has survived the ages
building is to undergo roof, exterior renovation
(August 2008) It was 1945, and dozens of people
crammed into the Jefferson County Courthouse in Madison, Ind., to hear
the verdict in the trial of Lottie Lockman. Everybody knew she was guilty
of poisoning poor Mrs. McConnell, an elderly woman entrusted to her
care. The story goes that the sound of a pin dropping could have been
heard throughout that packed courtroom as the jurors filed in to render
judgment. Mouths dropped open and shock filled the air as Not
Guilty was announced.
This was perhaps the biggest trial in the history of the courthouse,
according to Madison attorney Spencer Schnaitter, who recounted the
story. He was a junior high student at the time and was sitting in the
loft of the county courthouse waiting for all the action to begin as
his father, Judge Paul Schnaitter, presided over the trial.
The courthouse has seen its share of trials like those of Lockman and
others throughout its long history. Built in 1853, the courthouse is
among the historic buildings in Madisons National Historic Landmark
District. Time has taken its toll on the historic structure, and like
most buildings of its age, it is now in need of repairs.
County Commissioner Julie Berry has announced there is a project under
way to complete some of the necessary repairs on the exterior of the
building. Those repairs include a new roof and reconstruction on the
cupola, and eventually some tuck pointing and cornice work. Madison
architect Michael Totten has been hired to lead the project, and he
is working with Historic Madison Inc. to keep the historic integrity
of the building intact.
We plan to do the work in phases and bid it out incrementally,
said Berry. We have money set aside in a courthouse fund, so there
will be no need to borrow money for the repairs.
by Don Ward
Joe Robinson poses with the
3,116-pound bell that is housed in
the chamber atop the courthouse.
Plans are to eventually repair the
bell so it can chime again.
Officials estimate the cost of repairs could top $150,000.
Competitive bids will be accepted beginning in early September.
Totten said the first phase of the Jefferson Shell Replacement 2008
Project will include a new roof and adding downspouts to the building
to help keep water off the sides. There is certainly water damage
from leaking, he said. We need to get that taken care of
The roof has not been replaced since a major remodeling of the courthouse
in 1959-61. There are soft spots in the roof, and water is leaking
into the third floor courtroom, said Berry.
Circuit Court Judge Ted Todd acknowledged the courtroom is leaking but
said it has not affected any trials. I am happy to see the repairs
being made on the building, said Todd, who has worked in the courthouse
for 20 years. It has been a great place to work, with a good atmosphere.
In the later stages of the Jefferson Shell Replacement Project, Totten
said the clock tower and cupola will be restored and then repairs will
be made to the brick and limestone used in construction of the building.
In an effort to keep maintenance up to date on the courthouse once repairs
are completed, Totten said the Board of Commissioners has included long
term maintenance care into the contracts. This inclusion will
help future commissioners maintain the courthouse.
He has consulted with HMI on building materials and methods to be used
in the remodeling of the courthouse. This is an important structure
in our National Historic Landmark District. We want to get things right
on how these repairs are done.
HMIs Heidi Valco Kruggel said officials at HMI are prepared to
offer any technical assistance needed in the repairs of the courthouse.
We will help make sure any repairs and replacements are done in
accordance with historic guidelines.
The first courthouse in Jefferson County, Ind., was built in 1811, according
to documents on file at the Research Library of the Jefferson County
Historical Societys Heritage Center.
courtesy of the
JCHS Research Library
of the courthouse is
considered the oldest
on record at the
of the Jefferson Co.
Prior to 1811, the first court or justice of the peace
was held in the home of pioneer John Henry Waggoner. In spring 1811,
Madisons first sheriff, John Vawter, and two helpers built Old
Buckeye, a two-story log courthouse made of buckeye logs.
By 1819, Madison had become the largest and richest town in the state,
and its 821 residents decided it needed a more fitting courthouse.
Old Buckeye was removed, and an octagon-shaped brick structure was built
in its place.
By 1853, some residents were calling for the octagonal courthouse to
be removed. On Sept. 12, 1853, that courthouse was destroyed in a fire.
It was a particularly dry summer, according to records, but it was alleged
that suspected arsonists burned the building because they didnt
Not even during a Feb. 15, 1878, hanging of John Beavers did protesters
ever try to burn the courthouse again. Beaver was hanged in the courthouse
yard for murder. People gathered from miles around, standing on roof
tops and in available space to see the first and only hanging in Jefferson
County. Many brought lunch boxes crammed with good things to eat, and
it was evidently a gala occasion for everyone but poor Beaver.
In 1854-1855 the present courthouse was built. The original cost of
the two-story structure was $36,000. The architect in charge of the
project was David Dubach, of Hannibal, Mo. The builders in charge of
the construction were David Dubach, Henry C. Kyle and J.W. Hinds.
The courtyard around the courthouse, which cost $953.96, was made with
20,000 bricks, stonework and an iron fence.
The bell that sits in the tower today was made by West Troy Bell Foundary
of New York. It cost Madison $762.29 to have the bell made. On Nov.
9, 1855, the 3,116-pound bell was placed in its tower.
courtesy of the
Madison-Jefferson Co. Public Library
photo from the Harry Lemon
Photo Collection shows what the
courthouse looked like in the 1940s.
In 1859, during a fire in the courthouse, the bell fell
through the roof and landed in the basement. Because of that fire, the
design of the roofline was changed, and the pitch was made steeper.
The bell has not been rung in five years because the mechanism is broken,
according to County Manager Joe Robinson. It is on the list of repairs
to be completed in a later phase.
I hope they fix the bell because it would be nice to hear it ring
again, Robinson said. It used to ring on the quarter hour,
half hour and chime on the hour similar to a church bell
Robinson added that he had to repair the clock mechanism this year.
Clocks face in all four directions on the outside of the bell tower
and are all operated by one motor unit in the center.
Its really neat up here, and the view is terrific in all
directions, Robinson said, gesturing to the view down Main Street
during a recent tour of the cupola.
It wasnt until 1959 that the courthouse actually was remodeled
from the inside and a third floor added. According to Schnaitter, before
the addition of the third story, noise disruptions because of traffic
along Main Street were common.
Trucks would go up the street, and the large windows would rattle,
he said. It caused such a ruckus that the transcriber sometimes
Although no major trial was ever affected, lawyers at the time agreed
the noise was horrible and something needed to be done about it.
During the extensive remodeling during that period, an elevator, one
of the first in the state, was added to the courthouse, and the trial
room was switched to the south side of the building.
by Don Ward
is the view looking up inside the
cupula of the Jefferson County
Courthouse, a view only seen by a
few people who have climbed the
stairwells to the top.
Architects came up with the idea to add the floor to the
interior of the building after a courthouse in Winchester, Ind., did
the same thing. That entire project cost $275,000 to complete.
As for the Lottie Lockman trial, 90 percent of the town thought she
was guilty of poisoning the elderly and ill wife of Dupont, Ind.s
Mr. McConnell with bichloride of mercury. The chemical was historically
used in photography, preservation and as a medicine.
Special Prosecutor Sylas Kibett was hired to take on the case, and local
counsel Joe Cooper was hired to defend Lockman. Schnaitter said the
first thing Cooper did when he met Lockman in jail was to bring her
a Bible. Every day, Lockman was seen reading that Bible.
Kibett ordered the exhumation of other elderly people who had died during
Lockmans care. Each body was found to contain traces of bichloride
It looked like the case was cut and dried, said Schnaitter.
When the Not Guilty verdict was read, the crowd was shocked.
No one knew quite how Cooper managed it, said Schnaitter.
Maybe it had something to do with that Bible.
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