Cass County's courthouse turns 160 years old this year, 1861 to 2021.
Its source of pride is that it is the state's oldest courthouse in continuous use.Gallery: Cass County Courthouse oldest in Texas still in use
The building has survived a fire and two tornadoes. Apparently it has the right genes and the right stuff.
Inside, there are records to prove it. One can find deeds going back to the Civil War and even earlier to 1846.
Once in May 1933, the courthouse's contents were imperiled. A fire broke out in the center. Citizens called area fire departments, and they were on the way. Yet local folk took matters into their own hands and safely carried records outside offices.
The building was at the center of county interest recently when a $4.4 million funding restoration was undertaken. The courthouse is now back to its 1934 splendor.
Cass County's first courtroom in 1846 was in William Perry's tavern in Jefferson. This was the first year of Cass County's existence, and also the same year that Texas became a state.
Present-day Marion County and Jefferson were part of Cass County then. That year, the Texas Legislature mandated that Cass County find a more suitable place for its court.
Three locations were considered. The first was Linden, in the exact center of the county, described in commissioners' records as a "healthy site, situated with springs of good water and surrounded by fertile country on which good roads may be made."
The two other locations considered were Jefferson and a place called Holcombe's Bluff on the south bank of the Sulphur River some 18 miles north of Linden.
On Oct. 18, 1848, the vote of the citizens resulted in a run-off being necessary between Jefferson and the spot in the center of the county that would become Linden.
In 1849, even before the run-off was held, the commissioners of the court began taking bids on building the court in Linden. In that same year, Linden became the townsite's name, chosen after Linden, Tennessee, which was the home of a prominent citizen.
The run-off election was held Sept. 13, 1851. Linden won the count, 256 to 156. In May 1852, the court ordered all public offices moved to Linden and held in the "Double House."
In August of that year, Thomas J. Foster Sr. gained the contract to build the first courthouse. It would be a two-story building, a courtroom on the first floor and four offices upstairs.
Foster built his own sawmill to supply the lumber.
The building was finished in 1853 and used until 1860. That was also the year that Marion County was formed, and the size of Cass County decreased.
Linden incorporated as a town in 1858. That next year, commissioners contracted for a brick courthouse to be built.
The original building was sold at auction to First Baptist Church in Linden. Thomas J. Foster Sr. moved the building to the lot where the church now stands and deeded it to the deacons of the church and the trustees of the Masonic Lodge.
The new courthouse building would also be two stories. The courtroom this time would be on the second floor. L.W. Lissenbee and J.T. Veal were commissioned to build the courthouse. It would cost $9,877.
Veal made brick for the courthouse at a site about a half-mile south of Linden, and the men began construction in 1860.
The courthouse building would be accepted and paid for in July of 1861, but by then the Civil War had begun with the firing upon Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The county changed its name because Lewis Cass had been a Michigan senator who supported Texas' entry into the union but did not support secession. The name became Davis in 1869 after Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and remained that way until 1871 when the Cass name was restored.
Distinguished features were the two hallways that ran the length and width of the building, meeting in the center. At the building's top was a zinc-roofed cupola with a spire topped with a wooden ball covered in gold leaf.
In 1900, the county contracted with B.H. Singletary of Atlanta to build the first wing of 15 feet on the east side. In 1917, two more wings were added on the east and west sides and the court was remodeled.
A fire on August 19, 1933, destroyed the upper story of the building.
In 1977, the late Winston Sullivan of Linden gained a contract to renovate the courthouse. Ceilings were lowered, central air and heat installed and fans and spittoons removed. The hall floors were covered with terrazzo tile, offices carpeted and recessed lighting installed. The walls of the first floor were covered with imitation burlap. Restrooms were installed on the second floor.
In 1979, E.M. Pierce Construction was contracted to add a west wing with an elevator.
In 2008, the county received a Texas Historical Commission grant of $4.4 million to restore the courthouse to its 1934 appearance and original interior condition. The building was rededicated in 2012. It is well built for another 160 years.
As for the original 1859 building, it was used by the First Baptist Church and served as well as the Masonic Lodge until it was destroyed in the Linden tornado of May 13, 1908.