Liberty County Courthouse (1926-1927)

The Liberty County Courthouse, built in Hinesville in 1837, served the county for nearly 90 years. There was a courtroom on the first floor of the two-story wooden build­ing, and offices on the second floor, to which access was by outside stairs on either end of the building. Fireplaces kept the courtroom and the offices warm during the winter. Nothing kept them cool during the summer.


There were no electric lights in the courthouse except during the last two years of its existence. Drinking water for the courthouse employees came from “the spring” about a block from courthouse square, and later from an open well on the courthouse grounds.


Outdoor toilets for those who worked in the courthouse, and anybody else who wanted to use them, were located in a wooded area just off courthouse square. This area was also used by those men who wanted to drink whiskey from their bottle away from public view. It was also the scene of rowdy and drunken behavior on election days and Saturday nights.


The courthouse became unsafe as it approached its 100th anniversary, and by 1910 the county was acutely aware that a new courthouse was badly needed.


B.A. Way, a Hinesville attorney, resided just off courthouse square and kept a small herd of goats which freely roamed around town back in those years. At night they faithfully slept in the courtroom. Sam Hargrove, the courthouse janitor, at least twice a year and on special occasions, would shovel out the goat leavings and get the place ready for Superior Court, or civic or social functions.


On August 18,1911, the General Assembly authorized the commissioners to build a new courthouse, or rebuild the old one. The commissioners went on record March 3, 1913, as favoring a bond issue in the amount of $100,000 with which to build a new courthouse and roads and bridges.


Eight months later the commissioners ordered that an “election” be held the following month to let the voters decide whether they approved the bond issue. The referen­dum was never held, nor were two others set by the commis­sioners for the same purpose. It appears that residents of the western part of the county wanted the county seat moved to Ludowici, and opposed the bond issue with great spirit and determination.


Long County was instituted out of Liberty County land in 1920, Ludowici became its county seat, and residents of the western part of Liberty County got their own courthouse. The Liberty County commissioners were now free to once again mount efforts to build a new courthouse in Hinesville.


The commissioners scheduled another referendum for April 20, 1920. This was, however, during the time of transi­tion from one to two counties, confusion and indecision abounded, and the referendum was never held.


Finally, in November 1924, the referendum was held, and the voters turned thumbs down on the bond issue. The com­missioners then voted to construct a new courthouse whether the taxpayers liked it or not. Bonds were, however, eventual­ly issued for the purpose with the approval of the taxpayers.


Before the new courthouse was built, it became apparent to county employees that the courthouse basement was always wet. An investigation revealed that the basement’s crumbling walls and floor were in the last stages of deteriora­tion. The condition was caused by seepage over the years from underground springs. Hinesville was built on a network of such springs.


On one occasion courthouse officials found that records stored in barrels in the basement were so badly damaged by the seepage that they were hauled out and burned on the courthouse grounds. This led in later years to a false belief by some persons, including one historian, that the court­house burned and was replaced by an identical building on the same spot.


C.B. Jones was chairman, and J.J. Easterling and S.P. Porter were members of the Liberty County Board of Com­missioners in 1925. They employed J.J. Baldwin, an architect, to draw plans for a two-story brick courthouse, to be con­structed on site of the old building.


The old courthouse was razed, and a cornerstone for the new courthouse layed, in 1926. County records, offices, and the Superior Court were housed in the old Bradwell Institute while the construction was going on. The new courthouse was completed in 1927.