|"Who will go
with Old Ben Milam into San
Those fateful words rung in my ears as I neared the town of Cameron,
county seat of Milam
County. Ben Milam,
for whom the county was named, is one of Texas' legendary heroes,
losing his life in San
Antonio early in Texas' battle for independence.
established in 1836, covered a huge portion of Texas. Over the years,
fifty counties have been carved out of it, from Hall
County in the Panhandle
Plains to Burleson
County in the Prairies
and Lakes Region.
Like most Texas county seats, Cameron
is just about in the middle of the county. It's named for Scotsman
Ewen Cameron, who was shot by the Mexicans during the Mier
Expedition in 1843. George Erath, whose name sure shows
up a lot when you read about the beginnings of Texas, surveyed the
area and laid out the town.
The first courthouse, a crude wooden structure only 30' X 20', was
also the first building in the city. That building was replaced
by a second courthouse which met the fate of many early courthouses.
It burned on April 9, 1874, but not until after the county clerk
It was alleged that the clerk, a Mr. Williams, and his wife were
attending a function upstairs at the courthouse. As they descended
the stairs, he was pulled away and shot by Jim Boles. I reckon Boles
had anger issues. Later, a counterfeiter, who had issues about getting
caught, torched the courthouse to destroy the evidence. So the old
Phillip's Hotel was used in the interim.
The third courthouse, a brick structure with a cupola and weather
vane, was constructed in 1875. Because of numerous maintenance headaches,
including a gripy judge who complained that there was too much smoke
in his office, it was decided in 1889 that a new structure needed
to be built.
|The 1892 Milam
1939 Photo courtesy TXDoT
fourth courthouse, the present structure, was designed by A. O.
Watson of the Larmour & Watson firm. It was approved by
the Commissioners Court on April 20, 1892. The old courthouse was
torn down, and the new one was erected on its site. The design employed
is Renaissance Revival with identical north and south facades. Made
of cream-colored limestone, it is considered sixty percent fireproof.
Square Corinthian columns rise from the heavily rusticated base, while
the four entrances have non-functional balconies.
fourth Milam County Courthouse, an 1892 Renaissance Revival structure
designed by A. O. Watson.
Notice the statue of Ben Milam in front.
Photo courtesy of the Milam County Historical Museum.
entranceway to the courthouse. The Corinthian columns are a hallmark
to the Renaissance Revival style.
Photo by Lou Ann Herda
The Goddess of Justice
TE Photo, March 2003
tower, clad with a decorative sheet metal skin rising above a Mansard
roof; the clock; and the statue of the Goddess of Justice (which
had been used for illegal target practice) were removed in 1938
War II. This was in response to the need for more metal for
the War efforts. The metal skin and the clock itself were used for
the war. The statue was put in a safe place, just in case it would
later be put back on top. In fact, the place is so safe that after
over fifty years, the statue still hasn't been found.
A recipient of a grant from the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation
Program, the courthouse is being restored to its former grandeur.
When we went by there in July 2001, the area was fenced off, many
windows and doors were boarded up, and construction crews were hard
at work. But right there on top of the new tower is the Goddess
of Justice. She's not the original one, but she still reminds
folks what the courthouse is there for.
Statue of Justice atop the new courthouse tower. The original statue
is somewhere in a very safe place.
Photo by Lou Ann Herda
thing about courthouse statues in the South is that most, if not all
of them, face towards the South. Those that had faced North prior
to the Civil War were turned to face South. The original Milam
County statue of justice faced South.
Courthouse before restoration
Photo courtesy texasoldphotos.com
hope that when the reconstruction is finished, we'll be able to see
the statue of Old Ben Milam again because as it is right now,
he's practically hidden amongst the trees.
Thanks to Charles King, curator of the Milam County Historical Museum,
and to Dorothy Allison, author of the History of the Milam County
Courthouses, 1822-1991 (© 1991)
October 2001, Copyright Lou Ann Herda, Ed. D
Great American Legends Tour, Texas Style