Laying the Cornerstone of the Present Coryell County Courthouse
|Coryell County Courthouse Built in 1897-1898|
LAYING CORNERSTONE OF PRESENT COURTHOUSE
Coryell County is now using its third courthouse building. The first was a wooden structure located on the corner lot where the City Filling Station now  stands. It was erected soon after the county was organized and was used until 1872, when the cornerstone laying of the second courthouse took place. The second was a rock structure that served its purpose for twenty-five years, and stood in the public square now occupied by our present substantial county capitol.
In the summer of 1897 work of tearing down the old building was started and three months later, October 2, 1897, the cornerstone of the present building was cemented in its place in the northeast corner, under the impressive ceremonies of the Masonic fraternity. We quote here from an account printed in a local newspaper published at that time:
"Last Saturday Gatesville Lodge No. 197, A. F. & A. M., laid the cornerstone of the new courthouse with the beautiful and ancient Masonic ceremony, assisted by members from all the other Lodges in the county. There were thousands of people assembled from all parts of this and adjoining counties to witness the ceremony. A large platform had been erected at the northeast corner of the foundation, a part of which was occupied with a tent cloth to serve as a stand for the speaker and musicians. Mrs. Shadden's orchestra, composed of herself, Mrs. O. F. Weill, Misses Shadden and Wells, Mears. Fagg, Voss, and Baker, rendered sweet music so soothing and soft that one almost imagined himself in some enchanted clime.
"At two o'clock the Masons formed their line of march at the southwest corner of the square and proceeded two blocks east on Leon street, thence one block north to Main, thence west to the platform. Rev. Sam Waddill opened the services with a beautiful and appropriate prayer, after which the orchestra rendered another beautiful selection. Past Grand Master Norton Moses then delivered fin address, explaining the ancient custom and treating somewhat of the grand principles upon which Masonry was founded, closing with a eulogy on woman that was sublime.
"After the address, the large, grey granite stone from Granite Mountain, which was suspended by blockand-tackle immediately above the spot where it was to rest, was lowered to its resting place as the ritualistic ceremony proceeded in solemn and impressive manner.
"The stone is of blue-grey granite, weighing 1825 pounds, and is finely polished and beautifully engraved. On the north side is engraved 'T. G. Taylor, county Judge; J. M. Russell. N. A. Harper, R. E. Edwards, J. H. Grisby, county commissioners ; W. C. Dodson, architect ; Tom Lovell, contractor.' On the east face is, 'Laid by Gatesville Lodge, No. 197. A. F. & A. M., October 2, A. D. 1897, A. L. 5897,' with the square and compass in the center.
"With the immense crowd in town, everything was very orderly. During the whole day, splendid order was maintained by the great throng of sightseers, and all in all it was a day that will remain fresh and green in the memory of our people.
"The deposits in the cornerstone were many, and as follows: H. M. Barnhardt, a Honduran dime; Ben Newland, a metal tablet showing the taxable values of the county; S. A. Chambers, a photo of the old courthouse: T. W. Kirkland, two boxes of medicine; Dr. U. M. Gilder, a box of pills; Mort Suggs, newspaper clipping; W. A. McBeth, a vial of Sodom salt; S. B. Hawkins, occupation tax receipt; J. C. Gouldy, copy of Dallas Morning News of Oct. 1, 1897; James Stewart, half penny Sterling; M. L Ayres, 1897 five-cent piece,; Fordyce Woodard, 1884 three-cent piece; Wm. Rose, a bottle of whiskey; D. P. Hall, copy of the Gatesville Sun, Dec. 20, 1873, and copy of Gatesville Star, Sept. 20, 1897; W. E. Brown, a thought; W. H. W. Jones, U. S. 25-cent treasury certificate; Owen Fauntleroy, a thought; Y. S. Jenkins, city and county statistics; Miss Felicia McVey, a list of W. C. T. U. officers, etc.; A. J. Newton, a note congratulating the county on the new courthouse; C. F. Caruth, a history of the Gatesville Water Supply Co.; Honeycutt & Jenkins, book of formulas; R. W. Bartin, copy of the Gatesville Messenger, Sept. 1, 1897; First National Bank, its card; T. D. Bone, bottle of whisky; Crow & Anderson, a memorandum book; A. Matthews, a key tag; Ed Wescon, a rock from Lebanon; J. W. Saunders, a Chinese mill (one-tenth of a cent) ; P. O. Barnes, photo of the old courthouse; Committee on arrangement, program of the day's entertainment; T. C. Taylor, Columbian half dollar, 1893; J. H. Arnold, Columbian half dollar 1893; Joe Gage, memorandum for posterity; Mrs. Joe Gage, Primitive Baptist paper; Felix Boy I key tag; Masonic Lodge, Bible; Gatesville No. 197 A. F. & A. M,, roster of membership; Unknown, 25-cent coin.
"The copper box in which the deposits were placed is eight inches square, and was made 2nd sealed by M. C. Bigham, the tinner. It just fit the cavity in the rock and was a very neat piece of work. The salt deposited by Mr. McBeth was taken from near the Dead Sea. The bottle of brandy deposited by T. D. Bone was a part of the bottle placed in the old cornerstone of the old building when it was laid in 1872."
History of Coryell County, 1936, by Frank E. Simmons