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County Seat Affairs

Men & Women of Nebraska: A Book of Portraits, Washington Co. Edition, 1903, Edited by Daniel M. Carr.  pages 22-23

The territorial act reorganizing Washington county, which was passed February 22, 1855, designated Fort Calhoun as the county seat. The first sessions of the United State., court and the District court were held in 1855, in a log cabin, which in the fall of 1854, was built by the town site company. In 1856, by popular subscription, money was raised for the erection of a building of logs and cottonwood board to be used for court purposes and also as a school­house. This was the first building erected for court purposes west of the Missouri.

The first court held in this building was in the summer of 1856, and was presided over by Judge Elmer Wakely, and George W. Doane was the prosecuting attorney. One of the first cases before the court was that of the Territory vs. Peterson, for the killing of a man named Coon, over a claim, Peterson having “jumped” Coon’s claim, and soon after the latter was found dead with a bullet hole through his heart. Peterson was indicted, but escaped before his trial was called. In 1858, when William Clancy was a member of the territorial council and Potter C. Sullivan in the house, both from the town of De Soto, the legislature removed the county seat from Calhoun to De Soto, and remained there until the fall election of 1866, when by vote of the people the county seat of justice was again located at Calhoun and there remained until 1869, when by popular vote, Blair was made the county capital.

The first court-house at Blair was of brick, a commodious structure, which was in use for some years. It was built for school purposes by a firm of contractors, and sold to the county. The time came when the pride of many citizens of the county demanded that a more elegant building be erected. Many in the farming districts opposed this move, as it would be necessary to issue bonds for the purpose. In order to convince the credulous of the importance of erecting a new building, the commissioners decided the building unsafe, and had it propped up by placing heavy timbers about the exterior walls. This was a sight that was a convincing argument, and the bonds were carried, and the building—one of the most elegant county buildings in Nebraska—way constructed at a cost of about $50,000, and finished for occupancy in 1889.The first county jail was built in 1870 at a cost of $8,000, and is still in use.

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