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Bollinger County Courthouse
Marian M. Ohman
Department of Community Development
Organized: March 1, 1851
Named after: Col. George Fred Bollinger, first settler, early politician, state senator
County seat: Marble Hill
Bollinger County, originally a part of Wayne, Cape Girardeau and Stoddard counties, became an independent county March 1, 1851. During the same year Thomas Hamilton selected the site and laid out a plan for the town of New California. Commissioners assigned to locate the county seat laid out a town called Dallas, which included New California. Citizens petitioned to change the name to Marble Hill in 1865. Commissioners located the first courthouse, built in 1852, several blocks north of the original public square. The 30-foot-square, brick, two-story building served as courthouse until destroyed by fire March 2, 1866.
At a special meeting March 12, 1866, the court appointed Philip Sutherlin (also spelled Sutherland and Sutherland) clerk, to serve as commissioner of the new courthouse. The court authorized him to contract with James Rogers, who was also the sheriff, to build on a plan similar to that of the previous building. In November 1866 the court decided the building should be two feet taller.
By December Sutherlin reported work in progress, and in July 1867 he said the building was completed as agreed. Contracted for $2,800, final costs amounted to about $3,000. Louis Houck, an eyewitness in 1869, described the courthouse as a frame building in an unfenced, treeless public square.
By 1884 the building had been condemned as unsafe and virtually abandoned. It was destroyed by fire March 12, 1884.
After an unsuccessful attempt to move the county seat to Lutesville, a new 50-by-60-foot brick courthouse, designed by Morris Frederick Bell, was erected in 1885 (Figure 1). James P. Gillick, St. Louis, was contractor, and superintendent was Jacob J. Conrad. The building, which originally cost about $9,000, was enlarged in 1912 by Carmen and Smith for about $7,000. Extensive repairs in the 1960s and 1970s have made possible continued use of the courthouse.
Bollinger County Courthouse, 1885-. Architect: Morris Frederick Bell. (Courtesy: State Historical Society of Missouri)
- Douglas, Robert Sidney, History of Southeast Missouri. Lewis Publishing Company, 1912.
- Hahn, Mary L. Bits of History. Published by author, 1970.
- Bollinger County, 1851-1976. Marceline: Walsworth Publishing Company, 1977.
- History of Southeast Missouri. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1888
- Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian. May 20, 1969.
- Work Projects Administration, Historical Records Survey, Missouri, 1935-1942, Bollinger County. Located in Joint Collection: MU, Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia and State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscripts.
UED6008, new May 1981