First Courthouse
The Times-Tribune--Sept. 8, 1982
By Bill Gladstone


This week's picture is of the first courthouse built in the public square in Grant City. This building was built in 1866-67 and served until it was replaced by the present courthouse in 1898.
The first seat of government for Worth County was at Smithton. This town was in approximately the center of Middlefork Township. It was a little south of where Bill Davidson lives now and was established by Bill's great grandfather, Eli Smith, in 1857.
Worth County was established by an act of the Missouri Legislature Feb. 8, 1861, which was to create the last and smallest county in the state as of Feb. 25,1861. The first county court of the new county was ordered to meet on the first Monday of April 1861 in Smithton.
In January 1863 a petition was presented to the county court to move the seat of government to a more central location in the county. This was put to a vote Aug. 3, 1863, with 225 voters approving the move and 90 opposed. On that same day, the court ordered that the new seat of government would be named Grant City.
On the seventh day of September 1863, the county court issued the following order in reference to building the new courthouse:
"Ordered by the court that an appropriation of six hundred dollars be made out of any money in the county treasury, not otherwise appropriated, for the purpose of erecting a building to be used for county purposes, the dimensions of said building to be as follows: Twenty feet in width, forty feet in length, the lower story nine feet between the lower and upper floors; the upper story to be eight feet in the clear; the number of windows in the upper story eleven, twelve lights each, 10x12; also one door. Lower story to contain four windows of the same size of the windows in the upper story; also three doors. The above described building to be built of good material, and to be built in Grant City, Worth County, Missouri."
This building was on the northeast corner of the square and was used until it was destroyed by fire in February 1866. It probably sat where the bowling alley is now located. Later a blacksmith shop owned by Judge Kirkpatrick occupied the same site.
At the April 1866 term of court the following order was made:
"Ordered by the county court, that a courthouse be built on the public square, and that one thousand dollar be appropriated from county revenue for that purpose; said courthouse to be a good, substantial frame, forty by thirty-two feet, two stories high, and that John F. Mason be appointed superintendent to draft building and specifications, and superintend building of the same, and said specifications be submitted to the court for approval or rejection."
An interesting description of the building shown in the picture is to be found in the Gentry and Worth County History 1882 on page 601.
"The building, as stated, is a frame structure, and is located in the center of the public square. The county offices are below and the court room is above. The offices, with their low ceilings, present a dingy, contracted appearance, poorly lighted and miserably ventilated. The court room possesses the same characteristics. There is nothing about it that is near or attractive, but much that is gloomy or repulsive. The furniture is of an ancient, rickety mould, and the bare walls are covered with the dust and mildews of a dozed years, while over walls and windows numberless spiders have woven their webs, which hang upon all sides like the soiled and faded network of a past age. The entire external appearance of the building is in perfect harmony with its interior, and no one would know, or even suppose, without being told, that the old frame structure, which now disfigures the public square, with its antique style of architecture, is the courthouse of Worth County.
The above description sounds like it was written by someone who was plugging to get a new courthouse built. By the description of the size it sounds like it was about the size we need now.