Dedication of Clinton County Courthouse in 1897

The County's New Home

From: The Clinton Daily Herald; Thursday, August 26, 1897, P. 5
Transcribed by a Clinton County IaGenWeb volunteer.

Court House is Dedicated Before a Great Crowd of Citizens, With Speeches and Music and Exchange of Congratulations.
The Towering Edifice Packed With the People Who Had Come by Train, Boat and Wagon From Surrounding Country.
The Illness of Supervisor Staggs the One Shadow on the Enthusiasm of the Assemblage – The Addresses of Distinguished Jurists.

Clinton county’s new court house was dedicated this afternoon, with appropriate exercises. In the morning the trains and boats brought many visitors to the city, and farmers’ wagons drove in from all directions. The court house was thrown open for inspection. Men, women and children wandered through, admiring the interior, or stood outside gazing at the graceful lines and imposing walls. The building embodies a number of unique features. The windows are polished plate glass. The stone is extremely neat in appearance, the dark red color being harmonious and attractive to the eye. The ladies’ parlor, to the left of the south entrance, is a striking innovation, and one that should be appreciated by the public. Especially is the frescoing in the building noteworthy. The designs are pleasing, and the work skillfully done.

Probably there is not another court room in the State that would shine in comparison with either of the ones in the new court house. The decorations on the ceiling and walls are most dainty and well chosen. Frescoing and water coloring are of a high grade. The judges’ desks are superb examples of the wood carver’s art. They are of quarter inch sawed white oak, the best material in the world for the purpose. The balustrade around the desks at the front of the rooms is finely hand carved. Every detail, in room and furnishing, is selected with painstaking care. Around the dome is a platform, with railing, and although the day was windy many persons braved the gale and looked out over the city from this vantage point. Architect J. L. Rice may well be proud of his work. Although Mansfield was the original designer, Mr. Rice took the building in its unfinished state, and planned it from practically above the foundation. It now stands as a monument to his skill.

In honor of the occasion, the offices were to-day adorned with flowers and plants. The Casino orchestra played on the porch before proceeding to the court room. Hoffman’s orchestra also furnished music. In the absence of Supervisor Staggs, Supervisor Ruus presided over the meeting. Universal regret was expressed that Mr. Staggs was in such a precarious condition. The court room was jammed, and the throng extended out into the approaches. The whole building was a mass of people. After a few remarks by Supervisor Ruus, timely and appropriate, and invocation, County Attorney C. H. George presented, in an address given below the court house to the county. He was followed by Judge P. B. Wolfe, Judge W. F. Brannan of Muscatine congratulated the county, and spoke felicitously of the new structure. Judge C. M. Waterman of Davenport addressed the audience in like strain, telling the people of the pleasure it gave him to see the structure finished, and expressing the assurance he felt the use made of it would be in accordance with so noble an edifice. Hon. L. A. Ellis read letters of regret from Hon. J. Scott Richman, of Muscatine, formerly sole judge of this judicial district, and Joe R. Lane, of Davenport. Hon. D. A. Wynkoop of Maquoketa, Hon. G. M. Titus of Muscatine, Hon. W. A. Cotton, Jesse Stine, and Hon. W. I. Hayes added their words to those of Judge Wolfe and the other speakers. Hon. L. A. Ellis, in a masterly address, expressed last his sentiments on the occasion.

Begun in the Fall of 1892, and Finished This Month.
On the 10th of October, 1892, the American Surety Co. went on the bond of G. I. LeVeille, in the sum of $50,000, that he should carry out his contract made with the Board of Supervisors of Clinton county in erecting a court house. G. Stanley Mansfield, of Freeport, Ill., was engaged as architect. Work on the building was begun in the fall of that year, and continued through the building season of 1893. It was stopped in the late fall of 1893. At that time the foundation, and about half of the superstructure had been raised. Labor was not resumed, LeVeille claiming he was unable to continue work for lack of funds. The sum to be paid him according to contract was $90,500. November 1, 1894, the Supervisors declared the contract null and void, as LeVeille had done no more on the half completed structure. The whole appropriation was $100,000.

