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Saline County Courthouse

Marshall City, Saline County, MO

The Saline County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]


The Saline County Courthouse, Marshall, Missouri, built 1882-83, is a two-story with high basement, brick, cruciform building in a classically derived style. A clock tower surmounts the building at the intersection of the wings.


Over-all Dimensions

At its widest points, the Saline County Courthouse measures 110 feet (north and south facades) and 100 feet (east and west facades). The rectangular-plan north and south wings are 20' x 48'; the east and west wings, also rectangular in shape, are 31-1/2' by 59'. From ground level to the top of the masonry portion of the clock tower is 110-1/2 feet.

Construction Materials and Colors

The Saline County Courthouse is constructed of red brick walls 20 inches thick; foundations are of limestone 2'6" wide on plank footings two inches thick and four feet wide laid in cement and sandstone from the ground level to the base of the first story (approximately 7-1/2'). Decorative details are of brick, stone, metal, and wood; all are in a sandstone color. Roofs are slate and asphalt-shingled.


Windows — All basement window openings are filled by rectangular, one-over-one light, double-hung sash.

West and East Wings — Each wing has 20 windows spaced one per bay per story. Windows on the first story are filled by one-over-one light, double-hung sash; those of the second story are two-over-one light, double-hung sash. All are recessed within a semi-circular arched opening, each opening being trimmed by a stone lugsill. Brick voussoirs accented by a stone keystone and joined into a continuous band by rectangular stone blocks cap the upper edge of the window openings.

North and South Wings — Nine windows are positioned one per bay per story on each wing. Eight have rectangular-shaped, one-over-one light, double-hung sash and two-over-one light, double-hung sash on the first and second stories respectively. The ninth window, centered over the entrance portico on the second story, is filled by a semi-circular arched sash of nine lights. Window trim is nearly identical to that of the east and west wings.

Clock Tower — Three rectangular (one-over-one light, double-hung sash windows line each side of the clock tower; a bull's eye window is centered above each window. Radiating brick voussoirs trim the upper edge of each window; the bull's eye windows are framed by brick stretchers.

Doorways — Identical main entrances are centered on the north and south facades at the first-story level. Each doorway is filled by two-panel, double-leaf, wood doors topped by a two-light transom and a nine-light fanlight. A stone facing frames the entrance; other trim is identical to that of the second-story window above (previously described).

All secondary entrances are on the basement level; they provide access to the offices located in the basement. The seven entrances have half glass-half wood doors at the bottom of concrete steps. A storm enclosure protects the steps and entrance of the women's restroom on the east.


Each main entrance is protected by a one-story portico one bay in width. Paired stone Doric columns and pilasters support a pedimented gable roof. A flight of steps the width of the portico provides access to the portico. Bannisters are of sandstone; the floor and steps are concrete. There is a centered wrought iron handrail.

Clock Tower

A four-stage, square-plan clock tower is centered over the intersection of the wings. The lower two stages are of brick; a stone molding caps the upper limit of the first stage. Double recessed panels ornament the second stage. The third stage has brick Corinthian pilasters with stone bases and capitals to either side of the rectangular and bull's eye windows. A wood cornice ornamented with alternating brackets incised with scroll motifs and square panels defines the upper edge. The fourth stage is of wood. Decorative elements are mostly rectangular in design. The four clock faces, one to each side of the tower, are contained within a square frame embellished by pilasters at the sides, spandrels at each upper corner, and a keystone centered above; a metal pediment, extending above the crowning cornice, caps each clock face and frame. A four-sided, pyramidal, slate roof completes the clock tower; pressed metal stripping covers the junctions of each side.


Low-pitched, asphalt-shingled gable roofs intersecting at the base of the clock tower cover each wing.


A single-stack, square-shaped, brick and stone chimney on the northeast corner of the east wing services the courthouse.

Decorative Features

Identical decorative details occur on the north and south and east and west facades. They include:

1) stone string courses defining each story
2) stone lugsills and bands of voussoirs trimming each window (described above)
3) sandstone quoins at the outer corners of each wing on the first story
4) paired, brick Corinthian pilasters with stone capitals at the outer corners of each wing on the second story
5) a wood and metal cornice with an ornamented frieze of alternating brackets with scroll motifs and square panels capping the upper edge of all facades
6) pediments with a wood and metal raking cornice ornamented by alternating brackets with incised scroll motifs and square panels on the end facade of each wing; the brick triangular space is pierced by a four-light bull's eye window
7) recessed panels, pilasters, cornices, pediments, and metal stripping of the clock tower (already mentioned).

