Cherokee County Courthouse and Cherokee County History
CHEROKEE COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Photo Courtesy of the Heritage Center of Cherokee County
Veterans on the lawn of the 1889 County Courthouse
Photo Courtesy Arcadia Publishing and The Cherokee County Historical Commission
The 1941 Cherokee County Courthouse, photo courtesy of TXDoT Photo courtesy of texasoldphotos.com
Rusk is the county seat of Cherokee County. It is at the junction of U.S. highways 69 and 84, State Highway 110. The town was established April 11, 1846. It was named for Gen. Thomas Jefferson Rusk, one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. He is said to have held more official positions than anyone else during the days of The Texas Republic. He practiced law in Cherokee County from 1829 to 1856. John Kilgore and his family were the first to live in Rusk, by 1850 Rusk reportedly had 355 residents. The first post office was authorized on March 8, 1847, and the town's first church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, was organized by Rev. J. B. Harris in May 2, 1847. The county court originally met in a crude log dogtrot cabin, but in August 1847 a contract was let for a two-room frame building with brick chimneys. The town's first jail was built the same year, and a larger frame courthouse was erected in 1849. A larger jail was built in 1855, and a brick building to house the county and district clerk's offices was constructed on the northeast corner of the square in 1859; the latter structure stood until it was razed in 1941. Most of the town's early businesses were clustered around the courthouse square. The Cherokee County courthouse was constructed of locally cut stone in Contemporary design. Cornell G. Curtis was the architect and it was built in 1941 for $100,000.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hankbook of Texas, Cherokee County History (Jacksonville, Texas: Cherokee County Historical Commission, 1986). Hattie Joplin Roach, A History of Cherokee County (Dallas: Southwest, 1934). Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin.
CHEROKEE COUNTY HISTORY
Confederate statue is 100 years old
BY KEN MCCLURE
On Oct. 31, 1907, a large crowd of citizens came on horseback and horse-drawn carriages from all over Cherokee county to gather on the court house square in Rusk to attend the official unveiling ceremony for their recently constructed Confederate statue.
The statue was erected to honor more than 2,000 men from Cherokee county who served in the Southern army during the Civil War from 1861-1865. The statue was purchased from a company in Italy with funds raised by more than 400 people and businesses which contributed $1,859.96 for its purchase.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy, Captain Frank Taylor chapter, was formed in early 1903 in Cherokee County and was the primary driving force behind these fund-raising efforts to obtain the new monument, said current U.D.C. member Mary Taylor.
At the dedication ceremony in 1907, a large group of Confederate veterans from the Ross / Ector camp, led by Commander Mertice Whitman, , along with ladies of the U.D.C. who were there in force to conduct the ceremony in honor of the remaining surviving veterans from the war that ended 42 years earlier.
The event included a roll call of all living veterans present and a roll call for all veterans who had passed away. The statue was unveiled by Ms. Frankie Tatham of the U.D.C. while the crowd responded with applause and the band played Dixie.
Ms. Tatham was the daughter of John F. Tatham, a Captain during the war and who later served as city Marshal of Rusk after the war.
Present day Sons of Confederte Veterans Cross of Saint Andrew camp member Shelley Cleaver is the greatgrandson of Captain Tatham and he has the original badge he wore while serving as city Marshal.
The ceremony concluded with fellowship and food.
In April 2001 the statue was in need of repair from exposure to the elements over the years, and the rifle had been broken when the statue was moved in the early 1940s when the courthouse was renovated and enlarged.
Thanks to fund-raising efforts launched by the U.D.C. and S.C.V. chapters in the East Texas area and to local citizens and businesses answering the call, the required funds were raised and the statue was thoroughly cleaned and a new musket was sculpted and secured back in the soldiers hands atop the monument.
As of today, Wednesday, Oct. 31,2007, one hundred years have passed since the statue was originally dedicated in 1907 and it still proudly stands today, not as a symbol of rebellion or of any political statement but as a tribute to the gallant men from Cherokee county who bravely left their homes and families during war knowing they may never return home to their loved ones to defend their country from an invading army during what most folks call the American Civil War.
A special thanks to all who contributed to preserving this historic Cherokee County landmark for past, present and future generations.
Mr. McClure is a member of the Confederate Veterans Cross of Saint Andrew Camp #2009 of Cherokee County.