Podcast – Southeast Indiana Court Houses

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Southeast Indiana Day Trips

Southeast Indiana Court Houses


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Greetings, today I want to talk about the court houses of Southeastern Indiana. My book, Southeast Indiana Day Trips from my Road Trip Indiana Series includes short histories of each of the counties as well as the court houses.

Clark County Courthouse
Clark County Courthouse

Clark County Courthouse

I will begin with Clark County, whose name derives from General George Rogers Clark, who wrested control of the vast Northwest Territory from the British during the Revolutionary War. For these exploits Congress awarded General Clark and his regiment 150,000 acres of land. Clark designated around 1000 acres of this grant to create the town of Clarksville, also named after the General. Clarksville was the first settlement authorized by the United States Government in the Northwest Territory.

The first Clark County Courthouse was built in Charlestown around 1836. A new courthouse replaced this one in 1850. When the county seat transferred to Jeffersonville in 1878, the county constructed a new courthouse. This courthouse served county needs until 1970, when the old courthouse and jail was razed. Workers began construction of the current courthouse, which opened in 1971. The architectural firm Arch, Wright, Porteous & Lowe designed the structure. The contracting firm F. H. Wilhelm Construction Company handled the construction of the courthouse.
Clark County Government Center
501 East Court Avenue
Jeffersonville, IN 47130

Dearborn County Court House
Dearborn County Court House

Dearborn County Court House

Dearborn County, Indiana was formed in 1803, thirteen years before Indiana became a state. It was named for Dr. Henry Dearborn, a Revolutionary War hero who was Secretary of War when the county was named.
Dr. Henry Dearborn (Feb. 23, 1751-June 6, 1829)
The son of Simon Dearborn and his wife Sarah Marston, Henry was a native of Hampton, Massachusetts. After attending local schools, Dearborn studied medicine under Dr. Hall Jackson of Portsmouth. After his apprenticeship to Dr. Hall completed, he opened a medical practice in 1772. After hostilities broke out in 1776, he recruited a company of militia and served as its captain. He and his company traveled to Bunker and took part in the fight there. His action in the Revolutionary War included the Quebec campaign with Benedict Arnold, winter encampment at Valley Forge, the Battle of Monmouth and many others. President Jefferson appointed him Secretary of War at the beginning of his term in 1801. He served the entirety of Jefferson’s term in that capacity.

Built in 1810, the first Dearborn County Court House was a two-story brick structure that mimicked the standard courthouse design of that period. It had a hip roof and octagonal cupola. This courthouse burned on March 26, 1826. Only the brick shell remained.

Most of the county records burned in the fire so county officials asked Dearborn County residents to bring their deeds and other public records to Lawrenceburg to copy them by hand into the new records. County commissioners decided not to build a new structure. They decided to use the exterior walls to house the building, constructing a new interior within the burned-out walls. This building opened in 1828. The commissions authorized two annex buildings later on.

On September 26, 1836, the county seat moved to Wilmington where it remained until it moved back to Lawrenceburg on January 4, 1844, when Indiana Governor James Whitcomb signed a law authorizing the creation of Ohio County and along with it the relocation of the county seat from Wilmington to Lawrenceburg.

By 1870 Dearborn County needed a new courthouse. The needs of the county had outgrown the capacity of the old courthouse. The commissioners inspected several Indiana court houses and decided they liked the Floyd County courthouse the best. The contacted the architect that designed it, George H. Kyle to build the new one. Mr. Kyle, a Virginia native living in Vevay since about 1840, had designed other court houses and had built up an excellent reputation. He drew up plans which the commissioners accepted on June 15, 1870. Construction of the structure took three years and was completed in 1873. The cost of the courthouse was $135,775.00. During the construction county functions took place in the Odd Fellows building at the intersection of High

The cornerstone laying ceremony took place with an estimated 5,000 spectators on April 13, 1871 and included guest speaker Louis Jordan. County officials included a time capsule in the cornerstone in which they secreted many items from the period. These included histories of the Masons, Odd Fellows, Druids, Good Templars as well as Lawrenceburg religious societies. They also inserted other historic documents, continental money and old coins from the Revolution.