A steel flagpole extends 30 feet above and 15 feet below the apex of the clock tower.



The basement houses the offices of the Probate-Magistrate, the University of Missouri Extension Service, the County Engineer, the Armed Service Recruiter, three vaults, and two restrooms.

The limestone walls are painted, plastered, and/or paneled concrete; some have been covered.

First Floor

All floors are wide hallways from the north and south entrances meet in the central rotunda which rises to the ceiling of the second floor. West and east halls branch from the rotunda to serve the offices in those wings. In the north wing are the offices of the Assessor and Sheriff; the Treasurer's Office and stairways to the basement and second floor are in the south wing. The men's restroom is under the stairway to the second floor. The offices of the Collector, County Clerk, and the elevator shaft and offices of the Recorder of Deeds and Circuit Clerk are in the west and east wings respectively. Six vaults, positioned at various locations, complete the floor.

The corridor walls are painted a light buff, the woodwork a deep maroon that matches the tile in the floor medallion of the rotunda; office walls are painted white and the woodwork a soft blue-green in an attempt to match as closely as possible the original color scheme. Floors are surfaced with beige and cream linoleum tile. Ceilings have been lowered. All trim is of wood except that of the corners of the rotunda where decorative plaster is employed. Each office has a slate mantel.

The stairway to the second floor is U-shaped; it has a walnut bannister and newel post. The basement staircase is also of walnut. A third, private, enclosed stairway in the northeast corner of the east wing provides a direct access route to the Circuit Courtroom (on the second floor) from the Circuit Clerk's Office.

Second Floor

The second floor is composed of the Circuit Courtroom (in the east wing), the Circuit Court Library, the Circuit Court Judge's room, a jury room, and the men's restroom (in the north wing), the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the County Courtroom (in the west wing), and the County Highway Office and stairway to the first floor (in the south wing). A private hall north of the rotunda connects the Prosecuting Attorney's Office, the jury room, the Circuit Court Judge's quarters, the Circuit Court Library, the men's restroom, and the Circuit Court room.

The walls of the courtrooms are painted white with all woodwork a Blair House buff color; the offices are finished like those of the first floor. All floors with the exception of the Circuit Courtroom which is carpeted are covered with linoleum. Most ceilings have been lowered; the exception is the hall where the original pressed tin ceiling remains intact. A reproduction "gas" chandelier is suspended from the original plaster ceiling medallion of the rotunda. Walnut balustrades span the open spaces of the rotunda. Entrances to the courtrooms are filled by double-leaf doors topped by fanlights. Furnishings of the court rooms are original.

A straight-run flight of steps along the west wall of the rotunda provides access to the attic.


The unfinished attic space has a height of 13-1/2 feet. Light is provided by the bull's eye windows on the end facade of each wing. The clock tower supports and elevator machinery are housed in this space; a stairway off the west wing provides access to the clock tower.


The Saline County Courthouse is in excellent condition, having been restored (work began April 30, 1973).[1]


The Saline County Courthouse is located in the center of the Courthouse Square, a block bounded by Lafayette Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, North Street, and Arrow Street. Situated in the heart of Marshall's business district, commercial buildings, predominantly of 19th century vintage, are located on all surrounding blocks facing the court house and on the streets branching from the square.

A concrete sidewalk surrounds the square along the curb; wide walks lead from the curb walk to the courthouse on each side and join a third sidewalk which encircles the building at its foundations. All basement entrances open off this third walk. Iron benches line the entrance walks. A curved driveway for the Sheriff's vehicles takes up part of the east lawn.

The Courthouse Square is landscaped with grass, trees, and shrubbery. On the northeast corner is an iron fountain placed in 1915 by the Roger Nelson Chapter of the DAR to honor the six revolutionary soldiers of Saline County;[2] a similar fountain is on the southwest corner. The red granite Santa Fe Trail marker erected in 1909 by the Missouri Society of the DAR is on the northwest corner.[3] On the north side near the curb is Saline County's World War I Doughboy Memorial.

Present Status

Since its completion in 1883, the Saline County Courthouse has been well maintained with the necessary repairs being made as needed.

