FIRST CHRISTIAN COUNTY COURTHOUSE
The first building constructed in Taylorville, was a 12 feet by 14 feet frame structure erected by H.M Vandeveer in 1839, on the north side of the platted courthouse square. Since there were not any public buildings yet, the Vandeveer building had to serve multiple purposes in the county seat, including hosting the legislative and judicial functions.
August 12, 1839, a contract was made with Jesse Elgan and Marvellous Eastham, Taylorville proprietors, to build a two story courthouse. It was to be built in the center of the public square and was to be 36 feet long by 32 feet wide and 20 feet high. The frame was to be good sound white oak lumber and the weather boarding to be walnut timber. The lower floor was to be laid rough, with a square joint and the upper floor was to be tongue and groove. The building was to set on twelve pillars of stone, set 18 inches in the ground and raised 18 inches above the ground. The price of this “new” courthouse was $2350.00. The building was completed and accepted by the County Commissioners in September, 1840.
In March of 1844, sixty window lights were installed and the blinds were removed. In December of 1845, a fence was erected around the courthouse yard and trees were planted. The inside stairway was sealed and an outside exit was made on the rear of the courthouse by putting an outside platform on the second floor and steps to the ground.
Abraham Lincoln’s contact with Christian County came primarily from his riding the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Twice a year for over twenty years, Mr. Lincoln spent two or three months riding the circuit with the presiding judge and fellow attorneys. Since the courthouse was elevated off the ground, the area became a favorite spot for animals, including hogs. During one case Mr. Lincoln was trying before Judge David Davis, the noise from the hogs became so loud that he requested the judge to issue a “writ of quietus” to have the sheriff silence the noisy swine. The story is supported by the fact that the County Commissioner’s Court, at the March, 1850, Term; ordered the sheriff to “take charge of the public square and keep it enclosed, to keep up the fence and not permit animals under any pretense in said enclosed area”.
The Circuit Court term was usually a big event in the county seat. People would gather to watch the trials and attend social events scheduled to coincide with the term. Young Circuit Rider, Abraham Lincoln, enjoyed spending time with the people during his months on the circuit and learning about their views on the issues of the day.
The first Christian County Courthouse sold at public auction on June 24, 1854 to H.M Vandeveer for $276.00; he moved it across the street to the east side of the square. Eventually, it was moved to a farm on the north edge of Taylorville, where it was used as a barn until 1925, when it was moved to the Christian County Fairgrounds. It remained there until it was moved to the present spot.
*the above information is taken from the book by Judge Ron Spears, “The Courthouses of Christian County, Illinois”. It is for sale at the Christian County Historical Society & Museum.