Workers completed construction in 1873. During the three years construction the Odd Fellows Hall served as the temporary Court House. The building cost $135,775.00 to build. It was a three-story building that included city hall offices and a public opera house. The magnificent court room occupied the back half of the second floor. Built from pearl gray limestone quarried at Elliotsville, Indiana the Greek Revival three structure features four fluted columns and an arched doorway. Most of the interior features of the Court House have remained unchanged from the original structure, including the wooden and iron doors and the folding iron window shutters. Five rooms in the courthouse retain their original fireplaces.
Dearborn County Courthouse
Corner of High and Mary Streets
Lawrenceburg, IN

Decatur County Court House
Decatur County Court House

Decatur County Court House

The next county on our tour, Decatur County, was formed in 1822 from a large tract of land from the Indians from a treaty called the Treaty of St. Mary’s. This tract was acquired in 1819 and three years the county was formed and took its name from Barbary War and War of 1812 hero Stephen Decatur. In June of that year the County Seat was chosen and named.
An historical marker on the courthouse lawn provides some historical context:
Title of Marker:
Decatur County Court House
Courthouse Square, Main Street/SR 46, SW lawn, Greensburg (Decatur County, Indiana).
Installed by:
Decatur County Bicentennial Commission 1980
Marker ID #:
Marker Text:
Site of the original courthouse built in 1827 and occupied until 1854. Present building completed in 1860. Large tooth aspen tree appeared in 1870 on the roof of the 115-foot clock tower. In July 1863, it became a temporary armory while troops bivouacked on the lawn. The treasurer’s office held provisions to feed 10 regiments. The 7th Regimental Band had played weekly on the square before being militarized. Many political figures have given speeches from the steps. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
I have written a brief history that provides a bit more information about this stately courthouse.
The courthouse in Greensburg is most famous for the tree growing out of the courthouse tower.

Greensburg founder Tom Hendrick platted Greensburg in June 1822. His wife named the new town after her hometown, Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The town became the county seat for Decatur County, named after Commodore Stephen Decatur, naval hero of the Barbary pirate’s campaign and the War of 1812.
The Tower Tree
The tree first appeared in 1870. Shortly after its appearance, four more trees appeared. The city leaders feared that the trees would damage the roof and hired a steeplejack in 1888 to remove all but two. One of these died, but the other grew to a height of about fifteen feet. This one died, but another grew in its place. Thus, there has been a continuous line of trees growing on the roof of the courthouse since 1870. Early on, the tree was identified as aspen; however, an examination by Purdue foresters has determined the present one is a mulberry.

Franklin County Courthouse
Franklin County Courthouse
Franklin County Courthouse

Established in 1811, Franklin County abounds in history. It was one of the earliest counties formed, settlement having begun as early as 1797. The oldest church still standing on its original site in Indiana is in Franklin County, the Little Cedar Grove Baptist Church. It is open as a historic site. The first meeting occurred in it on August 1, 1805. It features a large balcony and rifle ports.
Whitewater Canal
Franklin County also contains the last working vestige of the Whitewater Canal, which was constructed between 1836 and 1842. This canal was 76 miles long and connected Hagerstown, Indiana with Lawrenceburg Indiana. Both the State of Indiana and the Whitewater Valley Railroad near and in Metamora, Indiana maintain a section.
The first county transactions took place in a tavern owned by James Knight in Brookville from the spring of 1811 until April 1811. By this time the county had erected a log courthouse on the current courthouse square. This structure served as the Franklin County Courthouse until 1817. On November 21, 1814, the county commissioners had taken up the task of building a new courthouse. Construction on this courthouse began in 1815 and completed in 1817. The courthouse was a three-story brick building with poplar shingle roof and a cupola fire destroyed this building in 1852. County officials hired architect Edwin May to design the current courthouse. May designed a Norman style courthouse, which was completed in 1855. This courthouse has had extensive remodeling in 1912 and 1973.
Franklin County Courthouse
459 Main Street
Brookville, IN 47012

