Scott County plans 100th anniversary of courthouse

Thursday, March 29, 2012
Scott County Courthouse in Benton, Mo. after renovations and remodeling in 2006. (Don Frazier)

BENTON, Mo. -- According to one county resident, the Scott County courthouse used to smell like cigars and whiskey. There have been a lot changes over the last 100 years with most of them -- such as clean floors -- being for the better.

County commissioners met with secretary Judy Stewart, correspondence secretary/newsletter editor Deborah Gunter and Glenda Milam of the Scott County Historical and Genealogy Society during the regular County Commission meeting Tuesday.

Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger said commissioners are working with the historical society on a celebration for the 100th anniversary of the courthouse's construction June 16.

"A 100-year celebration doesn't come around very often," Burger said. "Not many courthouses have stood the test of time as well as ours."

When the courthouse was built, "things were a lot different," Gunter said.

Courtroom floors used to be covered with sawdust, she said.

"They didn't like to hear people rustle their feet so they put sawdust down," Gunter said.

Burger noted they have kept the signs up around the courthouse that remind visitors that spitting on the floor isn't allowed.

Many of the changes are a matter of keeping up with the times.

Stewart said there used to be rails behind the courthouse to tie horses to. Children played on those rails for years after people stopped riding horses to the county seat.

Other changes were required by law, such as the addition of the elevator to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But many changes were made simply to keep the courthouse maintained and looking nice.

"I want to show it off to everybody in the county," Burger said.

Historical society members said they are gathering old pictures of the courthouse as well as period clothing for the display in the courthouse lobby.

Gunter said she is putting together a timeline for the courthouse that could be used as a handout for visitors.

The celebration will begin with a short ceremony, according to commissioners.

"The time frame we're kind of looking at starts at 3 p.m.," Burger said.

The ceremony will include a short welcome, posting of the colors, an invocation by a local pastor, a solo performance of the national anthem and patriotic music by local high school bands.

Commissioners said they plan to recognize anyone in attendance that day who formerly served as a county office holder.

"We just to have to make sure we don't miss anybody," Burger said.

Gunter said several of the county's past officials now live in Florida but she knows of at least one who plans to come back for the celebration.

The courthouse will be open for tours from 4 to 6 p.m. the day of the celebration, according to commissioners.

"A lot of people come here once a year," Burger said, and then just to "pay their taxes and leave."

Burger said he hopes residents all over the county will see the celebration as "an opportunity to wander around the courthouse and look."

Current officials will be asked to be in their office to provide guided tours and information about their office, Burger said.

Some visitors may prefer to "walk around themselves and just get a general visual impression of the courthouse," Burger said. "They can do that as well."

Commissioners plan to follow the tours with live entertainment by two local bands from 6:30-10:30 p.m. on the courthouse grounds.

Burger said he will ask Benton city officials about blocking off Tywappity Street around the time the celebration starts.

Some vendors may be allowed to set up booths but "we're probably going to limit that somewhat," Burger said. "I don't want it to turn into a big commercial thing."

Commissioners said they need to get a list and agree on it before approving any vendors.

"The only think we're going to be doing that day is selling our books," Gunter said.

Stewart said they are planning to get commemorative plastic beverage cups made for the event, however.

The Society also plans to have commemorative Christmas ornaments available. "It will be the courthouse in winter," Gunter said.

Commissioners asked Society members to meet with them again April 24.

"If we have any changes or thoughts we can share them with each other at that time," Burger said. "We'll kind of fine-tune our agenda by then, have it all on paper for us to review."

"Hopefully the weather cooperates," Milam said.

"The main thing is I want the courthouse to be the focal point," Burger said. "Hopefully it will be a memorable day."

Pertinent address:

Benton, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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