This was our thirty-first Courthouse in Texas to visit. That means we are at 12.2% of our goal with 87.8% left to go.
Cut from the western part of Cooke County, Montague County was officially organized in 1858. None of the three existing small settlements within the county were near the center of the county, so the state donated land for the creation of a county seat which was named Montague. The county and county seat were named for Daniel Montague, a surveyor and state senator during the Civil War. Montague was involved in the Great Hanging in Gainesville in 1862, in which many Union sympathizers were killed. He fled to Mexico after the war and returned to Texas in September of 1876, dying three months later.
The first courthouse for Montague County was a log cabin built in 1858 with local materials. It was only meant to be a temporary structure but was in use until after the Civil War. An old frame store on the north side of the square was used as a courthouse before a new wood-frame two story building was built and used as the courthouse until it burned down on February 25, 1873. All the county records were lost in the fire, so information on the early courthouses is scarce.
A rented house and a former saloon were used until a new courthouse was built in 1879. It was constructed of sandstone with a tin roof and a dome and was built by John S. Thomas of Fort Worth for $22,000. This courthouse burned down on March 31, 1884. The fire was blamed on three men who had been indicted for cattle rustling and were trying to get rid of the evidence. The destruction of the courthouse led residents of Bowie to try and steal the county seat away from Montague, but they failed to get the 2/3 majority of votes that they needed.
Other buildings in town were used for court proceedings until the next courthouse was completed in 1885. It was built by T. J. Jarrell for $35, 500 and designed by Fort Worth architect James J. Kane, the architect of the 1886 Bosque County courthouse. It originally had a clock tower that had to be removed after it was damaged by a tornado on July 5, 1905. Another storm on April 30, 1912 broke many windows and damaged the roof so badly that it was decided to demolish this courthouse for the construction of a new one.
Court proceedings were held in the opera house until the construction of the current courthouse was completed in 1913. The brick, Classical Revival style building was designed by Waco architect George L. Burnett and built by A. H. Rodgers of Henrietta. The cost of the courthouse was originally to be $90,000, but structural changes raised the cost to $100,000. A county jail was located on the fourth floor until the construction of a new jail on the square was completed in 1927.
A 1939 windstorm damaged the courthouse’s original dome, and it was removed and replaced with what has been referred to as a “penthouse,” “a doghouse,” or a “chicken coop.” The interior was renovated as well, covering most of the historic finishes, especially in the courtroom. An exterior wheelchair ramp and a glass elevator were installed in 1985. Despite the changes, the building still retains many of its original architectural features. In 2013, a new county courthouse annex opened on the north side of the square and the 1912 courthouse received a new tile roof. The replacement of the courthouse’s windows was completed in 2014 and efforts continue to have the dome replaced and the courthouse historically restored.