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

SchuylerCounty: Schuyler
Organized: Feb. 14, 1845
Named after: Gen. Philip Schuyler of the Revolution
County seat: Lancaster

The first county seat of Schuyler County was Tippecanoe, a site about three miles southeast of Lancaster. But in June 1845 commissioners chose Lancaster as the permanent seat and authorized construction of a temporary courthouse. The two-story frame, 20 by 24 feet, was weatherboarded with walnut. A hall divided two rooms on the upper story. A complete description may be found in the County Court Record.

Cahill Parks built the courthouse financed by $200 set aside by the court from the sale of town lots in July 1845. An unusual order in July 1848, found in the court record, called for painting two sides of the building white and the other two sides red, with green for windows and doors; the court later had second thoughts and rescinded the order at the next session. As the county began building the next courthouse, William Buford bought this frame building and the lot at a public sale. The building continued in use until destroyed by fire in 1887.

The court appropriated $10,000 for the second courthouse and accepted the plan prepared by Yelverton W. Payton in December 1856 (Figure 1). Contractor for the building was William L. Shane, who completed his work in August 1858. Approximate cost was $9,000. This two-story, brick building, 44 feet square, had four offices on the first floor with the courtroom on the second. An architect found the building unsafe in the spring of 1894, and it was demolished as preparations for the third courthouse began.

Figure 1
Schuyler County Courthouse, 1856-1894. (From: An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Schuyler County, Missouri, 1878)

Queen City wanted to become the county seat, but after a struggle, Lancaster retained the honor. For construction of their third courthouse, Lancaster contributed $7,500; the remainder of the funds came from public subscriptions. The county and city shared use of the building (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Schuyler County Courthouse, 1895-1960. (From: postcard, Trenton Boyd collection)

C. A. Dunham, architect from Burlington, Iowa, received $275 for his plans. The low bid for construction, $22,233, came from L. S. Atchison, who represented a Colorado Springs, Colorado, firm. Cornerstone ceremonies took place June 24, 1895.

Originally, the first floor had space for five offices with additional office space on the second where the courtrooms were located. This courthouse continued in use until the present courthouse was built in 1960.

Kenneth O. von Achen and Associates proposed one design for the new courthouse in 1958. But some Schuyler County residents considered the design too modern and inappropriate for Lancaster. They asked for a more traditional concept and accepted the revised plan, which called for a two-story, red brick design, trimmed with white stone and featuring a cupola (Figure 3). Contractors for the building were J. J. Watson and R. W. Warren of Kansas City for $254,351. Cornerstone ceremonies were in October 1960, and dedication took place after the building was completed on July 30, 1961.

Figure 3
Schuyler County Courthouse, 1960-. Architect: Kenneth O. von Achen and Associates (From: postcard, Schuyler County Historical Society)


  • History of Adair, Sullivan, Putnam and Schuyler Counties. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1888.
  • Swanson, Arthur Malcolm and George Washington Ford. A History of Schuyler County. Trenton: W. B. Rogers Printing Co., [1909].
  • Lancaster Excelsior, Oct. 23-Dec. 4, 1958; Jan. 15-Oct. 15, 1959; Jan. 21-Oct. 30, 1960; July 27-Aug. 3, 1961.
Manuscript collections
  • Work Projects Administration, Historical Records Survey, Missouri, 1935-1942, Schuyler County. Located in Joint Collection: MU, Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia and State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscripts.
  • An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Schuyler County, Missouri. Philadelphia: Edwards Brothers of Missouri, 1878.
  • Standard Atlas of Schuyler County, Missouri. Chicago: George A. Ogle and Co., 1916.
Publication No. UED6097