Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Courthouse for a Church

Undated photograph of Livingston County Courthouse, Smithland, Kentucky

In today’s world, when a large commercial building closes, it is often difficult to find a use for that building. Rather than let the building set and be of no value to the community, the town leaders search for a new use for the edifice.

When Crittenden County was created from Livingston County and the seat of justice was transferred from Salem to Smithland in 1842, the county leaders faced a similar problem. First, though, the court had to decide on a location for the new courthouse in Smithland and they did just that. On the 4th of July 1842, the county court chose out lot #7, which had been deeded to the court by James M. Lillard and wife. Plans were drafted for a two-story, 40 feet by 50 feet building and advertisements for bids for the erection of the building were placed as far as Nashville and Louisville. Until the building was completed, several other buildings were used as temporary courthouses, including the Episcopal Church and the Gower House.

But what could be done with the old courthouse in Salem? The problem was solved when trustees of several churches bought the courthouse from the County Court. The following information can be found in Livingston County Deed Book HH, page 608:

Between James L. Dallam for and on account of the Livingston County Court & Thomas Smith trustee for the Methodist church, William Pippin trustee for the Baptist church, W.B. Greer trustee for the Old Presbyterian church & Presley Gray trustee for the Cumberland Presbyterian church. At the November term 1845 of the Livingston County Court the following order was made, viz: It is ordered by the Court that the Court house & clerks office together with the ground upon which they stand in the town of Salem and belonging to the county be sold to the highest bidder … The sale to be made in the town of Salem before Thomas Smith’s tavern door after having been advertised one month. And it is further ordered that James L. Dallam be appointed a commissioner to make sale of same taking bond payable to himself for the benefit of this court and he will give certificate of purchase &c and whereas on the 17th day of February 1846 Dallam after advertising did openly & publicly offer same for sale ... when and where Thomas Smith for the benefit of the churches aforesaid and to have a house of worship for those denominations of the town of Salem and its neighborhood did bid off and purchase the old courthouse & immediate ground upon which it stands in Salem for the sum of $10, that being the highest bid ... Dallam, agent for said county, doth here grant bargain sell convey & confirm unto Thomas Smith Wm. Pippin W.B. Greer & Presley Gray, trustees & their successors in trust the sd. courthouse & immediate ground upon which it stands ... [signed] Jas. L. Dallam, agent Livingston County Court. Recorded 5 September 1848.

Problems solved. Smithland had a courthouse and the church trustees had a church.

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