As a Bicentennial project, many local merchants with businesses overlooking the Courthouse Square are restoring their storefronts — sandblasting, tuckpointing, painting. Restoration of the Saline County Courthouse provided the stimulus for this project.[4]


The Saline County Courthouse, Marshall, Missouri, is significant as an example of a courthouse in a classically derived style surviving with near original integrity in Missouri. Since its construction in 1882-1883, the courthouse has served as a center for local activities.

J. C. Cochran

Little is known about the architect J.C. Cochran. His plans for the Saline County Courthouse were selected over 12 others submitted to the Saline County Court for approval; the County Court had visited Crown Point, Indiana, to view another courthouse designed by Cochran.[5] (The Lake County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is of the same plan as the Saline County Courthouse.)

Comparison with Other Missouri Courthouses

A review of photographs of all Missouri county courthouses reveals that the design of the Saline County Courthouse is most similar to that of the Platte County Courthouse, constructed in 1866. Both courthouses are of a classically derived style; the nearly identical cruciform plan of the Platte County Courthouse has, however, been altered by two-story additions in the inner corners where the wings intersect.


During the first session of the State Legislature held in St. Louis on September 19, 1820, an act was passed organizing Saline County.[6] The town of Jefferson, on the Missouri River, was designated as the county seat. Bartholomew Guinn and George Tennille were appointed judges of the County Court; their terms were for four years. The first session of the County Court was held April 16, 1821.[7] Members of the Circuit Court included David Todd (judge), Benjamin Chambers (clerk), Joseph H. Goodin (sheriff), and Hamilton R. Gamble (prosecuting attorney).[8]

In 1831 the county seat was removed to Jonesboro. The first term of the Circuit Court was held on June 27, 1831; the Hon. John F. Ryland was judge, Amos Rece [Rice][9] a was circuit attorney, and Benjamin Chambers was clerk.[10] The court was held in a rented building. "The room where court was held was the upper story of a double log building on the higher elevation of the second bank down near the creek. The lower story was divided into two rooms, in one of which was a grocery store and in the other a livery stable. When it was necessary for a jury to retire for deliberation it was taken down into the stable, the horses being first taken outside so that the jurymen might be absolutely undisturbed or not distracted by any kind of presence."[11]

The county seat was again moved in 1839 to Arrow Rock and from there to Marshall, the permanent county seat. A legislative act dated February 5, 1839 authorized the removal of the county seat to the center, or nearly as practical, of the county. Five commissioners (Hugh Burnett of Lafayette, Amos Home of Johnson, James Lucas and George McKinney of Carroll, and Caton Usher of Chariton) met on April 11, 1839 at the home of David Bailey to determine nearly as possible the center of the county. As the center of the county was found unsuitable for the location of the county seat, an examination of lands was made revealing the most suitable place to be upon the property of Jeremiah Odell; Odell agreed to donate 65 acres.[12] Cornelius Davis was appointed to superintend the survey and platting of the town and sell the lots.[13] At the court session in August, 1840, the new county seat was occupied.[14]

In November of that year, the commissioner of the county seat was required and authorized to give notice that sealed proposals would be received by him for the building of a courthouse in accordance with the plan submitted by Henry Hook. A sum of $12,000 was appropriated for the building and in addition any amount of money which might be donated by patriotic citizens for that purpose. A contract for building the courthouse was awarded to William Hook in February, 1840 for the sum of $9,000.[15] The plan called for a courthouse of brick on a stone foundation, 45' x 40', two stories high, a roof sufficiently strong to support a cupola (well sheeted and shingled), two staircases to connect the lower and upper floors, to be painted and finished in good style, in a neat and workmanlike manner and with good material.[16] At the November, 1856 term of the County Court, a sum of $7,000 was appropriated to build a fire-proof clerk's office within the courthouse square. W.A. Wilson's plan was adopted and approved; Wilson was appointed to let the contract and superintend the building. The clerk's office was to be built of brick with a rock foundation.[17]

The Saline County Courthouse stood until the Civil War, being burned in August, 1864 by a Confederate unit under the command of Colonel W.S. Jackson.[18] The county offices had ceased to occupy the building and all records had bean removed to Lexington for safekeeping. Federal troops had used the courthouse as a barracks and sleeping quarters for the men during their occupation of Marshall which ended in August, 1864.[19]

