The History of Halifax County Courthouse
Thanks to the Gazette-Virginian, March 29, 2002 Edition.
In February of 1752 the General Assembly of Virginia passed an Act ordering that the County of Lunenburg be divided into two counties, creating Halifax County, the first of several counties to be taken out of Lunenburg.
It was named for George Montague Dunk, Second Earl of Halifax, First Lord of the Board of Trade.
Lord Halifax and his secretaries Edward Sedgwick and Lovell Stanhope.
Image courtesy of the © National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London
The first court of Halifax County was held at Hampton Wade's house, May 19, 1752.
This house is believed to have been located south of the Dan River in an area called Spanish Oak Ridge and was the private home of one of the justices of the county.
The court later met at the plantation of Richard Dudgeon, thought to be near the present Creekside estate on River Road. Court was held here until March 1753. (Not found on this Plantations Map.)
The next court was held at Punch Spring, possibly near Elkhorn Creek.
In July of 1753 it was proposed that a courthouse, prison, stock, and pillory be built as soon as possible and the location should be as near to the center of the county as possible. In October ten acres were laid off at Punch Creek for the prison boundaries.
A brick courthouse was built and completed by 1755. As the county grew and prospered, a petition, in 1766, to the General Assembly divided Halifax County into two counties and Pittsylvania County was formed.
Since the court building was now in Pittsylvania County, Halifax was forced to relocate.
The court was held in several locations during the following years.
In 1768, the court was meeting in a barn which was later renovated to better serve the community.
Petitions were made to relocate the court south of the Banister River. (The name of Banister Village was changed in 1890 to Houston, in honor of William C. Houston, Jr, President of the Lynchburg and Durham Railroad. The name of Houston was never very popular and after World War I it was changed to Halifax.)
The new courthouse completed in late 1803 served the county for some 35 years. Repairs continued regularly because of its wooden structure.
By 1837 it was in such bad condition that construction of a new building was recommended. Dabney Cosby, Sr. undertook the construction for $6,657.
This courthouse, completed in 1839, is still used today.
The fence that was placed around the courthouse was in constant need of repair so in 1910 the Banister Brick Company was contracted to build a concrete block wall around the square.
This was later replaced (1968) by a brick one. During its first 65 years repairs were minor. In 1904 it was necessary to enlarge the building. A fireproof vault was built, the courtroom moved upstairs, and the clerk's office moved inside.
In the 1950's renovation took place as the facility was being outgrown. Mention of the other buildings around the square, appeared in 1869 and others continued to be built up through the 1930's.
The first confederate monument was erected in 1911. When the statue arrived it turned out to be one of a union soldier. It was disposed of and a new one was ordered and placed on top of the high pedestal on the front lawn.
In the 1920's a tree blew over and knocked the statute off, breaking it. Another statue was ordered and in 1935 the high pedestal was shortened.
In its past the courthouse has housed bake sales, meeting rooms for the Olive Branch Lodge No. 53 and the Order of the Sons of Temperance.
Two dentists were allowed to practice dentistry in the corners of a jury room.
In 1854 a theater was allowed to use the upper south jury room and the sheriff had his office in the upper north jury room.
The ladies of a local Presbyterian church held a fair in the upper room and the young men of Halifax County held a dance there in 1860. In 1869 concerts were given in the upper room.
This courthouse continues to serve the county and is considered one of the most beautiful courthouses in Virginia.
Halifax County by C. A. McKinney