Traverse County Courthouse History

Traverse County's first court term was convened at the Davis store at Browns Valley, the temporary county seat in 1881.  No cases were presented that day and court adjourned.  Within months, a fraudulent election moved the county seat to unplatted Maudada for the 1882-84 court terms.  Then the seat returned to Browns Valley until 1889, when Wheaton, newly platted along the rail line, called a county seat election. 

Wheaton missed the necessary three-fifths vote by 12.  Nevertheless, the governor ordered the records moved.  Browns Valley secured an injunction and when 25 sleighs and 85 Wheaton men arrived to move the records, church bells roused the defenders and a battle began.  The court removed the injunction and ordered the records moved to Wheaton.

For two years, the county rented five rooms for court use in a former lumber company for $250 a year.  Finally, in 1891, a special election approved no more than $12,000 in bonds to build a courthouse.

The current two-story brick building was originally 50 by 100 feet when it was built in 1892.  Harry W. Jones of Minneapolis designed it and Alfred A. Setterlund of Wheaton built it at a cost of $10,800.  S.C. Odenborg had donated the site for the simplified Romanesque building with six tall, segmentally-arched windows along each side of the second floor.  Another six round-arched windows were built directly below.  A square central tower with tourettes on each corner was topped by a steep pyramidal roof and rose over the main entrance on the south.  Four tall chimneys were located on each side of the building.

After 27 years, the tower had settled about four inches away from the building and the county vaults had become too small, so the county removed the tower and built a 20 by 50 foot, two-story addition on the south at a cost of $10,038.

In 1938, the federal government offered to pay for 45 percent of a new courthouse and jail up to $63,000, but a special bond election failed to pass.  The county board persevered and was able to match a $9,900 federal grant to build a new vault, replace electrical fixtures, and buy new furniture.

In 1973, the courthouse was rewired and air conditioners and light fixtures were installed.  Combination windows were also added.  Another addition was completed in November of the following year at a cost of $172,571.  Such remodelings have doubled the building's size since its construction.

Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."

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