Jefferson County Courthouse
Jefferson County Courthouse
Jefferson County Courthouse

Jefferson County
George Logan was the first known white man to explore the region that would become Jefferson County while waiting out bad weather in February 1801. Logan had landed just downstream of current Hanover Landing. He trekked up the hill to hunt and explore. During his explorations, he resolved to return to the site to settle. Logan did return to settle sometime after serving in the War of 1812.
First Settlers
Before Logan returned to live, numerous hunters and trappers stopped in the area over the next few years, however none settled permanently until Elder Jesse Vawter, accompanied by a group of men, visited the area in late spring, 1805. Vawter chose a home site, as did the others, and constructed cabins. Finished with this task, the men returned to Kentucky to bring their families.
Creation of Jefferson County
The Indiana Territorial Assembly created Jefferson County on November 23, 1810, naming it after Thomas Jefferson. The assembly used portions of Dearborn and Clark County to assemble the new county. County officials organized the county on February 1, 1811. Madison was chosen as the county seat.
The current courthouse is the third structure to serve as Jefferson County’s Courthouse. A fire destroyed the second courthouse in 1854. Designed by architect David Dubach, the courthouse was constructed between 1854 and 1855. The courthouse dome caught fire on May 20, 2009, during a renovation project. A contractor using a propane torch to solder copper gutters together caused the fire. Workers removed the dome in two pieces and reconstructed the roof and other structural components.
David Dubach (January 15, 1926 – December 10, 1897)
The son of John Aaron and Maria Catherine Von-Gunten Dubach, David was native to Vevay, Indiana. The family moved to nearby Madison when he was young. Dubach received his education in Madison’s schools. At fifteen he apprenticed as a carpenter, then moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to study architecture. Upon completion of his studies, he moved back to Madison to design and build the Jefferson County Courthouse. He married Emmaline Wells Bennett Dubach; the couple would have two children. Dubach moved to Missouri in 1856 where he remained the rest of his life. While there he operated a flour mill, planing mill and ran a brickyard. He died in Hannibal Missouri.
Interred Riverside Cemetery Hannibal, Marion County, Missouri
Jefferson County Courthouse
300 E Main Street
Madison, IN 47250-3537

Jennings County Court House
Established in 1817, the Jennings County’s name derives from Indiana’s first governor, Jonathan Jennings
Shortly after the inception of Jennings County, county officials had the first brick courthouse, built in 1818. Construction in the current courthouse commenced in 1857 and completed in 1860, the courthouse was designed by architect Isaac Hodgson. The limestone trimmings on the brick courthouse came from local quarries. General John Hunt Morgan threatened to destroy the courthouse with his cannon on July 11 1863, during his infamous raid across southern Indiana and Ohio.

Jennings County Court House
Jennings County Court House

Jennings County Court House
The builders used locally made burnt brick and limestone quarried at nearby Vinegar Mill. The original English tin, which is still on the structure. The Jennings County Courthouse is included in the National Register of Historic Places, Vernon Historic District. Few changes have been made to the three-story courthouse.
Isaac Hodgson (December 16, 1826 – May 17, 1909)
The son of Jackson and Eliza Jackson Hodgson, Isaac was native to Ireland. At sixteen years of age Hodgson studied architecture at the Royal Academy and became apprenticed to Sir Charles Lanyon. He migrated to New York in 1848 and then to Decatur, Indiana in 1849. In Decatur he met and married Mary Ann Edwards. In 1851 Hodgson began working in Louisville, Kentucky. He returned to Indiana in 1855, designing several courthouses and other public buildings. These included the Bartholomew, Jennings, Morgan, Marion and Henry County Courthouses. In the 1880’s he joined with his son in the firm Hodgson & Son, Architects and took up practice in Minnesota and later in Nebraska.
Jennings County Courthouse
200 East Brown Street
Vernon, IN 47282

Ohio County Courthouse
Ohio County Courthouse

Ohio County Courthouse
Ohio County
The Indiana Legislature created Ohio County in 1844. It takes its name from the Ohio River that forms its eastern boundary. Laughery Creek bounds it on the north, which separates it from Dearborn County. It is the smallest county in the state and has the smallest population.
Two state highways, Indiana 262, which connects Rising Sun with Dillsboro to the northwest, and Indiana 56 that links it with Aurora to the north and Vevay to the southwest serve Ohio County.

