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
Bids were opened for the construction of Hancock County’s present courthouse on Oct. 20, 1885. The structure — the county’s third courthouse — was not completed until the fall of 1888, three years later. The dedication took place Oct. 27 of that year, history records.
An act of the legislature was necessary to authorize the building of the new courthouse. The necessary legislation was enacted April 17, 1885. A commission was named to have charge of the project, consisting of the three county commissioners, C.S. Kelley, J.M. Moorhead and A.S. Beck; the probate judge, G.W. Myers; the sheriff, Lemuel McManness; the clerk of courts, Presley E. Hay; and a citizen, G.W. Galloway, who was appointed by the common pleas court.
The commission held its first meeting June 5, 1885, to make preliminary plans. On Sept. 11, 1885, the county auditor, W.T. Platt, was ordered to advertise for bids for the courthouse’s erection. The contract was awarded to William H. Campfield on Nov. 7.
The building was not erected under a single builder’s contract. The commission had decided to award an initial contract for the foundation and the outside walls only. The Campfield bid for this work was $71,576.
On Aug. 11, 1886, the work was far enough along for the laying of the cornerstone, which is at the northeast corner of the building. In addition to the ceremonies at the cornerstone site, the occasion was marked by a parade, while in the evening there was a display of gas illuminations of a special nature.
When the new courthouse idea was taking form in the early 1880s, Findlay was a town of less than 5,000 population and the gas and oil boom was yet to materialize. The citizenry did not realize that in making plans for a courthouse of such size as was to be developed, they were exhibiting a vision that was to stand them in good stead when the great boom came.
The Oesterlen well, proving the existence, of natural gas here, “came in” on Dec. 5, 1884. When this significant event happened the bill had already been drawn for legislative action on the proposal for a new Hancock County courthouse. It was only awaiting the convening of the lawmakers in January, 1885. As we have noted, it became law in April, 1885.
The famous Karg gas well did not “come in” until January, 1886. When the well was completed, its great volume proclaiming to all the world that Findlay was the scene of the biggest global event in all history in the natural gas area, the Hancock County courthouse was then in the process of construction, and the Aug. 11 cornerstone-laying ceremony came in the midst of all the excitement that the boom had brought. Findlay’s population had already doubled from the time the courthouse contract had been let and it was to quadruple before many months.
So Findlay and Hancock County had two reasons for a big celebration in 1886 — the steadily rising new courthouse and the gas boom.
Work proceeded under the original contract until the fall of 1887, when the county auditor was instructed to advertise for bids for the completion of the structure. Just why the original contract did not call for construction of the entire building is lost in “antiquity.”
Contractor Campfield received the new contract to finish the building he had started a few years previously. The bid amounted to $50,314.25. This made his two contracts come to a total of $121,890.25.
The contract for the furniture was let Oct. 28, 1887, to Conant Brothers for $8,913.63, while the vault furniture contract went to Hines, Kelly and Co. for $2,940.
Finally in the fall of 1888, the new structure was done and it was time for the dedication, which took place Oct. 27, 1888. An elaborate program was carried out to signalize the completion of the county’s new courthouse — the third since the county had been established back in 1828.