The building stood, like a ruin, in this condition, for three years. In the meantime Mansfield had resigned, on account of dispute between himself and the Supervisors. July 1, 1893, the Board made a contract with Mr. J. L. Rice, of Clinton, to act as architect. In answer to petitions, the new board called an election for June 9, 1896, to decide whether a tax should be levied to raise $75,000 with which to finish the court house. The vote carried, 3,467 to 1,694, a majority of 1,773. July 2, 1896, the Board made another contract with Architect Rice, and in September one with C. A. Moses, of Chicago, to do the work.

In October work was under way and the first estimate was made by Mr. Moses, through his agent, Charles Shipley. Work has been continuous ever since, save in severe weather. The building was declared finished, ready for occupancy, and accepted by the Supervisors August 10, 1897.

The cost is $65,252.81, including the changes and extras. The contract was let to Moses for $60, 540, but some additional estimates were made. This leaves about $10,000, to be used for furnishings, grounds, etc. The steam heating plant cost $10,000 - $5,000 for building and $5,000 for apparatus – which will be paid out of a general fund. As the original contract was $90,500, the total cost of the court house is about $156,000, not including furniture. The total appropriation was $175,000.

The building is 175 feet from the top of the flag staff to the ground; is 96 feet wide and 128 feet long. The material used is Lake Superior sandstone – Raindrop in the first story and Portage Red in the second and third. The dome is copper covered, the roof is slate. The stationary furniture is the work of the Moline Furniture Co.; Kelly Bros., of Clinton, furnished the tables and chairs in the assembly rooms; Clement Chair Co. had the contract for the attorneys’ and judges’ chairs; St. Louis Art & Metal Co. furnished the vault cases; Wallace & McNamara of Des Moines the steam heating apparatus; Tri-City Electric and the Davenport Electric Co. the electric lighting; Armstrong & Co. of Clinton the pipes for gas, and Kendall of Clinton the fixtures.

County Attorney’s Address. Presenting the Court House to the County.

Mr. CHAIRMAN, CITIZENS OF CLINTON COUNTY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: - I am not here today for the purpose of making the speech of this occasion, but am to act more as a cannoneer, to touch off the fuse that is to cause the big guns now surrounding me to boom; like John the Baptist, I come not to talk myself, but to herald the approach and make way for others who will entertain you with their oratory, wit and reminiscence.

We have met here to-day to celebrate an occasion long anticipated by the hopeful, doubted by many, and the coming of which is rejoiced in by all, the completion and dedication of our new court house; the building of it was made possible by the votes of the people and it was paid for by the money of the people, earned by the hard toil and frugality of the citizens and taxpayers of Clinton county, and now on behalf of your Supervisors, who have faithfully, carefully and economically completed this magnificent structure, we hand it over to you, the people who have paid for it and who own it and whose property it is. It is yours to dedicate to the uses of the public; it is yours to care for, to protect and to be proud of.
The history of all enterprises has a past, a present and a future. The past and the present only are known to us. The future of this magnificent structure, the good that you will derive from it, the pride you will take in it and the history itself that will be formulated in it, depend upon the voices of the people of this county as expressed through their franchises, the men that they elect to take charge of it and maintain it. While the past history of this structure is well known to you all, it may be useful on this occasion to review briefly the record of the erection of this building. Like unto Solomon’s Temple, like the magnificent oak, that is the pride of the forest, it was not constructed in a day. All great enterprises grow slowly. The first appropriation of $100,000.00 was voted in the spring of 1892, but after laying the foundation and the first and second stories, the amount was found inadequate to complete the building. A proposition was again submitted to the voters for the appropriation of an additional sum, but the people sad nay. It was discussed at length in all its forms throughout the county, and at last in the spring of 1896, the people, by their votes, appropriated $75,000.00 with which to finish the court house.

Mr. Staggs and Mr. Ruus, guarding well the interest of the taxpayers, let the contract in 1896 to Charles A. Moses to finish the building for $60,500 and to this was added in the way of extras, the additional sum of $4,722.81, making the amount necessary to complete the structure $65,122.81, leaving $10,000 with which to furnish the offices and rooms and beautify the grounds. I can say with propriety that which, no doubt, our worthy fathers would be too modest to mention, that the interest of the tax payers has been well guarded. Every cent expended has been devoted to a worthy cause and expended in a just and economical manner. I wish, however, at this point to express sincere sorrow and regret that the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Mr. Staggs, is unable, by reason of severe sickness, to be with us on this occasion. We appreciate his sterling worth, his integrity and his good will, and his sickness and consequently inability to attend, is the one gloomy shadow cast on this day of rejoicing.

