The Cowley County Courthouse

History of Cowley County Courthouses

History is messy, there is no doubt about that but it is important to know the history and reflect on how it has made things the way they are today. Armed with this knowledge it helps give perspective and ideas on how to take on situations that may arise here in the present. The history of the Cowley County Courthouses is one example of how conflicts of the past carry on to the present, here is what happened according to local reporting.

Early in February 1870 a bill was introduced into the Legislature of the state then in session at Topeka, to organize Cowley County making Cresswell (Arkansas City) the temporary county seat. The great influence of the founders of Cresswell being the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House of Representatives rendered it almost certain that the bill would pass.

As soon as news of the movement reached Winfield, measures were taken to "head it off" by C.M. Wood, A.A. Jackson, and J.H. Lamb. Who started out to take a census of the county, which they completed in three days, showing a population of over six hundred. Together with E.C. Manning they went on to Douglas, in Butler County where on February 23rd they swore to the correctness of their work before H.C. Lamb, a Justice of the Peace (at the time there was no one authorized in Cowley County to administer oaths). E.C. Manning then took the necessary papers to Governor S.J. Crawford of Topeka and as all the proofs were presented which the law required, the Governor at once issued his order under the law proclaiming Cowley County organized with Winfield the county seat; W.W. Andrews, G.H. Norton, and S.F. Graham, County Commissioners and E.P. Hickok, County Clerk.

Citizens of the county approved the Winfield selection on May 2, 1870 in a special election with a vote of 108-55. A group from Creswell, not satisfied with the results, began a movement to have the seat moved to Tisdale (which they claimed was closer to the geographical center of the county).

A second special election was held in August, with Winfield still beating out the competition with a vote of 721-523, with the dispute settled, a courthouse could be built. The site chosen was the same block as the second courthouse, as well as the current one.

The first courthouse was complete in 1873 on the south side of the block facing tenth street. One-story wings were added to the east and west sides in 1880-1881, with second floors being added in later years.

Post Card of Cowley County Court House Estimated Year 1873. 

As more and more activities and records were needed for the courthouse over the years, the current building was simply too small to accommodate. The much larger second courthouse was completed in 1909 and worked well for over 50 years before the need for additional room forced the creation of a new courthouse.

Post Card of Cowley County Court House Estimated Year 1959. 

 The current courthouse was completed in 1963 and houses the day to day operations of county government. In 2009, renovations to the Sheriff’s Office and jail were completed.

Cowley County Court House today. Google Maps Image.

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