The magnificent chandelier presents a focal point in the atrium of
the Erath County courthouse. The ceiling above hides the bell tower.
Photo by Taylor Lang
If the folks
Texas, had had their way, the Erath County Courthouse would
be the center of attraction of their city. But the Dr. Pepper plant
there is almost as inviting as the impressive Romanesque Revival
courthouse in Stephenville.
My wolf friend Dakota and I celebrated our fourth birthday the day
we drove through Erath
County. Since she's a big Dr. Pepper fiend and since she gets
cranky if she doesn't get her way, a stop at Old Doc's Soda Shop
was a must. It's right next to the oldest Dr. Pepper bottling company
in the world. Dr. Pepper there is made with real Imperial cane sugar
straight from Sugar Land, Texas, instead of corn syrup or other
A short drive from Dublin
is the county seat in Stephenville.
With a name like that, you figure it's named after someone. In fact,
John M. Stephen bought the land known as Erath
County from the heirs of an Alamo defender, John Blair, Jim
Bowie's compatriot. Stephen donated the land that the first courthouse
would stand on and, since the land was his, he dubbed the city "Stephenville".
The county was named for George B. Erath, who was a busy
fellow. He fought in the Texas Revolution, including the decisive
of San Jacinto. Because of his surveying capabilities, many
folks settled in Central Texas. When he wasn't busy surveying land
or fighting for a cause, he was busy in politics. In 1845 when Texas
became a state, he was voted into office as Texas senator.
Another interesting fellow from Erath
County was Charlie Bird. When he was young, he and his
siblings went to school only three months out of the year. That
must have been too long because he ran away from home. Eventually,
he wound up at the Matador
Ranch in Motley
County where he helped drive 2,000 three-year-old steers through
Indian Territory into Kansas. Once his only pay was a broomtail
pony and a worn-out saddle, and to top it off, he had to sleep in
a dugout with a horse, a rooster, a speckled hen, and her chicks.
1892 Erath County courthouse in Stephenville,
designed by J. Reily Gordon.
Note how the two intermediate bays are brought forward and how they
are topped with triangular pediments.
by Taylor Lang
courthouse is the third courthouse that has been the seat of justice
for Erath County.
In 1866, the county's first courthouse, a wooden structure,
went the way of many earlier courthouses. The blaze could be seen
for miles away. When the county decided to build another structure,
they didn't take their chances: they built it of stone. However,
by 1887, that one needed serious help.
At that time, the city of Dublin
had the idea of building the courthouse. It took the county four
years to decide what to do, but the vote in 1891 kept the
county seat in Stephenville.
The old block-style courthouse was razed, and plans were made for
the new county courthouse.
cast and wrought iron staircase,
topped with Dakota Wolf, special correspondent.
Bison Bill and Swoops take second billing at the bottom.
by Taylor Lang.
A man with a
flare for design, J. Reily Gordon of San
Antonio, competed with about twenty other architects for the
chance to build the edifice. He had previously designed other structures
near the Courthouse Square, including the 1889 First National Bank.
He put in the winning bid of $65,000, which was $10,000 less than
the county wanted to spend. The cornerstone was laid on December
3, 1891, and construction soon began.
This three-story tall structure is made of native limestone from
the Leon River and red sandstone from the Pecos
River. This courthouse is different from many other Texas
courthouses in that the tower is in the center as opposed to
being off to one side. Instead of having a corner entrance, Gordon
brought the two intermediate bays forward and topped them with triangular
pediments, which he did later with the Fayette
County and Victoria
Syrian columns support the north entrance arch, and in the central
tower, a Howard clock was installed many years after the courthouse's
East Texas pine
was the wood of choice for the interior, while imported marble covered
the floors. Cast and wrought iron were used for the stairway. One
could walk into the atrium and gawk up at the bell tower many feet
In 1988, the courthouse was restored. In this restoration,
the opening in the atrium leading up to the tower was sealed off.
Fortunately, this will be reopened soon through a grant the county
received through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.
the balustrade treatment above the doorway.
Kids from the Stephenville library storytime group join Taylor Lang,
Bison Bill, Swoops, and Dakota
in front of the Erath County Courthouse.
by Lou Ann Herda
2001, Copyright Lou
Ann Herda, Ed. D
to Sharon Fox of the Erath County Chamber of Commerce for getting
together the materials for me and for rounding up the kids from the
library. And thanks to the "soda jerk" at Old Doc's Soda Shop for
filling us in on Dr. Pepper history.
"History of Erath County Courthouse" booklet, by Mr. Robert Scott,
publication date unknown.
References and Additional
Hotel Here > Stephenville