Building of the Courthouse and Jail in Greensboro1
On January 30th, 1867, the Legislature passed an Act creating Hale County. It was named for Col. Stephen F. Hale, a prominent and highly-respected citizen of Greene county, from which latter county Hale was carved.
Col. Stephen Hale, in honor of whose memory Hale County was named, was a prominent lawyer of Greene County, Ala., residing at Eutaw. He represented Greene in the Legislature a number of terms. He was a soldier in the Mexican War, 1845, and made a brilliant record. He held the rank of Lieut.-Colonel in the Confederate war, belonging to the Army of Virginia. Col. Hale was killed in 1862 in one of the battles around Richmond.
The first election for county officers was held in March of the same year, and resulted in the election of Alfred H. Hutchinson as probate judge; J. E. Griggs, sheriff; James A. Tallman, circuit clerk (Mr. Tallman failing to qualify, the Governor appointed Volney Boardman to fill the position, which he occupied about 25 years); Ed. Nutting, tax assessor; Dan H. Britton, tax collector; I. F. Lewis, R. B. Allen, Burrell Johnson and A. S. Jeffries, county commissioners; P. T. Wright, justice of the peace, and Benjamin E. Dorman, constable. At this election, the question of locating the court house was submitted to a vote of the people.
Three cities vied for the county seat
There were three candidates for the county seat, namely: Greensboro, Bucksnort, and Five Mile Church. The vote was as follows: For Greensboro, 570 votes; for Bucksnort, 280 votes, and for Five Mile Church, 124 votes. Greensboro received 166 majority over all, and was declared the county seat of Hale County.
Pending the decision of the voters on the question of locating the court house, the citizens of Greensboro pledged that in the event the citizens of Hale would put it in Greensboro they would furnish the county a courthouse and jail free of charge. This promise they kept, but it was the cause of considerable friction for several years in the town when the question of raising the money to pay for the buildings was brought home to the taxpayers.
Purchased Salem Baptist Church
On the 13th day of December 1867, the Intendant and Council of Greensboro purchased from the Alabama Baptist State Convention their church building, then known as “Salem Baptist Church,” for the sum of $8,000.
The church stood where the present court house stands. The deed to the town to this property is signed by J. L. M. Curry and Charles Manley for the Baptists and is witnessed by James D. Spiller and U. P. Walker.
“On the 5th day of April 1868, the “Intendant and Council of the Town of Greensboro,” conveyed the property to Hale County, on the following conditions: “The use and right of property to the premises conveyed shall be and remain in the County of Hale so long as Greensboro shall remain the county seat; but if at any time or in any event the said Greensboro shall cease to be the county seat of said county, and the purposes for which this deed is given should fail, then all right, title and interest in and to the said land and buildings conveyed shall revert to, and be vested in and belong to the said town of Greensboro, which shall then have the right to enter upon and take possession thereof.”
Old Greensboro Courthouse which was torn down in 1907 to make room for the new Courthouse. The middle portion of the old structure was formerly Salem Baptist Church.
The deed is signed by Amasa M. Dorman as Mayor, who by the way, was one of the most progressive and useful citizens of the town. He was Mayor of Greensboro for a dozen or more years and it was his pride to beautify the streets of the town. To him, Greensboro is indebted for the magnificent oaks along the Main street. He died March 20th, 1885, and is buried in the Greensboro Cemetery.
Owing to dissensions of citizens in regard to the manner in which the Mayor and Council managed the court house and jail question, the Governor in December 1868, removed the Mayor and Councilmen and appointed others in their stead. A special tax was levied upon the property in the town to pay for the court house and jail, and there was much dissatisfaction on the subject for some years.
The calaboose of the town was used for until 1871
It was not until September 1871, that the present jail was completed and turned over to the county by the town. During the interim, the county used the calaboose of the town for a prison. It is still standing, (1908) a curious looking little two-room building situated almost in the heart of the city in the rear of the present fire house.
In November 1905, the question of issuing $30,000 worth of bonds by Hale County, to bear 5 per cent interest, for the purpose of constructing a new courthouse was submitted to the people, and the bond issue was carried. In November 1906, the contract was let, and in January 1907, work on the present courthouse was begun, and the building was completed in May 1908. John A. Straiton was the contractor, his bid being $44,767.19. It was found, before the contract was let, that the $30,000 was not sufficient to build the structure, so the commissioners at their August 1907, term instructed the probate judge to issue twenty county warrants for the sum of one thousand dollars each and to sell them and get the money with which to complete the building. This was done the October following. These warrants are being paid yearly at the rate of $1,000 a year, and bear 6 percent interest.
The first session of court held in the new structure was in April 1908, Judge B. M. Miller presiding.