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As It Was: Jacksonville, Ore., Gets a Proper Courthouse in 1884

Jacksonville, the original county seat of Jackson County, didn’t have a proper courthouse until 1884.  For years, court had been convened in a crudely built, two-story building shared with the Masonic Temple. The Democratic Times derided the dilapidated structure as “a disgrace to the county,” and the Sentinel asked, “Is it not time that the county had a courthouse that would not be mistaken for a barn?”

When builders finished construction of the foundation of a new two-story brick structure in 1883, Jacksonville declared a holiday for the laying of the cornerstone.  Accompanied by much fanfare and singing, a list of donations to be placed in the cornerstone was solemnly read aloud.  Included were various coins, a medal commemorating the silver wedding of Victoria and Albert, two quarts of whiskey, and a set of false teeth.

The court held its first session on Feb. 11, 1884.  The cases included larceny of a horse and saddle, selling whiskey without a license, and a charge of riot.  By 1926, the county seat moved to Medford, which had eclipsed Jacksonville in population and importance. 

The old courthouse building today houses Jacksonville’s city offices.

Sources:  "City Going to Court-house." Jacksonville Review Online, The Jacksonville Review, 19 Mar. 2014. Accessed 23 Mar. 2018; "The Courthouse Story." The Table Rock Sentinel, Feb. 1984, pp. 3-9.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.