County Government
Ohio County Courthouse
Colonel Abel C. Pepper donated the tract of land the courthouse stands on. The Masons dedicated the northeast cornerstone during ceremony performed on July 4, 1844, when workers laid the cornerstone. The Greek Revival structure features four massive stone columns framing the main doorway and a veranda style porch. The official deed conveying the lot to the county was recorded on December 11, 1845, with the provision that if Ohio County should cease to exist, the property would revert to the president and trustees of Rising Sun. The 60′ X 40′ two story courthouse faces Main Street and features a 12-foot-wide portico supported by four massive columns. The first floor includes county office rooms and jury rooms. A court room occupies the top floor. The Ohio County Courthouse is the oldest continuously operating courthouse in Indiana.
Ohio County Courthouse
413 Main St,
Rising Sun, IN 47040

Ripley County Courthouse
Ripley County Courthouse

Ripley County Courthouse
Ripley County
Deriving its name from Revolutionary War General Eleazer Wheelock Ripley, the Indiana legislature created Ripley County in 1818

Ripley County Courthouse
Benjamin Brown’s residence in New Marion served as the site of the first circuit court with the first session on July 20, 1818. John Richey served as the first judge, with Conrad Overturf as the first clerk. After this session, the court moved to Versailles. The Ripley County Historical Society has placed a stone pillar on the approximate site in 1922. An historical marker currently denotes the site in New Marion. John Richy laid out Versailles on September 22, 1819. The first courthouse in Versailles was built in 1821 and completed around 1823. County officials paid Joseph Bentley, who served as the postmaster, to use his home as the courthouse until the new structure was completed. Few records remain from this first courthouse; however, historians assume it was a two-story stone and brick structure similar in design to the Corydon courthouse that served as the first state capitol of Indiana.
By 1859 county officials realized that this courthouse no longer served the needs of the growing county. The small court rooms could not accommodate the large crowds that attended trials in the age before electronic entertainment. After wrestling with competing ideas of building a new courthouse and renovating the old one, officials finally opted to build a new one. They decided to build a courthouse of brick on a stone foundation, 52 by 38 feet, two stories tall with a central hall twelve feet wide. Controversy swirled around the plans and the county officials changed their minds, deciding instead to renovate the old one instead. This created another swirl of controversy, and the decision was finally made to build a new one.
Designed by architects Thomas Pattison and James L. Yater, construction of the Greek Revival design courthouse began in 1860. County offices began moving into the new building in 1861, and court was held there, but the building was not officially completed until 1863. The red brick building faces east with a tower clock at the apex. Work completed on the courthouse just in time for Colonel John Morgan threaten shelling the brand-new building during his infamous raid through southern Indiana in July 1863.
In 1932 Mrs. Florence Winegate Grether gave the county funds to install a clock and tower at the apex of the courthouse in memory of her late husband, Charles Grether. The clock came from I. T. Verdin Machine Company of Cincinnati, Ohio at a cost of $8400. The clock included three motors, one for the clock, one for the chimes and another for the striking mechanism. The total cost for the tower, installation and clock came to $20,000.
In January 1970 the county decided it needed more room. Officials hired the David B. Hill and Associates from Seymour to design an addition. Workers used the high ceiling of the court room to add a third floor. This room now houses the Supreme Court. An elevator was added during this renovation as well as modern heating and cooling equipment. The addition and landscaping were completed in June 1972.
The county renovated the exterior of the courthouse in 1992 and in 1999 new gutters were installed and the windows reglazed. In 2004 the brick was stained the current color.
The Ripley County Courthouse and Annex
115 N. Main Street
PO Box 235
Versailles, IN 47042

Scott County Courthouse
Scott County Courthouse

Scott County Courthouse
Scott County takes its name from General Charles Scott, who was a war hero who served in the French and Indian War and under General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. He also participated in a number of battles with the American Indians, culminating with the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
Founding of Scott County
The county was formed on February 1, 1820. It is centrally located between Columbus Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky.