Though the erection of this structure has taken many months, yea many years, yet time has only added to our rejoicing at the completion thereof; and after all of these weary years of anticipation, we are here to-day to dedicate it. I rejoice with you that it is finished. I rejoice that our neighboring counties have taken sufficient interest in us and in the event which we celebrate, to send representatives here to-day.

Thus endeth the building of our new court house, and though it has cost less than $175,000, we have one of the best if not the best court house building in the State of Iowa; and thus we turn it over to you, the people of Clinton county, duly thankful that it is finished and occupied with kindly feelings and good will between one and all. We welcome you here today; we extend to you the liberty of your own house and of your own grounds. It is yours to use and occupy forever.

Response by Him at the Court House Dedication Ceremonies.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: - Your Board of Supervisors have imposed upon me the duty and the honor of bidding you,, on their behalf, welcome to this, the building of which you are the owners, the depository of your cash, the place in which the court of justice is to sit, and where some of you, as jurors, are to be its ministers. It has been with me, since I was notified that I was expected to deliver this address of welcome to you, the citizens of Clinton county, on this, your first visit to this your grand and magnificent court house, a study what to say. It is now and it always was difficult to know the proper thing to say to a person who has come to look upon, admire and enjoy that which is his own, as you are here to see and admire your own today.

It might have been, and no doubt is, the view of the Board of Supervisors, that it was fitting that this address should be delivered by me, fitting that older and able attorneys should be passed over, and that I, as one of the oldest, if not the oldest resident in the county, among the members of the bar, should compare this stately edifice with the Clinton county seat as it was known to me in the early fifties, when as a boy I first set foot upon its virgin soil, long before any great portion of it was trod by the plowmen.

As I gather from the records in the clerk’s office, Clinton county first came into existence by the breath of legislation, in the year 1840, and its first court house was built out of logs. The first session of court ever held in the county was in October of that year. The first jury ever impaneled within its borders was on the 14th day of October; and Cammanshee was at that time the county seat. Its second court house, like unto its first, was also from logs, and was 24 by 30 feet and ascended to the height of 14 feet; no great need for an elevator to reach the court room or offices in those days. Its next court hours was the old brick now standing in DeWitt, and it was, for its day, a very imposing edifice, and cost the county the magnificent sum of $6,000.

The next place that resounded to the voice of eloquence, and that was dedicated to the god of Justice, from whose door many an attorney has gone forth to find the goddess of Fame with a wrath already woven to place upon his brow, and many a poor unfortunate to commence his long task inside the walls of the penitentiary, is that old building to my right, which is to be in a few days forever consigned to oblivion. Hence to its departing greatness we now bid a sorrowful farewell, or, in words of the English historian, “The king is dead, long live the king.” As the old goes down and this arises from its ashes, it is our prayer that the sun of its glory may not depart, as has that of those which have gone before.

And I now, on behalf of the Board of Supervisors, bid you welcome to your own, for they, as our agents, have done your work, and done it well, and are entitled to a reward for your gratitude.

We will all join with them, in dedicating this, Clinton county’s new home, to right, to truth and to justice, for it is without question “a thing of beauty,” and we shall all hope it may remain “a joy forever.’

The Distinguished Old Jurist Responds in a Graceful Manner.

To the Honorables (Committee):
Gentlemen: I acknowledge receipt of your cordial invitation to be present at and take part in the ceremonies attendant upon the dedication of your new court house. I regret that I shall not be able to be present, on that occasion. But I shall be with you – in spirit.

When I was sole Judge of this Judicial District, now presided over by four distinguished gentlemen, I necessarily came in contact with all the lawyers in the District – generally and personally. I knew their individual peculiarities – their strength and their weakness, as they knew mine; and thus we met “up on the level and parted on the square,” with, as I trust, mutual respect and esteem.

