Court Houses of Winston County
Compiled By: Peter J. Gossett
The organization commission for Hancock County appointed April 8, 1850, as the day on which to begin to build a court house. The commission asked every one present to return and tell their neighbors to all meet at this site (now known as Old Houston). "Bring you're teams, camping equipment, axes, and other tools," suggested the commission. It was said by noon on the above date, that about fifty men had arrived. They cleared the court house hill top the first afternoon. By the next morning the number reached about 75 men from all parts of the county. The most of those present were sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons of Revolutionary Soldiers. At least half a dozen citizens had already split out, and had dried puncheons to make the floor. The new court house was built, log-cabin style, 16 feet by 24 feet of large logs halved on both sides, making the walls about 8 inches thick. It was covered with clapboards, rib-pole, end-pole, and weight-pole style; and floored with split-log puncheons about 4 inches thick and some 12 inches wide, on bark peeled logs about 3 feet apart; bark taken off for joists on which was the loft. The cracks were lined on inside and out. The building set north and south, the long way, with a door 4 feet wide in the south end. A stone chimney was built at the north end, about 8 feet wide, to burn logs six feet long. There were windows on the side of the chimney about 2 feet wide and 3 feet high. Doors and windows had wood shutters made of thick boards, and swung on wood hinges. The roof was clapboards about 4 feet long. Benches were made out of puncheons with large peg legs. The building of the first court house of Hancock County was nearly ready in two days. They went home but returned May 27th and completed it.
When Hancock County was renamed Winston in 1858, the court house was moved to the present site of Houston, beside where the old jail now stands. A fire destroyed the court house on August 23, 1864; an act passed on December 11, 1865 authorized the building of the jail and court house, which burned again on February 23, 1868. A special tax was levied on February 1, 1871 to rebuild it again.
In 1877 when the eastern portion of the county was made into Cullman County, Houston was no longer in the center of the county. House bill #264 was passed December 12, 1882 to move the county seat to Double Springs; the move was made on July 23, 1883. The court house in Double Springs, a 40 x 60 wooden, two-story building, was contracted and built by Willie Ward of Michigan. On August 5, 1891, fire spread through this court house destroying it.
Work was commenced on May 29, 1893, on the new court house. William C. Miles and a Mr. Coley, from Birmingham, worked on the building for Andrew Jackson Ingle, and the rock wagons continued "as regular as clock work." Francis Hadder was the carpenter, and James Samuel Snoddy was the assistant. This time the new building consisted of the native sand rock like several buildings in town. It was completed in 1894 at a cost of $12,444. William C. Miles wrote to the Winston Herald on May 17, 1893, and stated the following: "At last, after fourteen days of hard work, the contract for the Winston county court house has been let to A. J. Ingle after many defeats and knock outs. Mr. Julien of Jasper who was the favorite of the ring, was a little late getting in with his bond Saturday evening, much to the surprise of his many friends in Double Springs. Now the fight is over, and we all need to rest, and the court house will be built by Winston county men and not negroes from Jasper. We don't want to criticize anybody in this matter -- we won the fight on honorable grounds and we will build the court house according to the plans. We claim our last move was a good one and well executed. We don't care for the cost, its the court house we wanted, and work will commence at once."
In 1911 an annex was added during the administration of John S. Curtis, Probate Judge, at a cost of $4,000.
In 1929 and 1930, a new fire-proof wing and jail were added to the court house by contractors Blaine Burdick and N.E. Woodruff at a cost of about $60,000. After this addition, the court house had a formal opening on June 5, 1930.
In the 1950s a $35,000 addition was added to the east wing.
In 1962, Dobbs and Dobbs of Haleyville got a contract to add an addition to the wing on the north side for $77,900. This gave additional room in the jail, and the lower part is now used for the commissioners' office. Kermit Adams quarried this rock at Black Pond and laid the rock on this addition.
Also in the summer of 1982, Nolan Smith built a wood addition for $38,950.