An historical marker on the courthouse lawn notes the location of the courthouse.
Title of Marker:
Scott County Courthouse
1 E. McClain Avenue, Scottsburg. (Scott County, Indiana)
Installed by:
2001 Indiana Historical Bureau, Preservation Alliance, Inc., and Scott County Community Foundation
Marker ID #:
Marker Text:
Side one:
County formed by Indiana General Assembly 1820. First county seat located at Lexington; first courthouse built 1821. Several attempts made 1822-1870 to move county seat to more central location, creating animosity among citizens. Scottsburg designated second county seat and plat recorded 1871; second county courthouse built here 1873-1874.
Side two:
Courthouse designed in Italianate style by Andrew R. Baty 1871. Cornerstone not laid until 1873 because injunction stopped county seat relocation proceedings. Structure renovated 1979. Addition in 1997 tripled courthouse space; 1874 courthouse remains as west wing.
I have provided a bit more of the history of the courthouse, as follows.
Scott County Formed
The Indiana General Assembly formed Scott County, using portions of Jackson, Jennings, Jefferson, Clark, and Washington Counties to make the new entity. The county takes its name from General Charles Scott, Governor of Kentucky. The county organized on February 1, 1820.
General Charles Scott (April 1739 – October 22, 1813)
Son of Samuel Scott, Charles Scott was born in Virginia. His mother’s name is lost to history. She probably died when he was about six and his father died when he was sixteen. He received a basic education and enlisted in the Virginia Regiment after his father died.
Military Career
He served during the French and Indian War under George Washington. He saw action at Braddock’s Defeat and other actions, rising to captain before he left the military. When hostilities broke out in the early stages of the Revolutionary War, Scott raised a company of men. The Virginia Assembly eventually created two regiments, with Scott’s becoming the 2nd, Virginia. The men of his company elected him lieutenant colonel. The 2nd Virginia joined the Continental Army in 1776. Congress commissioned him as a brigadier general in 1777. During the Charlestown campaign in 1780, the British captured him. They ransomed him out in 1782. At war’s end, he was discharged on September 30, 1783.

In 1787, he settled near Versailles Kentucky. He also played a role in the formation of the Legion of the United States that fought battles during the Indian Wars late in the Eighteenth Century. The Legion was in existence from 1792 until 1796. In 1808, the voters of Kentucky elected him the fourth governor of the state.
Scottsburg, Indiana Designated New County Seat
Lexington served as the first county seat; however, it was in the eastern portion of the county. During the time Scott County was formed, roads were poor and travel difficult. Thus, the citizens wanted a central location that offered easier access to all the citizens of the county. Henry K. Wardell and William Estill platted Scottsburgh on March 27, 1871. The town takes its name from Colonel Horace Scott, who was the president of the Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis Railroad that went through town. Scottsburg became the new county seat, with the new courthouse finished in 1874. The post office later changed the name to Scottsburg.

Switzerland County Court House
Switzerland County
Switzerland County formed two years before Indiana became a state, in 1814 and took its name from the native land of many of its early inhabitants, Switzerland. The first commercial wineries in the United States were located here, and the county considers itself the birthplace of commercial wine making in America. This heritage is celebrated yearly during the Swiss Wine Festival in late August.