On Sunday evening, April 30, 1881 [April 3, 1881],[20] the courthouse which had been built just after the War (accepted by the County Court in 1868) was destroyed by fire, supposedly the work of an incendiary.[21] The building had previously been deemed unsafe, and all county officials and records had been moved out.[22] The County Court was leasing the second floor of a brick building, then under construction, for court purposes; other offices had their quarters in buildings on the north side of the square.[23]

A meeting of the people of the county by delegates was held in June, 1881, and it was agreed to ask the County Court to submit a proposition to build a new court house at the expense of $51,800.[24] A proposition to vote bonds to furnish the necessary funds was submitted to the people on October 1, 1881 and carried by a large majority.[25] Earlier attempts to provide for building a new courthouse to replace the one deemed unsafe had been defeated (November 28, 1879, November 2, 1880, and February, 1881).[26]

On January 9, 1882, the plans of various architects for the new courthouse were submitted to the County Court; the plans and estimates of J.C. Cochran of Chicago were accepted.[27] The authorized bonds were issued and sold on May 1, 1882 to the Wood & Huston Bank.[28] On March 2nd the contract for construction was awarded to John Volk & Company of Rock Island, Illinois, their bid being $51,762.[29]

As a Center of Activity

All county business is conducted in the courthouse; many federal services of benefit to county residents (Social Security and Armed Services) are also headquartered here. Most meetings, political and non-political, are held in the second-floor courtrooms; some organizations meet there regularly. Each year, Santa distributes treats to the local children at his place in the rotunda.[30]

The courthouse square was the scene of the 100th birthday celebration of the nation on July 4, 1876 with oratory, fireworks, and the firing of a cannon.[31] It was the site of the muster of Colonel John W. Reid's Company D, First Regiment Missouri Mounted Volunteers in 1846; all but seven members were from Saline County.[32] Guns and ammunition burled there during the Civil War are believed to still remain.[33] The square was decorated for the Marshall Centennial in September, 1939.[34]

Presently the square hosts the Saline County Fair barbecue, the Optimist Burger Bust, the Saline County Queen Contest, dozens of ice cream suppers, and booths for the APO Carnival. Its many trees provide a shady resting place for residents.[35]

The survey of Missouri's historic sites is based on the selection of sites as they relate to theme studies in Missouri history as outlined in "Missouri's State Historic Preservation Plan." The Saline County Courthouse is, therefore, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an example of the themes of "Architecture," "Political Affairs," and "Society."


  1. Data excerpted from a draft National Register Inventory-Nomination Form prepared by Mrs, Henry W. (Jean Tyree) Hamilton.
  2. Ibid.; and A. H. Orr (ed.), History of Saline County, Missouri (Marceline, Missouri: Walsworth Publishing Co., 1967), p.374.
  3. Data excerpted from a draft National Register Inventory-Nomination Form prepared by Mrs. Henry W. (Jean Tyree) Hamilton.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Saline County [Missouri] Progress, January 12, 1882, p.
  6. A. H. Orr (ed.), History of Saline County, Missouri (Marceline, Missouri: Walsworth Publishing Co., 1967), p.368; and Hon. William Barclay Napton, Past and Present of Saline County, Missouri (Indianapolis, Indiana: B.F. Bowen & Company, Publishers, 1910), p.77.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Orr, p. 368.
  9. History of Saline County, Missouri (St. Louis: Missouri Historical Company, 1881), p.210.
  10. Ibid.; Orr, p. 368; and Napton, p. 97.
  11. Orr, p. 371.
  12. Napton, pp. 111-112; and [Saline County, Missouri] Recorder's Record Book "H," p.36.
  13. Napton, p. 112; and [Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record. Book "C," p.37.
  14. Napton, p. 113.
  15. Ibid.; and Orr, p. 375.
  16. Napton, p. 114; and Orr, p. 375.
  17. Orr. p. 376.
  18. Napton, pp. 114, 181, 182.
  19. Napton, p. 182; and Orr, p. 376.
  20. Napton, p. 250; and The [Marshall, Missouri] Daily Democrat-News, June 27, 1951, p.1.
  21. Napton, p. 248; and Orr, p. 370.
  22. Napton, p. 248; [Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "M," p.597; and [Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "N," p.226.
  23. The [Marshall, Missouri] Daily Democrat-News, June 27, 1951, pp.1, 5.
  24. Napton, p. 248.
  25. Napton, p. 250; The [Marshall , Missouri] Daily Democrat-News, June 27, 1951, p.2; and "Resources of Saline County," Saline County [Missouri] Progress, November 30, 1882, p.1 .
  26. Ibid.
  27. Napton, p. 250; The [Marshall, Missouri] Daily Democrat-News, June 27, 1951, p.2; and [Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "O," pp.49, 50.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Napton, p. 251; The [Marshall, Missouri] Daily Democrat-News. June 27, 1951, p. 2; "Resources of Saline County," Saline County [Missouri] Progress, November 30, 1882, p.1; and [Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "O," p.137.
  30. Data excerpted from a draft National Register Inventory-Nomination Form prepared by Mrs. Henry W. (Jean Tyree) Hamilton (Saline County Courthouse Restoration Committee).
  31. History of Saline County, Missouri, p. 385.
  32. Ibid., pp. 238-240.
  33. Orr. pp. 376-382.
  34. Data excerpted from a draft National Register Inventory-Nomination Form prepared by Mrs. Henry W. (Jean Tyree) Hamilton.
  35. Ibid.


