Dent County Courthouse holding 150th birthday celebration Monday, March 30

By Deloris Gray Wood
    A 150th birthday ceremony will be held on the exact date, when the contract was let to build the Dent County Courthouse at 4 p.m. on Monday, March 30, 2020.

    This is an outside the Courthouse lawn chair event with musicians playing blue grass music, playing a little music before the ceremony and then playing for about an hour after the Ceremony. Birthday cake, coffee, and water will be served by the Dent County Historical Society.
    The Dent County Commissioners let the contract for A. E. Dye to build the third Dent County Courthouse on March 30, 1870. Recognition for Mr. Dye is engraved on a stone with 1870 above the front doors of the Courthouse. The other two courthouses were burned, one during the Civil War.
    According to the Dent County Clerk’s record book C., p. 331, on Wednesday, March 30, 1870, it states, “it is ordered by the Court that the Superintendent of Public Buildings, let the contract to A. E. Dye, the lowest bidder.” The architectural plans for the Dent County Courthouse were done by the Randolph Brothers in St. Louis.
    The contract was let for “Fourteen thousand nine hundred fifty dollars ($14,950), vault doors, five hundred fifty dollars, total fifteen thousand and five hundred dollars ($15,500).”
    S. Wingfield was named Commissioner of Public Works. Men moved to Salem to help build the bricks, construct the courthouse and chimneys for each office for stoves to heat each office, and do the plasterwork on the inside. Most of the men and their families never left Dent County.
    The Dent County Courthouse is Missouri’s oldest second Empire Architectural style and the earliest surviving Mansard Victorian-style Courthouse. The Missouri Governor’s Mansion looks like it is a sister structure to the Dent County Courthouse. George Barnett was the architect for the Governor’s Mansion that was built in 1871.
    The Courthouse survives with a high degree of integrity. It stands as the single most important historical architectural structure in this area of the Ozarks. It is important for small airplane pilots making flight plans and the Courthouse stands as a place on the flight paths.
    The Dent County Courthouse sits alongside and faces Scenic and Historic Highway 19, from the East in Salem, Mo. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
    Dent County residents visit the Dent County Courthouse visiting offices of the County Commission, County Clerk, County Collector, County Treasurer, and the County Assessor daily on an as-needed basis like registering to vote, absentee voting, paying taxes and visiting the commission on county road issues or up one flight to the courtroom.
Dent County’s main courtroom is on the second level that has been in continuous use since the Courthouse was built. Portrait of many of the former judges hang in the courtroom that includes four done by Artist L. L Broadfoot’s as charcoal drawings. The third floor is storage and in the back area are mural that depicts when this area was surveyed in 1820 before it became a county. There is an old condemned metal county jail under the east side of the main floor of the Courthouse. To say the least this building has a lot of character, even the 52-steps to the top floor.
    Eugene Watkins said he “laid the first carpet in the Courthouse” after the County Commission decided to cover the wooden floors including the steps. Eugene plans to be at the Courthouse ceremony.
    Angie Curley, County Clerk, is the only person still working in the Courthouse who was working as a Deputy Clerk, 25 years ago at the 125th birthday celebration.
    Representative Jason Smith, then a young lawyer, was a frequent visitor to then Gary Leonard’s County Clerk’s office in 1995.
    Deloris Gray Wood volunteered to write grants to preserve all permanent county records in the Courthouse to be placed on microfilm before and after 1995 and served as coordinator of the 125th birthday events including the ceremony and celebration. The microfilm is available at the Missouri State Archives of the Dent County permanent records along with 185 boxes of old Judicial Court records that are also on microfilm that she worked to prepare for microfilming.
    On July 4, 1851, the land was set aside to form the Dent County seat of Government. So, in 2021, Dent County will be 170. The county was formed on February 10, 1851.
    The late Governor Mel Carnahan was the keynote speaker 25 years ago at the 125th birthday celebration of the Dent County Courthouse at high noon, July 4, 1995. Governor Carnahan served as Grand Marshall for the Chamber of Commerce parade before the celebration started in front of the Courthouse. The Missouri Governor & First Lady rode in a surrey with a fringe-on-the-top pulled by Morgan horses with their friend, local farmer and accountant, Larry L. Gray at the helm with Mr. Gifford from the Waynesville area that owned the horses and surrey.
For more information contact Deloris Gray Wood, President of the Dent County Historical Society at 573 729-2545 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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