Courthouse Centennial Celebration

In 1912, Woodrow Wilson was elected president of the United States, the Titanic sunk on its very first voyage, New Mexico and Arizona were admitted as states, and the Girl Scouts of America was founded. It was also the year the current Custer County Courthouse was built. Next week, Custer County will throw a birthday party - marking the centennial of the Courthouse. The main event is planned for all day Monday, Aug. 6, with a full slate of activities. Each office of the Courthouse will host a “show and tell” display, consisting of items past and present that were used in that office or department. Though the displays will be up all week, the most attention to guests will come Monday. There will also be self-guided tours of all three floors of the Courthouse. Perhaps the most noteworthy activity of the centennial celebration will be the burying of a time capsule. The plan is for the time capsule to be filled with various items of interest, to be opened in the year 2112, 100 years from now. The time capsule will be placed on the south side of the Courthouse, and will be marked with an engraved granite stone, provided by Palmer Monument. The Custer County Highway Department has undertaken the project of making the time capsule covering. All of the items that will be placed in the time capsule will be on display at the Courthouse the week of Aug. 6. A re-dedication program, planned by the Custer County Attorney’s Office, will take place at 3 p.m. Monday on the front steps of the Courthouse. The Custer Choir will perform during the program, which will include one or two speakers and the presentation of the flag by the local Boy Scouts. Lemonade and popcorn will be served all day Monday in front of the Courthouse, with office staff from the county offices taking turns serving throughout the day. There will also be some souvenirs marking the occasion available for purchase. The county has been meeting monthly for almost a year planning for the centennial celebration. Organizers say the task was made easier by dividing up the duties, with each office taking a major part in the preparation.HISTORY OF THE CUSTER COUNTY COURTHOUSE In 1877, the first Custer County Courthouse was located on the Young Ranch in Sec.14, Township 15 North, Range 22 West of the 6th PM, (now owned by the Ford Farms). It was an L-shaped, one-story log cabin which in later years was moved to the city park inCallaway and is still there. July 2, 1882, Broken Bow became the County seat and in January 1883, the County records were brought to the Hewitt's house (a semi-dugout and part sod house) in BrokenBow. Then in the summer of 1883, another building was used as a Courthouse. A small log house, owned by James P. Gandy, on the south side of the downtown square in Block 4, O.T. of Broken Bow on about lots 8, 9 and/or 10. Not long afterward, they moved the records to a different Courthouse on the South end of Block 5, Lots 1 and part of 2., where the Custer County Historical Building is now located. During the summer of 1884, the County agreed and voted to relocate and own their own building. The new building was located on Block 12, Lots 10 & 11 (where Broken Bow Family Furniture is now). Total cost was $1,432.47. A small jail was erected just to the west of this three-room Courthouse at a cost of $281. After about four years, the growing space needed for records and additional CountyOfficials required a larger space. Jesse Gandy donated ground to Custer County which included all of block 6, O.T. of Broken Bow, which is where the present Courthouse is now located. A red brick building (two stories and a basement) was erected in 1889, at a cost of $18,000 which included $3,000 for furniture and marble counter tops. May 23, 1891, the only legal public execution (the hanging of Albert Haunstine) was held next to this Courthouse. January 13-14, 1910, this Courthouse caught fire and was completely destroyed. The officers and staff then moved across the street into the Masonic Building (now the parking lot across the street North of the present Courthouse) until moving into the present Courthouse in 1912. Early in 1911, a contract was awarded for a new Courthouse for $55,087, and an additional $5,000 for new furnishings, and was moved into in 1912. In 1914, in the Southwestern corner of the basement of the Courthouse, a tunnel was constructed joininga two-story brick building used for a jail. The new jail had living quarters for the sheriff and his family. Sheriff Joseph F. Wilson, wife and children were the first sheriff family to live in the new jail. Sheriff R. Glenn Fox, wife Minerva and their four sons lived in the jail the longest of any sheriff. Sheriff Larry A. Hickenbottom, wife Venetta and son Kent, was the last sheriff family to live in this jail which was closed as a jail in October 1975. The new jail was constructed a couple of blocks north of the Courthouse, next to the Broken Bow Police and Fire Station. The 1914 jail is presently referred to as the West Annex and houses the Veteran Service Officer and the Emergency Manager. It also includes a room and a restroom that is ADA accessible. Since the initial construction of the present Courthouse a lot of changes have been made. The building was originally heated by hot water heat fired by coal. The old coal bin west of the courthouse was filled with sand in 2010. A natural gas boiler was installed in the late 1940's or early 1950's, then again replaced in approximately 2005. The last replacement included removing all the old pipes and asbestos and replacing them with new plumbing. A bid for the heating and air conditioning was for $388,875, with Snell from North Platte. Electrical work and phone systems have been added. New windows conserving heat were put in. A chair lift was installed to help older and handicapped persons up and down the stairs. The fire escape was added around 2000, and came from the Merna schoolhouse.THE COURTHOUSE TODAY AND TOMORROW Today the Custer County Courthouse is home to nine offices in the Courthouse, and two in the west annex. The offices of the zoning, sheriff/jail, communications and highway departments are located in other buildings. The county currently has a total of 108 employees, including part-time. Looking toward the future additional changes are being considered. Mandates will require additional Courtroom space to be added with additional security and modern technology added. “I predict that an addition to the present courthouse will be required and possibly the Sheriff s Office and jail will be moved back to the courthouse and additional space made for the Zoning Office and other offices requiring space,” says County Commissioner Larry Hickenbottom. “Some updates need to be made to the present courthouse to make it compatible to ADA requirements.” The last 100 years has seen lots of changes, and no doubt the next 100 years will too. It is doubtful that any of us will be around to witness the opening of the time capsule in 2112, but we know the history we document today will help shape the future of Custer County - just as the history of 1912 has helped shape our today. *The history of the Custer County Courthouse information was provided to the Chief by Larry Hickenbottom.