June 28, 2010 § 3 Comments

I ran across these two old post cards depicting the Clarke County Court House that preceded today’s building.  You can click on the pictures to see a larger version with more detail.  My guess is that the pictures were taken in the 1890’s to early 1900’s, judging from the buggies parked around the building.  The current court house does not have a cornerstone that I could find in a very brief saunter around the outside last week, but it does have the names of the Board of Supervisors 1912-1916, which would indicate to me that the building was built during their term. 

I showed these to Gilford Dabbs, and he told me that he had heard that the old court house was located on what is now  a vacant lot next to First Baptist Church in Quitman.  By the way, Gilford is old, but he’s not old enough to remember this old building himself.  

Does anyone know why this court house was replaced?  Was there a fire like there had been in Meridian that precipitated the building of the new version?  Does anyone have any other pics of it, inside or out?  Does anyone know what happened to the eagle?

That object dangling in front of the building in the bottom picture is a street light suspended on wires.

These photos, along with around 4,600 others showing scenes from all around Mississippi during the period from 1892 to the 1940’s, are available at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s website here.


June 21, 2010 § 7 Comments

Court time in Clarke County is always enjoyable thanks to the friendly staff in the court house who go out of their way to be helpful and hospitable.  As good as it is, though, that favorable atmosphere is about to improve. 

The new court room upstairs in the main building is near completion.  The supervisors and the contractor are in the final phases, going over punch lists.  When the work is finally accepted by the supervisors, Clarke County will have a shining jewel that every citizen can be proud of.

The new court room is airy and modern

It wasn’t too many years ago that the Clarke County Court House was shabby and inadequate.  Cheap plywood panelling covered the walls and the windows in the court room — someone’s ineffective notion about how to keep out the roar of the big trucks passing on Hy 45 in front of the building.   The balcony and vintage pressed-tin ceiling were concealed by a suspended celotex ceiling.  The building had a shabby sense of decay that was heightened by its dusty, dirty state. 

I tried many cases in that old court room.  It was common to hear the cooing of pigeons nesting between the panelling while a witness droned on.  Before the bypass took the heavy trucks out of town, one could hear the big windows shaking behind the panelling as they rumbled through the stoplight.  I remember during one trial a thunderstorm raged outside and a water leak flooded counsel’s table.  Sad to say, but the court house back then reflected what many people thought of Quitman and Clarke County:  A community in decline, its better days in the past.

Looking from behind the bench toward the audience and balcony

All that changed in the late 90’s, when the Board of Supervisors took an interest in upgrading the court house.  They added the new building with its new, modern court room and offices.  The new building provided plenty of space for the courts, with meeting space for the Grand Jury and a D.A.’s office, as well as a library.  With the new building came a renewed sense of pride, and the dust, dirt and grime were banished in both the new and old buildings.  Floors were polished and windows cleaned.  The court house staff was energized. 

A treasure concealed for many years

Meanwhile, the lights were turned off in the old court room, which was left to languish.  Before long, however, some Clarke Countians interested in preserving the best of the past were nosing around the old court room to see whether it could be restored to its pre-plywood-panelling days.  They found the old, pressed-tin ceiling, an Edwardian architectural detail that can not be duplicated today.  They also found behind the celotex a labyrinth of ventialtion ducts and utilities.  Conventional wisdom would have dictated that it was simply too big a job for little Clarke County, with its shrunken tax base and many other priorities.  It seemed too much to hope for that the court room could actually be restored.

To their credit, the supervisors stepped up and committed to the work.  It has taken around 5 years, but the work is nearly completed now, and when the court room is furnished it will be ready for business.

Clarke County deserves praise for recognizing that a clean, orderly, businesslike court house with attractive court facilities is not only a service to its citizens, but also is a reflection on the community as a whole.  Where Clarke County’s Court House used to send the message of a tired, dying community in decline, the new facilities speak loudly of a progressive community alive with potential and ready to roll up its sleeves and go to work.

Clarke County:  Give yourselves a pat on the back.

Something to be proud of in Quitman

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