Switzerland County Court House
Switzerland County Court House

Switzerland County Court House
John Francis Dufour platted the town of Vevay in 1813. His plat included a two-acre public square in the center of town for use as a courthouse. John Tandy of Gallatin County, Kentucky built the first courthouse in 1815. This two stories, brick courthouse was thirty-two feet wide and thirty-six feet deep. By 1843 the courthouse had become too small, so the county added two buildings to the square. These buildings housed the clerk, auditor, and recorder. The county’s needs outgrew this arrangement, so in 1862 the citizens of Switzerland County elected to build a new courthouse. Vevay native David Durbach had designed the courthouse for Jefferson County, which was near Vevay. On September 22, 1862, after studying Dubach’s designs, the county signed a contract with Durbach to design a courthouse for Switzerland County. Construction was to be completed by December 31, 1863, at a projected cost of $26,548.50.
The courthouse construction included a huge fireproof vault that would protect county records in case the courthouse caught fire. This was a major concern, as most Indiana court houses were heated by either wood or coal. Added to the fire hazards was the use of kerosene and other liquid fueled lamps for light. The combination of all wood furniture and interior construction materials made fire a constant danger. Court houses had a history of catching on fire, resulting in the loss of all county marriage, land title and other records of government. Construction delays pushed the completion date to 1864. Switzerland County officials contacted Madison clockmaker Israel Fowler to construct a clock for the courthouse cupola to mimic the design of the clock in the Jefferson County courthouse. County officials contracted with G. W. Coffin of Cincinnati to install a bell in the cupola.The clock cost $1000, the bell $800. Construction on the courthouse completed in 1864 at a cost of 29,745.
David Dubach (January 15, 1926 – December 10, 1897)
The son of John Aaron and Maria Catherine Von-Gunten Dubach, David was native to Vevay, Indiana. The family moved to nearby Madison when he was young. Dubach received his education in Madison’s schools. At fifteen he apprenticed as a carpenter, then moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to study architecture. Upon completion of his studies, he moved back to Madison to design and build the Jefferson County Courthouse. He married Emmaline Wells Bennett Dubach; the couple would have two children. Dubach moved to Missouri in 1856 where he remained the rest of his life. While there he operated a flour mill, planing mill and ran a brickyard. He died in Hannibal Missouri and was interred in Riverside Cemetery Hannibal, Marion County, Missouri.

A two-story limestone jail structure containing six cells occupies the north corner of the courthouse square. Constructed before 1876, the jail once had the sheriff’s residence attached to it, however that was removed in 2005. A hexagonal privy occupies the northwest corner of the square. Probably built sometime in the mid Nineteenth Century, the privy originally stood behind the old courthouse. A circular bandstand occupies the southeast corner of the square which was constructed in 1921.

The courthouse, jail, privy and bandstand were listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 17, 2009.
Switzerland County Courthouse
212 West Main Street
Vevay, IN

Thumbnail History
Switzerland County formed two years before Indiana became a state, in 1814 and took its name from the native land of many of its early inhabitants, Switzerland. The first commercial wineries in the United States were located here, and the county considers itself the birthplace of commercial wine making in America. This heritage is celebrated yearly during the Swiss Wine Festival in late August.

Find out more about these Indiana day trip destinations and many more by purchasing the book Southeast Indiana Day Trips. The book includes location information as well as information state parks, nature preserves, golf courses, wineries, breweries and much, much more. You can find it on my web site, http://www.mossyfeetbooks.com on the Road Trip Indiana category. Just scroll down to categories, click the Road Trip Indiana Series. There are links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play and other online book sellers. You may choose to purchase the book in ebook or softbound versions. An audio book version is available on Google Play. This if the final podcast in this series. At the conclusion of this series, I will compile the episodes into an audio book.

Listeners may also be interested in my book, The Ultimate Indiana Day Trip Travel Guide. The 747-page book includes a plethora of day trip destination in Indiana. A complete tourism guides the book includes local and state parks, museums, golf courses and much, much more. The book includes information on all of Indiana’s 92 counties. No traveler in Indiana should be without it.

You can also order these books direct from me, the author, on the web page. If you wish me to sign the book, just send me an email to mossyfeetbooks@gmail.com requesting a signed book and instructions on how you want me to address it. Note, if you send me an email, I will add you to my contact list. Readers on the list will receive an email from me announcing when I publish a new book. If you do not want me to add you to the list, tell me and I will not add you. Listeners to this podcast that want email notification of my new releases can just send me an email requesting addition to the list. You can choose to have your name removed at any time. If you browse the web site you will find dozens of sample chapters, one for each of my books. I hope you enjoyed this podcast and thank you for listening.

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