In those days the court was always hurried and could not try cases in the leisurely manner in which they are now tried, as court followed court in quick succession, and it was no unusual thing to hold sessions until late into the night, in order to dispose of business which could not well be postponed, and to give time to go from one county to another. The present members of your bar will hardly realize this, but there are some among you who can recall those times. Merrell, Leffingwell, Cotton, Polley, Flint and Bailey I believe are no longer with you; but you have Ellis, Hayes Wolfe, Chase and Darling and perhaps others who can depict to you some of the scenes and incidents connected with the court at the old court house in De Witt, and in the first court house at Clinton.

We all believe in evolution. The contrast between the first and the last court house in your county proves it.
There should , and doubtless will, be the same contrast between the administration of justice in your first and last temple of justice.
The Judges of the present day have many aids in the way of books of ready reference, the want of which was keenly felt in the earlier days.
But I must not be tedious, and will conclude by saying, you now have a temple of justice of which you may well be proud. It is pure and undefiled. Keep it so, and let only those who are worthy occupy its highest seat and minister at its altar.
Yours truly, J. SCOTT RICHMAN

The Well Known Attorney and Legislator Makes Response.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: I’ve had so many other engagements and appointments that I have had no time to arrange for my duties to-day. I can only perpetuate generalities such as I can grasp at the moment of utterance.

It occurs to me that the appearance of architecture of our court houses mark the progress, character, and refinement of a people as well as our churches and school houses and all our public buildings.

In the age of greatest Grecian glory and triumph, when Pericles was building the Parthenon on the Acropolis and other great temples of Greece, some of the people were complaining of the extravagance of the Government. Pericles said, tell the people, proclaim it to the citizens, that it was I – that it was Pericles that inaugurated this extravagance and I will ask for no greater monument. When future generations look upon their magnificence it will resound to the glory of Greece and distinguish the age of Pericles.

Four hundred years ago or more the head of the Catholic church contemplated a magnificent temple of worship in Rome and immediately summoned the great architect and painter and sculptor, Michael Angelo, from his retirement to plan the great cathedral and secure its accomplishment, and the great artist, then over eighty years of age, set about the undertaking. It was the ideal and glory of his life. He painted some of the magnificent pictures that adorn its walls and he was so absorbed and entranced with the magnificence of his own immortal creation the he was reckless of his life. Admiring his painting way up in the dome of the temple, he walked backward toward the edge of the scaffolding and would have fallen down a hundred feet to his death had not one of the workmen seeing his peril rushed forward with a brush and commenced to daub and ruin the painting. It produced the desired result. Michael Angelo rushed forward to seize the hand of the supposed vandal and thus his life was saved. The magnificence of St. Peter’s has for centuries distinguished even the Eternal City and millions of spectators have been delighted and entranced looking on its splendors. It surpasses all other church temples in the world, and next to the Vatican, which I believe covers over seven acres, is the largest building in Rome. The Vatican itself containing as it does the rarest works of the great past of prehistoric nations and peoples, it is the shrine and Mecca of a majority of the Caucasian race.

Whoever visits London will not fail to see her great historic buildings, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s , next in beauty, greatness and magnificence to St. Peter’s itself. It is said to stand on the foundations of the temple built by Julius Caesar for the worship of Diana, goddess of the field and the chase. And even those foundations were said to have supported a temple of the Druids long before the Roman conquest.

Our own great government buildings at Washington are marvels of classic beauty and show the exaltation of the civilization of the great American republic.

Our own new court house will never by its grandeur overwhelm the people for the beholder, but it is, nevertheless, grand and substantial, and will be a source of pride to all the members of the great family of Clinton county, not only in this generation, but the generations to come.

In the centuries to come, when these walls shall have crumbled into dust upon its deep foundations of stone, and when may be built another court house, another temple of justice, that will rival the temples of the Acropolis, or rival the magnificent structure that leaped from the brain of Michael Angelo.

The outer and inner visible walls of this temple of justice may manifest the refinement and material prosperity of Clinton county.

But the great peaceful struggles and contests – the very law suits that will be fought over and tried here will in and of themselves manifest in striking colors and vivid lights the highest attainments and achievements of civil society and human government.

The conflicts that arise in our rushing business life of trade and commerce could not be settled and adjusted in any other way than by the decisions and arbitrament of a court and jury. The guilt or innocence of those who are accused of transgressions of the criminal code must be ascertained through the medium of the sacred right of trial by jury.

