Missouri Courthouses
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Editor’s note
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Marian M. Ohman
Department of Community Development

ReynoldsCounty: Reynolds
Organized: Feb. 25, 1845
Named after: Thomas Reynolds, governor
County seat: Centerville

In 1845 when Reynolds County was organized, Lesterville was designated as the first county seat. Courts met in the home of Joseph McNails until a small, log courthouse was built in 1846-47. Fire destroyed this structure and all county records in 1862.

For the next three years courts met in private homes until the county seat moved to Centerville. The court authorized construction of another small building of logs or rough lumber for court purposes in 1865, but it too burned on Nov. 24 or 25, 1871. The following day the court met in the courtyard by the ruins and appropriated $10,000 for a new building.

The third and present courthouse, a two-story brick building, originally measuring 50 by 40 feet, reportedly cost $8,000, less than the $10,000 the court had appropriated in 1871 (Figure 1). The original specifications, which are on file at the courthouse, called for a dome and lantern, but these apparently were never built.

Figure 1
Reynolds County Courthouse, 1871-. (From: A Reynolds County Commerative [sic], 1973)

In the 1930s when Work Projects Administration projects helped counties in building new courthouses, it was out of the question for Reynolds since there were insufficient funds to sponsor the county share. Instead, the court bought for $600 a two-story, 24-by-40-foot frame building and moved it to the southwest corner of the square.

The 1871 courthouse continues in use, a typical example of a courthouse design found in Missouri during the 19th century. The Reynolds County courthouse is one of the few in Missouri over 100 years old.


  • Conard, H. L. Encyclopedia of History of Missouri. St. Louis: Southern History Company, 1901.
  • Douglas, Robert Sidney. History of Southeast Missouri. New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912.
  • (Centerville) Reynolds County Courier, Oct. 14, 1937.
  • (Ellington) "A Reynolds County Commerative [sic]" Oct. 12, 1973, special edition published by Reynolds County News
  • (Ironton) Iron County Register, Dec. 2, 1871.
Manuscript collections
  • Inventory of the County Archives of Missouri, number 90. Historical Records Survey. Work Projects Administration, 1938.
  • Work Projects Administration, Historical Records Survey, Missouri, 1935-1942, Reynolds County. Located in Joint Collection: MU, Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia and State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscripts.
Publication No. UED6089