THE BUILDING
The new court-house is a handsome structure, 80x127 feet in size, and in the main part about 54 feet in height. In the center of the building is a tower which rises from the basement to a height of 152 feet. On each corner of the building is a small tower, between each of which is a figure of justice. The walls are of pressed red brick, two and a half feet thick, and are trimmed with stone, while the basement walls are of stone. The walls that support the towers are three feet in thickness. The roof is of slate and the cornices of iron, as are also the stairs. The entire building is tire-proof, and erected and furnished at a cost of $83,000. A large clock was placed in the tower, at a cost of $1,000. This clock was the gift of Luther James, for which the Board of Supervisors passed a vote of thanks. The liberality of Mr. James on this occasion will long be remembered by the citizens of the county.

The Second Jail Building.—The first jail was a rude affair, and was soon displaced by the present edifice. This building is situated on North Main street, about four blocks from the court-house. It is a brick structure, two stories and a half high, the front part of which is used for a dwelling by the jailor, and the rear divided into apartments and cells for the prisoners. It was erected in 1837, by John L. and Robert Davison, at a cost of $17,000. When erected it was considered a handsome building, in which the citizens felt a just pride, but almost a half century has passed away and it begins to show signs of age.

LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL.
Washtenaw county was represented for the first time in the Third Legislative Council, the first session of which convened at Detroit May 5, 1828, with an adjourned session July 3. The second session was held Sept. 7, 1829. Henry Rumsey, of Ann Arbor, was the first Representative.

James Kingsley was elected in 1830 and served as a member of the Fourth Council in 1830 and 1831. In 1831 the Territory was divided into legislative districts, Washtenaw county comprising the fourth, being represented in the Fifth Council by James Kingsley and George Renwick. The Sixth Council had as Representatives from Washtenaw George Renwick and Abel Millington.

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTIONS.
The first Constitutional Convention held in this State was in 1835. It assembled at Detroit May 11, and adjourned June 24, after completing its labors. Washtenaw county was represented in this convention by Gilbert Shattuck, Abel Godard, William Moore, Robert Purdy, John Brewer, Alpheus Collins, Michael P. Stubbs, Richard Brower, Rufus Crossman, Nathaniel Noble, Russell Briggs, Orin How, Emanuel Case, Edward Mundy, Orrin White. It was this convention which formed the first Constitution of the State. The delegates were elected April 4, 1835, in pursuance of an act of the Territorial Council passed Jan. 26, 1835. The Constitution was adopted by a vote of the people in October, 1835, there being 6,299 yeas and 1,359 nays. It remained in force as the fundamental law of the State until the Constitution of 1850 went into operation.

FIRST CONVENTION OF ASSENT.
An act of Congress was passed June 15, 1836, cutting off Toledo and vicinity from the limits of Michigan and giving that territory to the State of Ohio. The admission of Michigan as one of the States of the Union was based upon her assent to this transfer. In pursuance of an act passed by the Legislature July 25,1836, a Convention was called to take action in this matter. Election of delegates was held on the 12th of September, 1836, and met in Ann Arbor, Sept. 26, and adjourned Sept. 30, after refusing to consent to the transfer. Washtenaw county was represented in this this Convention by Seth Markham, Michael P. Stubbs, Marcus Lane, Ebenezer H. Conklin, George P. Jefferies, Elnathan Noble, George W. Glover.

SEC0ND CONVENTION OF ASSENT.
The general desire for admission to the Union by the people of Michigan, caused many to be dissatisfied with the result of the convention held in December; therefore another convention was called which convened at Ann Arbor, Dec. 14, 1836, and adjourned the next day. The Detroit Adverther, Dec. 10, 1836, says of this convention: "This voluntary assemblage of men in their original capacity," organized at Ann Arbor on the 14th instant. They adopted a resolution giving what they called the assent of the State to the requisition of the act of June 15, and appointed a brace of special messengers to carry their proceedings to Washington." The records of this convention are not to be found in the office of the Secretary of State, it not being regarded by the State officers as a legal body, although by its action, and by its acceptance of the Congressional terms, Michigan was admitted as a State of the Union, Jan. 26, 1837, being given the northern peninsula in lieu of the southern boundary line heretofore claimed by the Territory and State of Michigan. Washtenaw county was represented in this convention by Nelson H. Wing, Samuel Champion, Jr., Nathaniel Noble, Lyman Downs, James Huston, Esek Pray, George W. Jewett, Solomon Sutherland, Samuel Denton, Samuel B. Bradley, Elisha Congdon, Stoddard W. Twitchell, Jesse Warner.

CONVENTION OF 1850.
This convention convened at Lansing June 3,1850, and adjourned Aug. 15, after the formation of the present Constitution which was adopted, by a majority of 26,736. James Kingsley, Elias M. Skinner, Earls P. Gardiner, Daniel Hixson, Morgan O'Brien, William S. Carr and Benjamin W. Wait were representatives from this county.

CONVENTION OF 1867.
A convention was called and convened at Lansing May 15, 1867, to frame a new Constitution. This convention adjourned Aug. 22, after preparing a Constitution,which was submitted to a vote of the people and rejected by a vote of 71,733 yeas to 110,582 nays. Thomas Hinds, Charles IL Richmond, Lyman D. Norris and Daniel Hixson represented Washtenaw county.