Six hundred years ago and less, disputes and conflicts in human affairs were settled and tried by wager of battle. The parties litigant were sent out to punish and pommel each other with fists or clubs or swords, and the victor in the brutal scrimmage won the case.

It was in obedience to the dominant superstition that good angels or God himself interfered to help the fellow who was in the right. I think they could put in a substitute or representative, otherwise what chance would such a Hercules as myself stand in such a trial? Probably it gave the victims of Cupid to show their chivalry and prowess when the fiancée or enchantress had a cause of quarrel.

Six hundred years ago the great English barons plundered the weaker houses and estates, or uniting together conquered the unfortunate and divided the estates of the vanquished as spoils among the victors. And the feudal barons whose castles were on the Rhine or Danube, robbed with impunity the unfortunate tradesmen and merchants whose cargoes or argosies were being transported, and who were carrying on the trade and commerce of the medieval centuries.

Now imbedded in the Constitution of England and the Constitution of our own grand Republic is the sacred right of trial by jury of one’s equals, one’s peers. And this is the mighty fortress of American Republican liberty.

Every man, woman or child, be they Croesus or beggar, who steps over the threshold of this temple of justice stands on the same grand high plane of equality. It is the court and the jury that stand as a bulwark against fraud and injustice and wrong, and because the irrepressible conflicts of mankind are peaceably determined by the trial, the law suit, the impartial judge and jury, human government and the State is maintained and its highest exaltation and refinement are manifested.

Now even great international conflicts are carried into courts instead of being submitted to the awful arbitrament of war. In the case of the claim of the United States against England for millions of damages because of the fitting out of rebel privateers to prey upon our commerce, which was in conflict with the law of Nations this great controversy was referred to a great court created for that purpose, and settled and determined in a temple of justice at Geneva, after the close of the war of the rebellion.

The court house and its trials is the very citadel of human freedom and personal liberty and justice, and the very antipodes of tyranny and wrong and rule by the might of wealth or the sword.

Sometimes the causes are trivial, like the celebrated calf case that swept in thousands of treasure and farms and ruined alike the victor and the vanquished. There was hardly enough left to keep the attorneys from want and privation, but that kind of a case is a rarity. The lawyer’s condition is generally illustrated with the lawyer on the milking stool and the clients busy pulling in opposite directions by the horns and tail. And these jokes continue to be perpetrated, though the majority of the profession start poor, maintain their position, and finally an humble headboard, not a marble mausoleum, marks their resting place.

Sometimes a great principle or mighty rule of justice and right makes the case of overshadowing importance. I need not instance the late judicial decision of the Supreme Court of the United States sounding the death knell of trusts and combines or the great Dartmouth college case or the Shelby case when the rights of the people or the masses hang in the scales of Justice and affect an entire nation.

Sometimes the cases are trivial, as the story goes that Fritz sued Hans for damages for shooting his dog. They were jolly witnesses and disappointed their lawyers. Fritz went onto the stand and testified that the mangy cur was not worth anything, but he sued Hans just to teach him to mind his own business, and Hans went on the stand and testified that he shot Fritz’s dog all true enough, but he’s just like to see how Fritz was going to prove it.

In this temple your monuments of title will be safe and your property and personal rights be secured for yourselves and your children and your children’s children to the latest generation. In this court house some one of your children like Phillips or Gratton or Webster or Clay, may stand up before court and jury and entrance the Nation in his advocacy of justice and right, or in this court house and its assembly room he may advocate the election of some great leader like Lincoln to stand at the helm and guide the ship of State in the storm and tempest of war.
I humbly hope that in this court house the hand of the bribe giver or the bribe taker will never be seen. In this new court house I hope the voice of the perjurer will never be heard. In this new court house I believe that the purity of the ermine will remain unsullied in all the future ads in all the past. In this new court house I hope the voice of the law and justice will never be drowned by the voice of the mob, and in this new court house I hope that justice will prevail as an all wise God in His mercy will give us wisdom to see the right and the truth, and over this new court house, I hope, will float triumphant the Stars and Stripes, the ensign of liberty and freedom and of a government by the people as long as the waters of our noble river wash the shores upon which it stands or flow on and toward the southern boundary of our united, harmonious incomparable nation.