Lou Ann Herda, Ed. D
County Seat - Cameron,
County Courthouse as it appeared in 1939|
Photo courtesy TXDoT
|"Who will go with
Old Ben Milam into San Antonio?"|
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.
Originally, Milam County, 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 was shot.
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.
fourth Milam County Courthouse, an 1892 Renaissance Revival structure designed
by A. O. Watson.|
Notice the statue of Ben Milam in front.
courtesy of the Milam County Historical Museum.
entranceway to the courthouse. The Corinthian columns are a hallmark to the Renaissance
Photo by Lou Ann Herda
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. |
The Goddess of
TE Photo, March 2003
original 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 during World 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.
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
|An interesting 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. |
County Jail and Courthouse |
Photo by John Troesser
County 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. |
Your Hotel Here & Save
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
October 2001, Copyright Lou
Ann Herda, Ed. D
Great American Legends Tour, Texas Style