Boones Lick [Missouri] Democrat, September 23, 1839.

Centennial Journal of Agriculture and Commerce. Marshall, Missouri: The Weekly Saline Citizen, September 26, 1914.

Eichelberger, L. A. Personal interview by Mrs. Henry W. Hamilton. June 16, 1975.

"End of the Century Book," Saline County [Missouri] Index, December, 1900.

Governmental Affairs Newsletter, Vol. VII, Issue 10, June 1973, p.10.

Hand-Book of Saline County, Missouri. Chicago: C.S. Burch Publishing Company, 1889, pp.16, 20, back cover.

History of Saline County, Missouri. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Company, 1881, pp.139, 210, 238-241, 277, 385, 388.

Inspector of the Mid-Continent Waterproofing Co., Inc. Personal interview by Mrs. Henry W. Hamilton. September 3, 1975.

The [Marshall, Missouri] Daily Democrat-News, September 8, 1939, pp.1, 6.

________. June 20, 1951, p. 1.

________. June 25, 1951, p. 1.

________. June 26, 1951, p. 1.

________. June 27, 1951, pp. 1, 4-5.

________. February 6, 1952, p. 1.

________. February 13, 1952, p. 1.

________. February 15, 1952, p. 1.

________. February 20, 1952, p. 1.

________. February 25, 1952, p. 1.

________. March 26, 1952, p. 1.

________.The [Marshall, Missouri] Democrat-News. May 26, 1973, p.1.

________. November 29, 1973, p. 1.

________. January 4, 1975, p. 1.

Napton, Hon. William Barclay. Past and Present of Saline County, Missouri, Indianapolis, Indiana: B.F. Bowen & Company, Publishers, 1910, pp.77, 97, 110-114, 117, 181-182, 248, 250-251, 255-256.

Official Program: Marshall Centennial Celebration (1839-1939). Marshall, Missouri: Marshall Centennial Commission Inc., September 17, 1939, pp.3-5, 7.

Ogle, Geo. A., & Co. (comp.). Standard Atlas of Saline County, Missouri. Chicago: Geo. A. Ogle & Co., Publishers & Engravers, 1916, pp.10-11, 65.

Orr, A. H. (ed.). History of Saline County, Missouri. Marceline, Missouri: Walsworth Publishing Co., 1967, pp.368-382.

"Resources of Saline County," Saline County [Missouri] Progress, November 30, 1882.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "C," pp.29, 37.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "M," p.597.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "N," pp.407, 414, 438.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "O," pp.28, 49, 137, 426, 431, 435, 436, 437.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "P," p.551.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "Q,", pp.347, 523, 557.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "T," pp.295, 361.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "U," pp.11, 469, 598.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "Z," pp.203, 291.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "3," p.528.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "4," pp.5, 8, 42.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "9," pp.318, 326-327,

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "13," pp.152, 528, 534, 575.

[Saline County, Missouri] County Court Record Book "14," pp. 1, 13, 35, 37, 38.

Saline County [Missouri] Progress, April 8, 1881.

________. January 12, 1882.

________. March 23, 1882.

________. May 11, 1882.

________. September 27, 1883.

________. November 30, 1883.

________. December 27, 1883.

[Saline County, Missouri] Recorder's Record Book "A," p.27.

[Saline County, Missouri] Recorder's Record Book "H," pp.36, 39.

‡ Nancy B. Breme, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Office of Historic Preservation, Saline County Courthouse, Marshall, Missouri, nomination document, 1976, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Arrow Street • Route 20