History of the Grimes County Courthouse
The first Grimes County courthouse was constructed of cedar logs in early 1800. Fire destroyed this structure in 1838 and in 1850 a ferocious wind destroyed the second courthouse. W. W. Arrington designed the third courthouse and built it from stone in February 1859. This third courthouse burned on May 15, 1890 and a fire destroyed the fourth courthouse on January 20, 1893. Presently, the current courthouse, the fifth courthouse, was built in 1894.
The courthouse bricks have 3 distinct colors. (1) the original hand molded red brick of the surviving 1890 east wall vaults; (2) the 1894 pinkish red brick on the south, west and part of the north walls; (3) a rustic brown colored brick on a section of the north wall. The third color of brick has an interesting story. The bricklayer had run out of bricks and was waiting impatiently for a wagonload of bricks to be delivered. While waiting for the bricks to arrive, he went around town gathering a few bricks to keep the job moving along. When the wagon arrived, he continued bricking with the original bricks.
During the election of 1898, the elections returns disappeared from the county clerk’s office and were supposedly burned. The Populist Republicans claimed victory and the Democrats contested the election. In the spring of 1899, five men gathered to discuss ways to fight the coalition. This group became known as the White Man’s Union Association. On November 7, 1900 the current sheriff Garret Scott lost the election but refused to step down for the newly elected sheriff. The incumbent sheriff barricaded himself in the county jail across the street from the courthouse. The opposing group fortified their stance inside the courthouse. When the two coalitions met, a gunfight began resulting in five bullet holes in the Courthouse structure, four on the west side located near the second floor windows and one on the right side of the south entrance doors. They are still visible today. Three men were killed and several others were wounded, including the sheriff who was seriously wounded in the thigh. The Governor was called in and the wounded sheriff was taken into custody by the Texas Rangers and sent to Houston by train. One of the men killed was John J. Bradley Jr., an innocent bystander whose general store was across the street from the jail. Also shot and killed was William McDonald and Emmett Scott, the brother of Sheriff Garret Scott. A story in the New York Times described the shooting, saying that Scott and McDonald had a street duel and when the smoked cleared both were dead. All three men were buried at the Odd Fellows cemetery in Anderson.
In 1933, a Grimes County Grand Jury indicted Clyde Barrow for robbing a business in Navasota. The indictment was dropped after Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were gunned down in a Louisiana ambush. In 1934, Joe Palmer, a member of the Barrow gang, was tried and found guilty and sentenced to death for killing Major Crowson of the Walls Prison Unit in Huntsville.
For as far back as anyone can remember, it has been a tradition in Grimes County for it’s citizens to gather around the Courthouse on election night to await the election returns. The County Clerk hangs two large tally boards outside his office and votes are posted as returns from all over the county come in.
Hollywood came to the courthouse in June 1997 when Goldie Hawn directed her first film made for TV named “Hope”. Grimes County residents were able to try out for parts in the movie and be a part of it. The town got to watch Main St. be renovated for the movie and watched the burning of the constructed movie theater (where the Confederate Memorial is today).
Under the reign of County Judge Ira “Bud” Haynie, his wife at the time, Joy, pursued looking for grants to preserve and restore the present courthouse. Working with the Texas Historical Commission, this dream came true. On March 2, 2002 grand opening ceremonies took place in the beautifully restored Courthouse. In order to get the grand from the Historical Commission, the courthouse had to be remodeled to look as close to the original construction in 1894. Joy worked hard to make this possible, resulting in a “showplace” for Grimes County.