EDITOR’S NOTE–This is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.
By R.L. HEMINGER
A brick courthouse once stood on the site of the present building for a number of years. It was the county’s second courthouse and its construction was started in 1837, but it was 1842 before it was completed and occupied. It remained the seat of justice for Hancock County until the mid-1890s when it was razed to make way for the present structure.
One of the features of the old courthouse was the extensive yard around the building and the fence which surrounded the yard.
In an article in the old Morning Republican in 1901, a writer spoke of the courthouse yard in these terms:
“There is one spot in Findlay that is remembered by the old-time citizens with special interest. This was the yard around the old brick courthouse. It was a little park that young and old took great delight in and there was not a day in summer that it was not filled with youngsters and their elders. The cool green lawn and the generous shade of the handsome trees were soothing and refreshing to all. Although it is now almost entirely covered by the new temple of justice, it is yet beautiful in retrospect and there is perhaps no place within the city that is remembered with so much real pleasure and around which cling so many kindly memories.”
THE FENCE WAS CONSTRUCTED around the courthouse after the old jail which stood nearby was burned down. The jail structure was just south of the brick courthouse. Some prisoners are presumed to have set the building afire.
Three sides of the original fence were of wooden construction, while the fourth side — along Main Street — had an iron fence. The iron fence had been forged by hand by a local blacksmith, C. Chadwick. In later years, a more elaborate fence of iron was built around the courthouse area. “At the time of its construction it was the handsomest fence in all the city,” said the Republican.
The old courthouse yard was used for various purposes. On the lawn children were wont to play and citizens could be found discussing issues of the day. Said the newspaper:
“Under the trees and in shady nooks the old settlers were always there in the summer days sitting on one of the various benches talking about the hard cider and the Log Cabin presidential campaign of 1840 in which William Henry Harrison, the Whig candidate, defeated Martin Van Buren, who was running for a second term.
“Or they could be discussing the great speeches made my Sen. Tom Corwin, and Gov. Shannon from a platform erected on East Main Cross Street.
“Many political schemes were hatched under the trees of the courthouse yard. The two parties held their political nominating conventions in the courthouse and many of the delegates retired to the spacious yard to discuss their plans.
“RELIGIOUS SERVICES WERE often held in the yard. Political meetings were held there also. Among those heard were Gen. John A. Logan, whose orders inaugurated Memorial Day; Gov. William Allen; Rutherford B. Hayes; Sen. Hale of Maine, James A. Garfield; Sen. Allen G. Thurman; and William McKinley.”
Three of those mentioned — Hayes, Garfield, McKinley — became presidents of the United States.
Local orators also were heard at events on the courthouse yard, including William Mungen, Morgan D. Shafer, E.T. Dunn, Capt. H.E. Henderson and others.
Speeches of E.T. Dunn, well-known Findlay lawyer, made on the courthouse yard eventually gave him the title of “silver-tongued orator,” as the story goes. He was a Civil War veteran and prominent in Grand Army of the Republic affairs for many years.
“Let Justice Remain” was inscribed on the front of the old courthouse, which served the community for some 40 years. It was built for a total of $7,953.22. The building was sold for $125 to Richard Hennessey early in 1886 to make room for the new and present county building. The iron fence was moved to the county home. It is now at Maple Grove Cemetery.