November 29,2016 //

Real, Untold Stories of the Decatur Courthouse

There is so much more to the Wise County Courthouse than “just a pretty face.” Any building that was erected in 1896 and still in operation today must harbor some secrets. A recent tour through covert doors and up winding staircases turned up these little known facts:

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  • County Court Law #1 has only had three Judges – EVER
  • A trustee from Mineral Wells served his eight year sentence performing carpentry work in the Courthouse. He matched all the woodwork in County Court Law #1 to the original 1896 window frames. What he was able to achieve is simply amazing. The Trustee built everything in the room except the chairs around the table. He even constructed a wall clock.
  • The original second floor steel doors that fended off attacks from marauding Indians are still housed in the attic.
  • Three people have died in the building.
  • The original crank that wound the tower clock remains in a safe within the building.
  • The steel beams are still labeled and numbered. The beams are bolted as no welding equipment existed in 1896.
  • The original lightning rod survives in the attic.
  • The doors in the basement are all rounded so as to provide more protection. For this reason, the basement is used as a shelter. Pamphlets regarding survival from a nuclear fallout were found in one of the closets.
  • The Courthouse leaks like the Titanic when it rains.
  • A tunnel once existed from the Courthouse to the jail.
  • Up until twenty years ago, all former records were stored in the attic of the Courthouse. A firm was hired to go through all the documents and determine what needed to be kept. Ultimately almost everything was sent down a chute from a window on the second floor to a shredder below.
  • Pigeons love our Courthouse, and they poop – A LOT

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As I made my way on uncertain paths weaving between past and present, I came across history and intrigue. What I found most enjoyable, however, was listening to the passion of the tour guide as he lovingly tells the stories of this beautiful, old building. I am reminded that without a caretaker, the treasures will not survive. Wise County owes a debt of gratitude to those that care deeply for and make every effort to preserve our magnificent courthouse.